These Airports Bring Local Flavors to Their Terminals

Thanks to longer wait times, more sophisticated expectations and most importantly, a bigger focus on a sense of place, airports are increasingly working with local restaurants to land those eateries in their terminals.

“Sense of place is an overarching concept that includes both the physical features of a space as well as the feelings and emotions elicited by the unique environment or location,” according to the report Creating `Sense of Place’ in Today’s Airports: Elevating the Traveler Experience, Increasing Airport Revenue,and Boosting Local Economies. “It connects a traveler to the airport, while simultaneously connecting the airport to the geographic area’s unique features, lifestyle and culture.”

The report notes that one of the easiest and most impactful ways to establish a sense of place at an airport is via restaurants and dining experiences that incorporate local food and beverages. It noted that 66 percent of travelers want international food options and 61 percent would like locally sourced food.

Local favorites are designed to give travelers a first or last taste of a city. Below are 10 great local restaurants to try on your next trip.

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Root Down DIA

Photo courtesy of Root Down

This local favorite is known for putting out good food that has a strong focus on sustainability at its downtown and Denver International Airport locations.  That includes growing 20 percent of its own vegetables, sourcing more than 50 percent of its ingredients via a network of 55 local ranchers, farmers, growers and food artisans and serving certified humane animal proteins and seafood certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. It offers a range of American cuisine with an international twist, along with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.

02 of 10

Legal Seafood

This legendary seafood restaurant has six locations at Boston-Logan International Airport, along with locations at Philadelphia International Airport and Washington Reagan National Airport. Of course you go for some of the best clam chowder, but there are also other great seafood dishes like lobster rolls, New England fried clams and grilled haddock.

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Photo by Benet J. Wilson

When you think of Baltimore, you think of the city’s iconic blue crabs and crab cakes. Locals come to blows over their favorite places, so it’s no surprise that Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport has this popular crab house, first opened in 1944, represented in Concourse B near Gates B7 and B9. Not only can you get crab cakes, crab soup and other food items, you can also buy a six pack of crab cakes, flash frozen and packed, to remember your time in Charm City.

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Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

When you travel anywhere in Texas, you want to sample the state’s most popular dish: barbecue. Texas barbecue is so popular that residents and visitors alike do not hesitate to stand in line at places like Franklin’s in Austin, Pecan Lodge in Dallas or Gatlin’s BBQ in Houston. You can smell Dickey’s, with locations at Dallas Love Field and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, before you see it. All the meats are good, but the beef brisket and pork ribs are the most popular items on the menu.

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Klein's Deli and Coffee Bar

Photo by Benet J. Wilson

San Francisco is known for its selection of international gourmet fare. But a popular place to eat at San Francisco International Airport is this down-to-earth eatery established in 1979. With two locations in Terminal B — Gate 62 and Gate 83 — travelers can drink Flying Goat Coffee, created in the wine country city of Healdsburg, and eat breakfast items, fresh pastries, soups, salads and signature sandwiches like The Potrero Hill, chicken salad with mango chutney, almonds, raisins, curry, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on whole wheat.

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Mezza Mediterranean Grille

Many people don’t know that Detroit has a large Middle Eastern population in its metropolitan area, which has spawned many restaurants for residents and visitors to enjoy. So it only made sense to have an outpost of this popular restaurant at Detroit Metro Airport, located in the McNamara Terminal near Gate A54. It serves favorites like falafel, kababs, couscous, shawarma and lamb shank.

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Gold Coast Dogs

Photo courtesy of Gold Coast Hot Dogs

The Windy City is known for its Chicago-style hot dogs, a beef frank inside a poppy seed bun topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled sport peppers and a dash of celery salt. You can get this, other hot dogs, sandwiches and burgers at Gold Coast, located in the food court at Chicago Midway and Chicago O’Hare International airports.

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Grindhouse Killer Burgers

Burgers have always been a popular food with travelers because of its portability and filling nature. It may be surprising to some that Atlanta has become a mecca for great burgers. Grindhouse, opened in 2009 and already one of the city’s best burger restaurants now has two location at the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International — one near Gate T11 and one in Concourse D near Gate D30. You can build your own using beef, turkey or veggie burgers, or you can go for one of their styled burgers with ingredients like pimento cheese, applewood smoked bacon, Vidalia onion rings and brisket chili and pair them with their crinkle-cut french fries and hand-spun milkshakes.

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Bobby Van's Steakhouse

Photo courtesy of Bobby Van's Steakhouse

This legendary New York-based steakhouse has been replicated inside American Airlines’ Terminal 8 at JFK Airport. ​Not only can travelers get their favorite items from the menu, but there’s also space for luggage and a flight information display board to check on departures.

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Cafe Versailles

Miami is the best place in the world outside of Cuba to get a taste of the island nation’s cuisine, thanks to its large population in the region. One of the most popular places in the city to get Cuban food favorites is Versailles Restaurant, opened in 1971, which serves things like codfish fritters, pressed Cuban pork sandwiches, fried pork chunks, flan and guava pies, along with Cuban coffee. The restaurant has four locations at Miami International Airport, two in Terminal D and one each in Terminal E and F.  

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