11 Worst Airports for Food (Slideshow)
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The Daily Meal had the misfortune of discovering the world’s most disappointing destinations for food
#11 Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (Florida)
We hope the folks who avoid busier Miami International Airport in favor of the less congested Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport aren’t hungry. While there’s plenty of fast-food (Dunkin Donuts, Miami Subs, and Red Mango), we have to wonder why they haven’t upped their game to compete with nearby MIA. Local Chef Allen Susser (of Miami’s famed Chef Allen restaurant) opened up Burger Bar by Chef Allen in 2011 but we’re disappointed it didn’t inspire more local eateries to follow.
#10 Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport (Spain)
In a city with nine Michelin-starred restaurants and three Bib Gourmand restaurants, we expected much more from Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport in the Spanish capital. Yes, you can get Iberico ham here, but there's nothing else that stands out among the miscellaneous restaurants and fast-food options like McDonald’s. Instead, we drowned our sorrows with a couple of cervezas and jamón Iberico from MasQMenos in Terminal T4S.
#9 Gatwick Airport (United Kingdom)
Whether you’re traveling through Gatwick North or Gatwick South terminals, you won’t find traditional fast food. The grub is grab-and-go and the choices pretty much amount to M&S Simply Food (from the folks behind the famed Marks & Spencer department stores) and Boots (a pharmacy, convenience store, and beauty retail chain). While the food at M&S Simply Food includes fresh fruit, salads, sandwiches, and snacks, we bet travelers wishing for more wish they had flown through Heathrow instead.
#8 Orlando International Airport (Florida)
This is obviously not the "house the Mouse built." O-Town’s airport food courts are more “oh my” than magical. Millions of theme park-bound travelers can find plenty of shops, restaurants, and even a spa at Orlando International Airport, but he fast-food options, from Carvel to Starbucks, are overwhelming and the airport hotel restaurants are underwhelming. When we wish upon a star, we hope we won’t ever get hungry here.
#7 Cancún International Airport (Mexico)
While the folks at Cancún International Airport make an effort to provide variety, the result is been there, done that: TGI Fridays, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., California Pizza Kitchen, and Häagen-Dazs. There’s also a place to grab snacks on the go, a taco shop, and Mera Restaurant, a non-descript sit down restaurant offering refreshing glasses of clericot (white wine, fresh fruit, sugar, lemon juice, and carbonated water).
#6 Palm Beach International Airport (Florida)
There are no champagne wishes and caviar dreams at Palm Beach International Airport. The hungry, well-heeled travelers who pass through this airport near posh Palm Beach can choose from mediocre meals at fast-service restaurants like Chili’s Too and California Pizza Kitchen ASAP. The golf-inspired restaurant Sam Snead is a feeble attempt to liven up the terminal.
#5 Soekarno-Hatta Airport (Jakarta, Indonesia)
Jet-lagged travelers with the munchies will only find fast-food (McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, and Hoka Hoka Bento, an Indonesian fast-food chain that sells Japanese fare) and a rustic hotel restaurant at the 10th busiest airport in the world. The sole consolation is that the Golden Arches are open 24/7.
#4 Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
Busy doesn’t necessarily mean better when it comes to airport food courts and Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport is no exception. The busiest airport in Caribbean offers options from Auntie Anne’s Pretzels to Carl’s Jr. to Subway. We give the airport credit for at least adding a little local flair like sit-down eatery Mango’s Village which serves so-so Caribbean fare and tacky touristy, but in a terminal of terrible choices, tolerable Margaritaville (yes, that Margaritaville owned by singer Jimmy Buffett where you can have a purported Cheeseburger in Paradise but it will cost you).
#3 Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (China)
At the 15th busiest in the world, travelers would expect to find more than a handful of options. Here, the retail shops outnumber restaurants which are stationed at “Jinlong Food Street,” which is really just a cluster of Cantonese restaurants which serve passengers and airport staff. Beyond security, there’s more of the same. This might be the one time travelers are grateful to see a McDonald’s.
#2 Noi Bai International Airport (Vietnam)
For years, the Vietnamese government worked hard to keep many Western fast-food chains out. With the arrival of the first McDonald’s in Vietnam only just this year, it’s not surprising capital’s airport hasn’t caught up. What is disappointing is the lack of food options, even local. While some would make do with eating jumbo-sized bags of duty-free chocolates and sweets, travelers don’t even have that option. Here in Hanoi, it’s just the essentials – phở (the signature noodle soup of Vietnam) and coffee — and little else.
#1 Beijing Capital International Airport (China)
The second busiest airport in the world tops our list of the worst airport for food because, even six years after hosting the Olympic Games, the architectural marvel of an airport is a virtual food desert. Beijing Capital International Airport’s cavernous terminals are punctuated with Spartan fast-food outposts like Starbucks and KFC, a handful of nondescript “Chinese” cafes, and food kiosks selling tea and instant noodles. Just like the concessions at Olympic venues like the Bird’s Nest, travelers can’t help but get the impression that food is an afterthought. It’s a supreme letdown as this is the world’s second busiest airport and Beijing is home to 21 of the restaurants on The Daily Meal’s 101 Best Restaurants in Asia.
10 Airport Foods to Avoid at All Costs (and What to Eat Instead!)
Relax. Take off your coat. Kick off your shoes. Now place your coat, shoes and any metal items in the bin in front of you, wait for the security guard to wave you forward, and hope to heaven your carryon actually fits into the "must be this small" basket.
Air travel used to be glamorous, but today even first class is an exercise in humiliation. And the only thing worse than airport security: airport food. In fact, your diet is at such high risk of being terminated at the terminal that an organization called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine felt it necessary to step up and warn people about the dangers of airport food: their Airport Food Review report named Minneapolis-St. Paul International as the unhealthiest airport in America. (Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Denver were among the top stops for healthier fare.)
But what should you actually eat during your next layover, so your downtime at an airline hub doesn't turn you into a victim of airline chub? The editors of Eat This, Not That! asked top nutritionists what they recommend when you're about to hit the tarmac. And don't miss more insightful advice about slimming down with Can't Lose Weight? Diet and Fitness Experts Explain Why.
When you think mushroom pizza, you probably think of it as an add-on to pepperoni or onions, but you need to re-think your pizza strategy. This isn't your father's mushroom pizza anymore. Varieties of mushrooms — portobello, porcini, and wild — now top pizzas, and they bring a strong, fresh flavor that doesn't need any accompaniment from the usual dance partners. Be on the lookout for a mushroom pizza, it'll change your life.
Bacon Double Cheeseburger
The Count: 858 calories, 50 grams of fat, 1,764 milligrams of sodium
Plan on walking for nearly 4 hours if you want to work off the calories you’ll gain with this guilty pleasure. In addition, this meal easily hits your daily 20-gram limit of saturated fat. To cut the calories, consider veggie patties, turkey burgers, or grilled chicken instead of beef, or ask if it can be served on a lettuce wrap instead of a bun.
Here are the best (and worst) airports for food
When you're looking for a spot to enjoy a nice meal out, chances are airports aren’t at the top of the list. Purchasing terminal food is typically a last resort so you don’t starve on the plane, and the ambience of a sit-down meal is kind of ruined by loud speaker announcements and finding space for your luggage.
But, some airports have created authentic dining experiences with top-notch meals. Where are these culinary hot spots? RewardExpert, a free service that helps travelers fly for cheap by maximizing miles and points, just released their 2017 Airport Dining Scorecard, revealing which transportation hubs have the best food.
RewardExpert compiled nearly 75,000 restaurant reviews from the top 20 busiest airports in the country using data from sources including Yelp, Zagat, J.D. Power and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Each airport was then given a score for three categories: satisfaction, price and quality. The combination of these categories determined the best airport overall, as well as the top airports for different dining categories like vegetarian and gluten-free cuisine.
“Airport infrastructure has been widely discussed this past year, and dining amenities can play a big factor in a traveler's experience at an airport,” said RewardExpert CEO Roman Shteyn in a statement. “We set out to find which major U.S. airports go above and beyond to offer exceptional culinary options for those in transit.”
So, where can you get the best meal on the go? Denver International Airport came in at No. 1 as it ranked the highest in overall quality and second in price and variety. Restaurants like the field-to-fork Root Down has a 4 1/2-star rating with more than 1,000 reviews to its name, along with other highly rated eateries like Tapas Sky Bar and Crú Food & Wine Bar.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport took the No. 2 and 3 spots on the list, while Philadelphia received double honors by coming in fourth overall and for being the best airport for cheap eats. A meal at Philadelphia International is nearly 20 percent less expensive on average than the most expensive airport to eat at in the top 20 — and many restaurants offer quick-service local delicacies.
Houston Bush Airport rounded out the top five, but actually came in first for being the best airport for vegetarian and vegan options. Though Texas is known for its barbecue, nearly all of the 90 restaurants in the airport have multiple vegetarian entree options.
How to Eat Healthy at the Airport
We asked nutritionists how they make healthy choices while traveling.
Photo By: Photographer is my life.
You Can Find Healthy Food at the Airport
If you think it&rsquos impossible to eat healthy when flying, think again! While the hustle and bustle of air travel (like getting through security) can cause healthy eating habits fall by the wayside, there are still ways to make healthier choices while flying. Here are 10 simple ways to make the most of your airport experience no matter how limited your options are.
Start Before Leaving the House
Think back to the last time you headed to the airport. With the craziness of packing and remembering where you put your identification documents, eating is often the last thing on your mind. That is exactly why it's important to make time to eat a healthy snack or meal before leaving the house. &ldquoA lot can go awry at the airport so I eat something healthy and filling before I leave like a smoothie, egg sandwich or a bar,&rdquo says Jenna Braddock, RD, CPT dietitian, personal trainer and owner of MakeHealthyEasy.com and OffSeasonAthlete.com.
Although you may have a tough time getting yogurt, jars of peanut butter and beverages through security, you can pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread, which will last through security and long flights. For a snack, pack whole fruit like apples, pears and clementines or a homemade trail mix that don&rsquot need any refrigeration. Other security-friendly snacks include hard-boiled eggs, jerky, homemade muffins, air-popped popcorn and whole grain pasta salad.
Check Menus Ahead of Time
You can also plan ahead by checking the food that will be available at the airport and on your flight. Larger airports tend to have more choices compared to small ones, but you&rsquoll still find healthy choices at both. Smaller airports (for national travelers) tend to have fresh or dried fruit, yogurt and some whole grains (like popcorn) at many grab-and-go kiosks. Airlines also list their menu items for flights online. This is a great way to determine what your choices will be, so you can plan around them.
Pack Food for Your Flight
Integrative and culinary dietitian Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD takes food with her all the time. &ldquoI like to keep fruit and nuts in my bag for snacking. For longer flights, my favorite is nut butter on sprouted grain bread paired with fruit.&rdquo Not only does this perfectly portable plane food travel well, but it also provides plenty of healthy fats and fiber, plus some protein which helps keep you satisfied throughout longer flights. &ldquoThis gives me time to get settled at my destination and have a meal when I land,&rdquo Moore explains.
Opt for Shelf-Stable Foods
&ldquoWhen traveling internationally, look for shelf-stable healthy snacks that can go the distance without having to be refrigerated,&rdquo says Dr. Joan Salge Blake, EdD, RDN, LDN, FAND, nutrition professor, Boston University and the host of the hit health and wellness podcast, SpotOn!. &ldquoThe last thing that you want to pack on a long, international trip is food poisoning.&rdquo Blake recommends to pack protein-rich foods such as nuts and roasted chickpea snacks, whole fruit (apples, bananas, citrus), dried fruit (dried apricots, raisins), a can of veggie juice (think Bloody Mary mix without the booze) and a large bottle of water, which you can buy after you go through security. This vegetarian snack-fest will keep you satisfied until you land at your destination. Keep in mind: During international travel, your fresh fruit can&rsquot come with you, so eat it before you land!
Look for a Starbucks
If you need to grab something at the airport and nothing else is around, see if the airport has a Starbucks (many do!). A few go-to items you can pick up depending on the availability include oatmeal, a spinach, feta and egg white breakfast wrap, the chicken and quinoa protein bowl with black beans and greens, a tomato and mozzarella sandwich or an egg and cheese protein box. Some also carry fresh fruit, which is always easy to stuff in your carry-on for later on. All the nutrition info can be found online or via the Starbucks app so you can easily plan ahead to make a smart choice.
&ldquoWhen I travel overseas, I focus mainly on staying well-hydrated since dehydration can worsen jet lag and increase fatigue,&rdquo says Malina Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN, media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and creator of the Wholitarian Lifestyle. Malkani explains that air travel is particularly dehydrating due to fluid loss through the skin, low-humidity and recirculating air in a pressurized cabin, so it&rsquos important to drink even if you&rsquore not feeling thirsty. Carry an empty re-useable water bottle in you carry-on and fill it once you&rsquove cleared security. &ldquoA good guideline is to drink a cup or so of water before the flight, one for every hour in the air and another post-flight,&rdquo says Malkani. When offered in-flight beverage, stick with water, club soda or tomato juice and limit alcohol which promotes dehydration.
Look for Meals Piled With Fruits and Veggies
Sometimes it&rsquos tough to get your hands on fruit and vegetables when running through airports and traveling many hours on planes &mdash especially when traveling internationally. Jonathan Valdez, owner of Genki Nutrition and New York City and Long Island Media Spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics always looks for meals where at least half the plate is fruits and/or vegetables. You can also find to-go fresh items that are typically in baskets (by the grab-and-go kiosks that are found throughout airports). Depending on where you are going you may be able to swap out the high-fat/starch foods with healthier options. &ldquoIf you pinch pennies like me, I wait to be on the flight to eat my snacks or meals and opt-out on the free and undesirable tasting wine,&rdquo says Valdez.
Use a "Just Add Water" Strategy
Hot water is available within airports and on airplanes. If you want to pack healthy fare from home, think about oatmeal packets, tea bags and other &ldquojust add boiling water&rdquo cups like Keen One Quinoa Cups or Lotus Foods rice ramen soup cups.
Make Energy Bites
Dana Angelo White, MS RD ATC, Food Network contributor and cookbook author reaches for a few handfuls of long-lasting fuel made from oats, dried fruit, nuts, honey, chia seeds and nut butter. &ldquoI make a homemade batch of energy bites or granola to stash in my bag for a busy day of travel. Neither requires refrigeration, they can be made to be sweet or savory and they keep me feeling full and energized for hours.&rdquo
11 Meal Mistakes to Avoid at the Airport
The airport is a confusing, stressful, harrowing place at the best of times, but never more so than when there is a meal involved. Running late or spending hours on a hard seat during a layover can lead to bad choices when deciding how to dine. Here are the 11 pitfalls to avoid the next time you find yourself stuck at the airport:
1. Leaving the Airport for a “Quick” Bite
“I’m just popping into town for an hour for a bite at a real restaurant—I have a long layover!” Famous last words. Even if it’s just a few miles to town, anything could happen: The subway could have delays, your car could break down, and what are you going to do with your luggage, anyway? For layovers under 12 hours, stay in the terminal.
Photo from Houston Press
2. Buying a Premade Sandwich
There are so many options in airports nowadays that there’s no reason to rely on these flabby, flavorless sandwiches wrapped in cellophane. Languishing under the fluorescent lights for 24 hours or more, plasticky cheese sweating into its wrapper…a sandwich like this is at best overpriced and at worst a recipe for food poisoning.
Photo from Club Sandwich Reviews
3. Passing Up Duty-Free Alcohol
It might seem counterintuitive to buy a heavy, expensive bottle of alcohol when you’re on the way to an island paradise, but you’ll never get such great prices on high-end liquor as you will in an airport. Now, you have stuff to drink on the plane and in the hotel room without paying higher prices for a lesser product.
Photo from Airport Business
4. Choosing a Worldwide Chain Over a Regional One
Don’t you dare pass up Jollibee or La Maison Paul for Starbucks. This is your chance to try spaghetti with fried chicken, baked potatoes topped with sweetcorn, and any number of other local oddities. Get the Frappuccino at home, and indulge in regional delights here.
Photo from Serious Eats
5. Ignoring the Lounges
Even if you aren’t allowed in the deluxe international first-class lounges with caviar and champagne, you can often pay to get into lounges like the American Express Centurion Lounge. Here, enjoy a shower, craft cocktails by mixologist Jim Meehan, and freshly made food designed by the likes of Scott Conant and other celebrity chefs, all complimentary once you pay the entrance fee.
Photo from PhotoBucket
6. Enjoying Baked Beans
Or any beans, for that matter. Changes in altitude, crossing time zones, beans’ natural predisposition to cause flatulence…just say no to beans when eating huevos rancheros or a full English breakfast. Your seatmates will thank you.
Photo from Celebrity Radio
7. Nonchalantly Drinking Ice Water
Don’t drink ice water just anywhere. When traveling to places where our North American bodies aren’t used to the bacteria in the water—like Mexico, India, Egypt, and even parts of Greece—the results can be less than optimal on a long flight with one small bathroom for 200 passengers. Stick with bottled water if you’re unsure.
Photo from Discovery News
8. Thinking That You Are Going to Get the Real Deal in the Airport
A real Chicago hot dog, an authentic pan Catalan, sushi like Jiro makes…no matter the outlet, if it’s in the airport, chances are that the authentic taste of the iconic food of the city isn’t going to be there. Aim for lower-end eateries, fast-food chains, or small regional bakeries in the terminal, and you are much more likely to be impressed.
Photo from The Paupered Chef
9. Cheaping Out
The high-end offerings at airports aren’t just there for show—these days, you can enjoy a fine dining experience in many airports. Caviar, champagne, steaks: They’re all there for the taking. And considering how long you’ll be sitting for the next eight hours, it’s not such a bad idea to indulge in a martini to soften the blow.
Photo from Foodspotting
10. Indulging in Bad Fast Food
A Cinnabon might sound like a great idea at the time, but a bottle of water later and it will expand in your stomach like one of those tiny fabric animals that unfurls to become a beach towel. Go for some fries, but don’t supersize them, and heaven help you if you decide to do some super spicy Mexican food.
Photo from Wikipedia
11. Forgetting to Buy Local Snack Food as Souvenirs
No one needs an extra shot glass or an expensive chapeau—what people want can be found at the magazine stand of the airport. Candy, potato chips, spicy snack mixes, and adorable gummy candies that we can’t get here. As a bonus, you can buy these items after security, so don’t worry about shoving them into your already packed suitcase.
Photo from Holleys Fine Foods article header image from Port of Seattle
While salads and sandwiches do get the green light as flight-friendly foods, you might want to hold the onions. If you're stuck with onion breath, the National Onion Association recommends eating a sprig of parsley, rinsing your mouth with equal parts lemon juice and water, or chewing on a citrus peel to get rid of the stench. You're welcome in advance.