Great Escapes

11.27.13

Delayed? The Best Airport Restaurants to Eat at This Thanksgiving

It’s the day before Turkey Day—or even the holiday itself—and you’re in airport hell and famished. Step away from the Cinnabon! From sushi at JFK to wine at Dulles, where to really eat.

You’re tired. You’re hungry. And you just want to get home and celebrate Thanksgiving with your family.

But if you’re among the 3.1 million travelers taking to the sky this holiday, you might be grounded in the East Coast’s busiest airports, thanks to a deadly storm that’s already torn through several Southern states.

Before you fall into despair, know that just because you’re stuck at the airport doesn’t mean you’ll be forced to feast on Cinnabons for Thanksgiving. Some airports these days are downright fancy, and restaurateurs have capitalized on travelers weary of overpriced and inedible fare.

So if you’re lucky enough to be delayed in New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston, or Charlotte, N.C., know that your options for a great Thanksgiving meal reach further than a slice at Sbarro. The Daily Beast has rounded up the best these airport eateries have to offer.

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Robert Nickelsberg/Getty

New York

La Vie (JFK)

The Salad Niçoise and Onion Soup Gratinée from Terminal 5’s cozy French Bistro will make you reconsider turkey as the national holiday dish. Plus, it’s operated by chefs from New York staples Balthazar and Pastis.

Shake Shack (JFK)

These are not just hamburgers. Danny Meyer’s deservedly hyped fast food outpost has won fans all over New York with its tangy Shack Sauce and (crinkle cut!) fries. Bonus: You won’t have to wait in the down-the-block lines like you do in the city.

Piquillo (JFK)

Another win for Terminal 5, Piquillo serves tapas, which is great for a whole group of strandeds who’d rather be at the family table. Pass the potatoes brava.

Deep Blue (JFK)

Just the words “airport” and “sushi” together are enough to instill fear in the seasoned flier. But Buddakan’s Michael Schulson is behind a menu that is as fresh as it is inventive. The service can be slow, but hey, you’ve got nowhere to go.

Taste of Prime Tavern (LGA)

An old fashioned New York steakhouse lies in LaGuardia’s Delta terminal. You really should get a steak, but if it’s got to be turkey, they have a good club sandwich.

Grand Central Oyster Bar (EWR)

It’s not the Grand Central original, but the iconic rainbow sign will show you the way to one of the few airport restaurants where it’s a good idea to order oysters.

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Washington, D.C.

Matsutake Sushi (IAD and DCA)

While the sushi itself is solid—fresh and expertly prepared—this place is also known for its warm service. And it might just make you a little less homesick.

Vino Volo (IAD)

It serves small plates like cheese, charcuterie, and sandwiches, but most come here for the impressive wine selection. And those who get lonely during the holidays might want to note: Vino Volo was named the second-best U.S. airport bar to meet someone by the dating site MeetAtTheAirport.com.

Five Guys (DCA)

Virginia’s answer to the burger craze serves some of the best in the country, and the airport location does not disappoint. Plus, here you can even grab breakfast.

Philadelphia

Legal Sea Foods (PHL)

The seafood here is incredibly fresh and the lobster roll is a standout. For Thanksgiving, Legal is serving a traditional feast: turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, and cranberry sauce. They’re also known for one of the most extensive gluten-free menus around.

Tony Luke’s (PHL)

If you’re stuck in Philly, might as well do as the locals do and grab a cheesesteak from this local favorite turned airport eatery.

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Alex Wong/Getty

Boston

Dine Boston Café (BOS)

Each season, this restaurant invites a new local chef to add a fresh take to the New England menu. Clam chowder and seafood are regulars, though.

Bonfire (BOS)

It’s a steakhouse with Argentinean, European, and American influences, so steaks are the norm, but you can get fancy with gorgonzola, chimichurri, or horseradish toppings. It’s the closest you’ll get to fine dining at Logan.

Charlotte, N.C.

Beaudevin (CLT)

With a name that means “beauty of wine,” Beaudevin is another tapas bar with a vast selection of wines. The small plates are quite good and the place is so classy you might forget you’re in the airport.

Brookwood Farms BBQ (CLT)

First, a perfectly fried pickle comes with your meal. If you need another reason to dine, the barbecue is tasty and the fixins are plentiful. It’s nothing fancy, but the servers are nice, making it feel more like home than you ever thought an airport could.

Atlanta

One Flew South (ATL)

“The first upscale dining experience at the world’s busiest airport” is no mere brag. The food at One Flew South is inspired by travel, so its fare spans the globe from sushi to dunk confit and it’s all done well. What’s more, you can get a classic cocktail here (no watered down whiskey and coke for you) and even a proper Thanksgiving meal with the Applewood Smoked Turkey with black truffle mayonnaise, cranberry jam, and arugula salad.

LowCountry Southern Cuisine (ATL)

It claims to be elevated Southern cuisine, but LowCoutry is more down-home than upscale, and that’s a good thing. The cafeteria style stop is basically a comfort food joint—think baby back ribs, shrimp and grits, and gumbo—done well.

Paschal's Southern Cuisine (ATL)

This place is an Atlanta institution and it’s easy to see why. Paschal's soul food spot has all the usual staples but the fried chicken (the batter is a super Atlanta secret) is a standout.