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Flying on a Full Stomach - Top 10 Airport Eateries

Explorer C

During a long day of travel it is inevitable that hunger will strike. On a road trip it is always best to eat where the truckers dine. After all, they are the ones who spend every arduous day driving the highways of America. Similarly in our Southwest Airports, who better to ask for food advice than the people who are constantly seeking sustenance on the fly all across the country--the Flight Crew!
Very often when placed in a foreign setting, we tend to try and seek places of familiarity.
You know the scenario: You sit down with a meal that you are not too excited about, then see someone else pull out of a bag the most beautiful sandwich you have ever laid eyes on. With every bite they take out if it, you grow more and more envious as you drool over their food.
Well have no fear! I am about to equip you with the knowledge needed to take full advantage of what our airports have to offer. You will soon be the envy of everyone in the food court! Even if it’s your first time there, you will be eating like a local and enhancing your entire travel experience. So… without further adieu let me introduce my “Top Ten Southwest Airport Eateries”!

Drum roll, please...

Potbelly Sandwich Works

1. Potbelly Sandwich Works

Topping my list is Potbelly Sandwich Works--well known not just for their sandwiches, but also their soups and salads. When first encountering Potbelly’s it is hard not to be intimidated with a line that often extends out the door into the terminal. Don’t let this get you down.  This restaurant has perfected the sandwich-making process by adopting the old-fashioned assembly line, which is sure to have you out of there in close to five minutes. Don’t be surprised if you are the 20th person in line and they are shouting at you to place your order! With extremely affordable prices and great food, your wallet will be just as satisfied as your stomach and taste buds. While visiting, be sure to indulge in one of their classics known as “The Wreck”. Ask for a side of the Potbelly Vinaigrette to dip your sandwich in! Potbelly’s is located at the Chicago-Midway Airport and the Washington-Dulles Airport.

2. Mamma Lombardi’s

Fuhgeddaboudit!!! This place serves Italian Food so authentic you are going to think you are in an episode of The Sopranos sitting with all the boys on Mulberry St. in Manhattan! Tucked in the back corner of the food court at the Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip, at first glance Mamma Lombardi’s could easily be mistaken for your typical food court pizzeria. I remember the first time I had the honor of eating here. I was not hungry and certainly was not in the mood for Italian. A Fellow Coworker insisted that I have a sandwich, and when I said no, he bought me one anyway. I am now forever indebted to him as that Chicken Parmesan Hero who left me in a food coma! I was speechless, and even though I was full I wanted another one.

Caper's Cafe

3. Capers Café et Le Bar

Our next restaurant brings us to the beautiful Portland International Airport, where you will find Capers Café et Le Bar.  It is located just through the security line in Concourse C. This European inspired café will have your mind in a frenzy, trying to choose between the many delectable dishes. With selections including breakfast, soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta, and daily specials, you will almost hope for your flight to be canceled! For those of you who enjoy a glass of wine with your meal be sure to check out their eclectic wine list. I often opt for one of their daily specials, which always proves to be a first-class decision.

4. The Salt Lick

If you are on the “Meat and Potatoes” diet, then this is the place for you.  When visiting Texas and the Midwest it is imperative to indulge in the savory BBQ that The Salt Lick has to offer. A personal favorite of mine is the “Texas Sized” baked potato with smoked brisket.  Never fear if brisket isn’t your deal, there is still plenty of options including turkey, sausage, ribs, coleslaw, beans, and potato salad. So strap on a pair of cowboy boots and get ready for some BBQ when visiting the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and the Will Rogers World Airport/Oklahoma City!

Comida Buena

5. Comida Buena Gourmet Deli

At first glance, this small deli may look like your typical “hole in the wall’ deli. However, Comida Buena is home to the “World Famous” green chile chicken soup. If you are passing through the Albuquerque International Sunport, you would be doing yourself a great injustice by not grabbing yourself a cup of soup. Sure to spice up anyone’s travel experience, this soup comes loaded with chicken, vegetables, and flavor that will have your mouth begging for more. Be sure to grab yourself a cold beverage because those green chiles might get you dancing, if you know what I mean!

Salad Works

6. Saladworks

Looking for a little something healthy before you start your day of jetsetting? The Saladworks in the Sacramento International Airport is the place for you. Armed with an extravagant selection of fresh salads and fixings, you will feel like you are out on the farm eating food you just picked from your garden. If you are having a hard time choosing from all of the fine choices, might I suggest the Sophie’s Salad or the Tivoli Salad? When ordering the Sophie’s Salad, be sure to have them mix the Asian Ginger Dressing and the Raspberry Vinaigrette.

Ivar's Fish Bar

7. Ivar’s Fish Bar

Ivar’s has been a Northwest family tradition since 1938. Serving up some of the freshest seafood in the area, they have built a reputation for good seafood that extends beyond the Northwest. Situated in the Central Terminal of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, they serve up a plate of fish and chips that rivals all of Great Britain. Ivar’s is not just fish and chips though! Along with grilled seafood selections and fresh Northwest chowders, they offer a variety of made-to-order salads and seafood that includes cod, halibut, salmon, scallops, calamari, clams, prawns, and more! Just thinking about it has me wishing I were there.


8. Flo’s Shanghai

Nín hǎo, welcome to Terminal 4 of the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport! If you’re like me and love Chinese Food, then do I have a treat for you! Flo’s is a local Phoenix restaurant that cooks up fresh-to-order meals. With great prices and a wide variety of menu items, there is something for the whole family. From pot stickers to rice bowls, you will find it hard to narrow down your choices. Flo’s offers great service and extremely clean dining and kitchen areas. Their Wonton Soup (ask to add vegetables) is by far my favorite on the menu! For under $6, you will have a meal that will make you forget you are in the desert and have you feel like you are celebrating Chinese New Year in Shanghai.

9. Pinkberry

No Crew Member can deny this place! Pinkberry frozen yogurt will have you Tweeting and Facebooking to make your friends jealous. Now you can have the refreshing dessert without the guilt.  Pinkberry can be found in the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), offering a seasonal variety of different frozen yogurts with your choice of fresh fruits. Be sure not to get pulled too deep in to a tropical fantasy daydream while enjoying this delightful dessert or you might miss your flight!

10. Smuttynose Public House

Our last hidden gem brings us to Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire. Often overlooked, Smuttynose sits across from Gate 14 and offers unprecedented friendly service and savory crepes that will make you melt! With unlimited options of mixing and matching--you are the chef. Whether it is lunch or dessert you’re in the mood for, Smuttynose is ready to accommodate you! I very often opt for a spinach, tomato, and feta crepe. It may be my French background that has me loving these crepes, but I promise, you will not be disappointed!

Well there you have it!  That completes my “Top Ten Southwest Airport Eateries” list. I hope all of this talk about food did not make you too hungry.

Now you are ready to take on the Southwest Airports and try all of the great foods out there. I would be lying if I said that there were not many other places that I wrestled within my mind when making this list. I know many of you have favorite places you have discovered in your local airports or along your travels and I would love to hear about them. Be sure to leave a comment and tell me about your favorite dining experiences in our Southwest Airports!

Explorer C
Great Lakes Brewing Company in the Cleveland International Airport. They have good pub food and excellent beer. They even sell six-packs in the terminal, so you can take some to share with friends in whatever city you're traveling too. It's a bit of a walk from the Southwest gates, but worth it if you have some time to spare.
Explorer C
Come back and take a new picture of Comida in its new food court. It looks so pretty!
Explorer C
Awesome article, Joey!! Great job!
Explorer C
Hi Joey, I hope you get a chance to try Nonna Bartolotta's in Concourse D (the SWA concourse) at Milwaukee's Mitchell Airport. Fabulous Italian food from a well-known local restaurateur. On the same concourse is Usinger's restaurant and deli, specializing in local cheeses and meats. For dessert, in the concession mall, try some custard from Northpoint - again a local treat, and so delicious!
Explorer C
Hands Down #1 PotBelly!!! The wreck is the only thing to order! Always plan on a PotBelly flying in and out of Chicago Midway. The have good cookies too. Mmmm I'm hungry!
Explorer C
Joey this is awesome stuff! I've been to a few great foodie places as well in some airports. There's a bakery in one of the terminals at MSP that's fantastic, but I think that's in the main terminal, not Humphry's where we fly, dangit. And when in Manchester, that place you recommended has awesome micro-brews as well. The green chile in ABQ lives up to the hype. It's awesome. You can get a great green chile BLT at the place next door, too. Great job, Joey! More! More!
Explorer C
I love Portland's airport and am so happy to see Caper in there. If you're in Terminal E, try the Rose City Deli. I often walk over there to get their meals in a box (there's a name for them but I forget...sigh). Nothing fancy, but a good sandwich of your choice, chips, a cookie and a drink of some sort. On flights to Chicago I have to guard the box with my life 🐵 Thanks for the tips 🐵
Explorer C
What about Tootsie's Orchard Lounge in Nashville. Where else can you hear live music from singer songwriters during dinner. Great food and great entertainment.
Explorer C
let's not forget the anchor Bar in the buffalo/niagara airport, home of the original chicken wing!! And of course san jose joe's in the newley remodeled san jose airport! Both are worth stoping at!
Explorer C
You forgot Vino Volo's....the food is fresh, healthy and delicious...reasonably priced.....and the wine is FAB!!!
Explorer C
BEST Soup......... Hands Down Pegasus... Chicken lemon rice Chicago Midway! Right by the checkpoint! It's the BEST!!! I never get tired of it either! I get a few cups and bring it home to the family... no joke! Affordable too! Don't see that much in any airport! Love Potbelly but have you had the CSS??? a.k.a. Chicken salad salad??? OMG with low fat vinegar dressing... Awesome! YUM!!! People that go to airports know their stuff!
Explorer C
Hi Joey, you didn't mention SFO. Is there any place there that is really good. I have flown out of there many times but just ate at the snack bar
Explorer C
It's odd that no Dallas Love airport restaurants were mentioned; maybe there aren't any good restaurants there. Pappadeaux in Houston Hobby should be mentioned on this list. Great Crawfish Etouffe!
Explorer C
I just heard yesterday that Elephant's Deli is coming to Portland Int'l Airport (PDX). If it's anything like their other locations around town, it'll be the first place you'll want to head! Terrific sandwiches, great soups, service, etc....makes me want to head down there right now!
Explorer C
The first thing I thought when I saw the topic of this post was... "I wonder if Potbelly Sandwich Works will be listed?" Potbelly is by far my favorite "air food", and I will always try to get a connection through Midway on my trips to the western part of the country, just so I can get a sandwich at Potbelly's on my way through! I'm looking forward to a stop there on my trip to Albuquerque in April, and I can't wait to try Comida Buena when I get to ABQ! Thanks for a great post!
Explorer C
I first ate at a Potbellies at the Nashville Airport several years ago. Haven't been thru there in a few years. Couldn't believe I was eating in a restaurant at an airport!
Explorer C
The Manchester Grill, also in MHT, has the best burgers I have had anywhere in or out of an airport. Local beef cooked so that the juice runs down your arm when you bite into of the true joys of traveling.
Explorer C
I agree that Tootsie's in Nasville (BNA) is unique because of the country singers>
Explorer C
I always try to hit Potbelly for a breakfast sandwich at MDW when I'm passing through there early in the morning as I'm flying out of DTW. Ivar's at SEA is a must stop for me for a bowl of chowder before heading home, too. I'm happy to see that both of these made your top 10.
Explorer C
I can personally vouch for the Albuquerque and Seattle selections and look forward to my Austin visit! My own "home" airport, Oakland, has a Food Find. Our beloved local ice creamery, Fenton's, has a scoop shop in Terminal 2. Portions are extra large. Ask for the extra small scoop if you don't want to go in an ice cream coma. Toasted almond icecream is the house specialty.
Explorer C
Dish Delish at SEATAC! Simply can not go through that airport without stopping! I crave it even when I'm at home in Kansas City!
Explorer C
Shapiro's @ Indianapolis
Explorer C
I know Ivar's is the normal stop for most crewmembers in SEA, but if you haven't tried Dish D'Lish you're missing out! Their Mile High Turkey Club is one of my favorites in the system, or try the NW Couscous Salad for a healthy snack (it's got a curry flavor). Their breakfast stratas are also quite yummy.
Explorer C
Great article Joey!!
Explorer C
This blog post is making me hungry! I'm surprised to say that there are a few on here that I have yet to try. My favorites so far are on your list. Gotta luv that green chile in ABQ and a Potbelly's Wreck with everything on it (the more peppers, the better)!
Explorer C
Thank you everyone for all of the great feedback and suggestions! It was very hard narrowing it down to only 10, as there are so many places to eat and so many airports to eat at. Some of you have mentioned some great new places for me to try in my upcoming travels. I love to try new places!!! We may have to do a Part 2! If you have more suggestions regarding your favorite places, I would love to hear about them!
Explorer A
wow! Manchester made the list!! im always there, but just to plane spot, so im rarely past security...with the exception of the past 2 years....and this year...but ive never went in there!