Ranking: The Best & Worst Airports for Food in the U.S.

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Photo of a girl at the airport, contemplating what to eat.
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Airports haven’t typically been known for their haute cuisine. Maybe the high prices, but not high-quality food. 

And that sucks when you’ve got a long layover or your flight is delayed. It adds insult to injury when your best option is a soggy prepackaged sandwich or the free pretzels they handed out on the plane. Maybe that’s why so many people drink in airports: to distract themselves from their gnawing hunger, or the stale slice of pizza they were forced to eat. 

Fortunately, the food selection at many airports has improved in recent years. Believe it or not, some people even look forward to layovers just so they can hit up their favorite airport restaurant. OK, we were skeptical too, but after extensive research, we here at Wanderu are convinced.

Employing a specific methodology, we tallied:

  • the total number of restaurants in the 50 busiest U.S. airports,
  • the number of restaurants in each airport that earned a rating of more than 3 stars on Yelp (out of a possible five),
  • and the top-ranked restaurant for each airport.

From there, we ranked the airports based on their total number of high-rated restaurants. (For airports that tied, we gave the edge to those with fewer total restaurants, as it meant they had a higher overall percentage of good food.)

The section below features the top 10 food-friendly airports, followed by an expandable table with our full rankings to 50. 

Airport Total Restaurants High-Rated
Restaurants
Top Restaurant
1. Denver International Airport 51 19 Root Down
2. Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport 58 19 Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen
3. Hatfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport 88 18 One Flew South
4. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport 48 15 The Refuge Coffee & Wine
5. Logan International Airport, Boston 28 14 Shojo
6. San Francisco International Airport 43 13 Napa Farms Market
7. Portland International Airport 21 12 Blue Star Donuts
8. Baltimore–Washington International Airport 28 12 Gachi House of Sushi
9. Miami International Airport 30 11 Corona Beach House
10. George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston 52 11 Pappadeux Seafood Kitchen
  • The included data is based on ratings and reviews from Yelp. 
  • Only restaurants with at least 20 reviews were counted for the “Restaurants w/ 3+ Stars” and “Top Restaurant” categories, to ensure the star rating was statistically significant.

Airport Total Restaurants High-Rated
Restaurants
Top Restaurant
11. William P. Hobby Airport 12 10 Pappadeux Seafood Kitchen
12. Los Angeles International Airport 64 10 Sealegs Wine Bar
13. O’Hare International Airport 67 10 Tortas Frontera
14. Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport 22 8 Lake Wine Kitchen + Bar
15. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport 30 8 CAVA
16. Dulles International Airport 20 7 Bar Symon
17. Seattle–Tacoma International Airport 30 7 Beecher’s Handmade Cheese
18. Philadelphia International Airport 36 7 Aldo Lamberti Trattoria
19. San Diego International Airport 17 6 Phil’s BBQ
20. Tampa International Airport 20 6 Four Green Fields
21. Detroit Metropolitan Airport 33 6 Bigalora
22. Pittsburgh International Airport 8 5 Marathon Diner
23. Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport 10 5 Great Lakes Brewing
24. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport 17 5 The Peached Tortilla
25. Salt Lake City International Airport 23 5 Squatters Pub & Beers
26. Charlotte Douglas International Airport 27 5 Beaudevin
27. Midway International Airport 22 4 Gold Coast Dogs
28. Orlando International Airport 30 4 McCoy’s Bar & Grill
29. McCarran International Airport 43 4 Rachel’s Kitchen
30. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport 10 3 Gold Star Chili
31. San Antonio International Airport 12 3 Raising Cain’s Chicken Fingers
32. Newark Liberty International Airport 53 3 Classified
33. John F. Kennedy International Airport 55 3 Shake Shack
34. Metropolitan Oakland International Airport (Tie) 8 2 Vino Volo
34. John Glenn Columbus International Airport (Tie) 8 2 Vino Volo
36. Sacramento International Airport 11 2 The Gateway Bar
37. Indianapolis International Airport 13 2 Harry & Izzy’s
38. Daniel K. Inouye International Airport 16 2 Lahaina Chicken Company
39. Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport (Tie) 18 2 Zona Fresca
39. Norman Y Mineta San Jose International Airport (Tie) 18 2 Pizza My Heart
41. Luis Munoz Marin International Airport 3 1 Casa Avila
42. Raleigh-Durham International Airport 12 1 Carolina Vintages
43. John Wayne Airport-Orange County 13 1 Javi’s
44. Dallas Love Field Airport 15 1 Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
45. St. Louis Lambert International Airport 17 1 Pizza Studio
46. LaGuardia Airport 33 1 Five Guys
47. Kansas City International Airport 5 0 N/A
48. Southwest Florida International Airport 6 0 N/A
49. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport 12 0 N/A
50. Nashville International Airport 16 0 N/A

Essentially, we crunched the numbers to help you determine where to eat and drink at the airport next time you’re traveling. We believe you’ll find this info particularly useful, especially now that we’ve added flights on Wanderu, meaning you can compare them alongside bus and train tickets in one streamlined search.

As always, we want to help you find the cheapest travel possible, and now we can ensure you’re well fed along the way. Now check out our spotlights on the top 10 airports and some of their culinary highlights. Bon voyage, and bon appetit!

1. Denver International Airport — Denver, CO

( - EMR - / Flickr)
Total Restaurants High-Rated Restaurants Top Restaurant
51 19 Root Down

Denver International Airport has a lot of dining options to serve its nearly 65 million annual passengers. But considering how large DIA is, it probably should. After all, it’s the fifth busiest airport in the entire U.S., and occupies more physical space than Manhattan and San Francisco combined!

With upwards of 50 food spots, there’s something for nearly everyone and every occasion. Early morning? You can grab a breakfast sandwich to go at Modern Market. Have a business expense account? Try dropping some coin on a filet during dinner at Elway’s.

And if you’re looking for a local favorite? We recommend Root Down – the highest rated establishment at the Denver airport. What started as a restaurant in Denver’s eclectic Highlands neighborhood now has a sister location in Concourse C. Root Down is known — and beloved — for its focus on locally-farmed, sustainable and organic ingredients. And while we know that it’s probably hard to get excited about a menu item that focuses on beets, the long list of people who rave about Root Down’s beets & goat cheese salad would impress even Dwight Schrute.

2. Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport — Dallas, TX

Photo of the Dallas–Fort Worth Airport.
(Andrew Milligan sumo / Flickr)
Total Restaurants High-Rated Restaurants Top Restaurant
58 19 Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen

They say everything is bigger in Texas. 

At Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, that statement rings true when it comes to portion sizes at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen. Located in Terminals A and C, you don’t have to fly to New Orleans to get an authentic taste of Cajun food when you’re traveling through DFW. 

From oysters to etouffee, po-boys to red beans and rice, one bite and you’ll feel like you stepped into the French Quarter — without all those beads flying everywhere.

Spicy and seafood not your thing? Bánh Shop is a highly-rated, award-winning alternative that specializes in Vietnamese–style sandwiches and bowls. In fact, their grilled pork meatball baguette was named the Best Meatball Sandwich in America according to Restaurant Hospitality. Take that, Angelo Pappas.

3. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — Atlanta, GA

Photo outside of the Atlanta airport.
(redlegsfan21 / Flickr)
Total Restaurants High-Rated Restaurants Top Restaurant
88 18 One Flew South

If you travel often, you’ll probably find yourself in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport at some point. After all, it’s held the record for the world’s busiest passenger airport for the past 21 years in a row. 

But with the chaos that ensues from nearly 300,000 passengers traveling through per day, choosing where to eat — even with a whopping 88 restaurants — can be as difficult as stuffing your suitcase into an overhead bin.

If you’re willing to splurge, take the Plane Train to One Flew South in Concourse E. Marketed as the first upscale dining experience within the Atlanta airport, One Flew South’s menu features items like hamachi crudo, thyme roasted pork belly and a collard green ramen you can try to duplicate at home with the purchase of Chef Todd Richards’ debut cookbook. 

Still hungry? Chicken + Beer is just one concourse over. Don’t let the fact that rapper/actor Ludacris is behind the concept fool you. It was actually the first airport restaurant in the country to be considered for the prestigious James Beard Award. Guess he knows a thing or two about Southern hospitality…

4. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport — Phoenix, AZ

(redlegsfan21 / Flickr)
Total Restaurants High-Rated Restaurants Top Restaurant
48 15 The Refuge Wine & Coffee

When it comes to beverages, airports are strange places, and rules about what’s appropriate to drink at what time of day kinda go out the window. After all, just because you’re sitting in Phoenix doesn’t mean that your body isn’t on New York time, or that it isn’t 5 o’clock somewhere.

Whether you’re thirsty for a glass of wine at 7 a.m. or craving a cup of coffee at 7 p.m., The Refuge Coffee & Wine in Terminal 4 has got you covered. In addition to all the usual caffeinated suspects, The Refuge also serves up wine, beer, micheladas, and an assortment of breakfast and lunch options.

Averaging a five-star review, patrons of Refuge’s airport location frequently use Yelp to call out employees by name (looking at you, Tony, Matt and Gary!) for their kindness, humor and exceptional service. The bad news? They close each day at 9 p.m., so maybe not the best spot to grab a nightcap.  

But Wildflower, located in the Main Concourse, is open 24 hours if it’s late and you need a pick-me-up — like their wildflower cappuccino or something from the bakery. The only bummer? They don’t serve alcohol.

5. Logan International Airport — Boston, MA

Photo outside of Boston-Logan Airport.
(Chris Oakley / Flickr)
Total Restaurants High-Rated Restaurants Top Restaurant
28 14 Shojo

Shojo — the Chinatown darling — just opened its second Boston location in Terminal C of Logan International Airport in 2019, but it’s already a favorite among fliers. 

You can credit the breakfast congee for winning over more than one weary traveler. Open earlier than any sane person would like to arrive at the airport, and closing late, the restaurant features modern Asian favorites from their original menu, plus some items exclusive to the trendy Logan location.

Long layover in Boston? If you aren’t getting out of the airport and into the city, Legal Sea Foods’ Logan digs may be your only chance for a lobster roll or New England clam chowder (pronounced chow-dah). It’s pricey, but hey, you’re on vacation, right?

6. San Francisco International Airport — San Francisco, CA

Photo outside of San Francisco Airport's International Terminal.
Total Restaurants High-Rated Restaurants Top Restaurant
43 13 Napa Farms Market

With two locations in the San Francisco International Airport, Napa Farms Market brings a little bit of Northern California culture to Terminals 2 and G. 

Featuring wines from Napa Valley, beers from local brewers, and a variety of organic and local foods, the restaurant/bar/grocery isn’t your typical grab-and-go spot. Here, a granola bar means something different than at every other airport market: It means building your own parfait.

In fact, you can also build your own picnic to take with you. But no pressure. If sitting next to your gate with gourmet cheese on a paper napkin doesn’t sound glamorous, you can stick around and dine on fresh mozzarella caprese or kale Caesar salad (topped with organic chicken, obviously).

Or weave your way to the back of Napa Farms Market to find Tyler Florence Rotisserie. Though you probably won’t run into the celebrity chef, you can try his mac and cheese and a variety of roasted meats.

7. Portland International Airport — Portland, OR

Photo inside of Portland International Airport.
(Sharon Hahn Darlin / Flickr)
Total Restaurants High-Rated Restaurants Top Restaurant
21 12 Blue Star Donuts

Remember when doughnuts only came in glazed or powdered? Today, you can order flavors like blueberry bourbon basil, real maple bacon and Cointreau crème brûlée — at the airport. Blue Star Donuts and Coffee, a Portland purveyor of gourmet brioche-dough confections, opened its doors at the PDX Airport three years ago. 

Doors open at 5 a.m. everyday, so you can grab a doughnut before your early-morning flight. And with the location in the main terminal before security, you’ll have enough caffeine and sugar in your system to make the hassles of TSA more tolerable.

Doughnuts not your thing? That’s OK. (But seriously, what’s wrong with you?!) Flying Elephants at PDX is also located pre-security, selling bagels and burritos, coffees and cabernets.

8. Baltimore–Washington International Airport — Baltimore, MD

(Doc Searls / Flickr)
Total Restaurants High-Rated Restaurants Top Restaurant
28 12 Gachi House of Sushi

Fresh, healthy and authentic may not be the first three words that come to mind when you think of airport food. But changing that perception is the idea behind Gachi House of Sushi, located in both Piers A and B of BWI. The restaurant opens daily at 5 a.m., but if raw fish in the morning doesn’t sound appetizing, there’s also fruit sushi and a breakfast sushi that’s better suited for an early wake-up call.

If crab cakes (and football) are more your style, grab a seat at Obrycki’s Restaurant and Bar. Serving “crab cakes and more since 1944,” the Concourse B spot offers its original recipe and a spicier version — on a platter, a sandwich, or even frozen and packed in an insulated bag to shove in your carry-on.

9. Miami International Airport — Miami, FL

Photo inside of the Miami Airport.
(Sebastian Stephan Thiel / Flickr)
Total Restaurants High-Rated Restaurants Top Restaurant
30 11 Corona Beach House

Nothing says “Welcome to Miami” like Will Smith … or a cold beer. 

Corona Beach House, located in Terminal D, offers one of the two. However, don’t let the name deceive you. The restaurant’s menu includes more than just these beachy beers, although you do have the option to add an upside-down Coronita to any margarita. Warning: a few of those and you might be staying in Miami. Tacos, burgers, breakfast and a N.Y. strip round out the menu – perfect for when you’re done soaking up the sun but need to soak up that last drink. 

Further down Concourse D sits La Carreta, a restaurant dishing up an extensive menu of Cuban cuisine, including its popular empanadas. Available in beef, spinach, chicken, or ham and cheese, you can grab these to-go for your next flight at just $2.25 a pop.

10. George Bush Intercontinental Airport — Houston, TX

Photo inside of the Houston airport.
(Prayitno / Flickr)
Total Restaurants High-Rated Restaurants Top Restaurant
52 11 Pappadeux Seafood Kitchen

Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen may be popular in Dallas–Fort Worth, but in Houston it’s a hometown hero. The New Orleans–style chain got its start in the city’s Galleria area more than 30 years ago. Today, there’s 13 Houston area locations, including the one next to Gate 3 in the George Bush Intercontinental Airport. 

Whether you’re dining in or grabbing something on the go, the Pappadeaux menu offers a variety of fresh fish, bisques and decadent (fried) appetizers for dipping. There’s also a selection of salads to balance things out.

Not to be outdone, The Breakfast Klub’s IAH outpost (there’s also a downtown location) specializes in Southern comfort food. We’re talking wings and waffles, catfish and grits, and green eggs and ham good enough to eat here and there (or anywhere).

City-to-City with Wanderu

Hungry yet? We hope so. And maybe next time you book a flight (through Wanderu, of course), a long layover won’t be so scary. In fact, it could be a perfect opportunity to sample local, even gourmet, cuisine — from seafood to sushi, brioche to bánh mi, and sea to shining sea.

Of course, some airports still have a ways to go to catch up with the likes of Denver or Dallas–Fort Worth’s food scene, so you might want to keep that in mind next time you’re planning your travel. But that should be fairly easy when you’re using the Wanderu app or Wanderu.com to compare routes, schedules and prices for the very best (and most delicious) travel deals.

In search of even more travel inspiration? Using our own Wanderu data, we found the top 10 cheapest city pairs for a multi-city trip, so you can indulge in double the vacation destinations for one low cost.  

Methodology

We analyzed the following categories to determine the Best Airports for Food in the U.S.: 

  • Busiest airports in the United States
  • Total number of airport restaurants
  • Total number of highly rated airport restaurants

Data sourcing:

  • To determine the busiest airports in the U.S., we used 2018 data from the Federal Aviation Administration that listed the total number of enplanements, and pulled the top 50. 
  • To find the total number of airport restaurants for each of the 50 busiest airports, we counted the number of “Restaurants” within each airports’ premises with at least 20 reviews on Yelp
  • To find the total number of highly rated airport restaurants in each of the 50 busiest airports, we counted the number of “Restaurants” within each airports’ premises with at least 20 reviews on Yelp, and with an average rating of more than 3 stars. 
  • Finally, we ranked those 50 airports by those with the most high-quality restaurants in an extensive list from best to worst. 

You are welcome to use the information on this page, crediting Wanderu. If you do so, please link back to this page, so that hungry travelers around the globe can find out how we did this study.

 

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About the author
Rachel Landen

Rachel Landen

It's probably fair to call Rachel a digital nomad. But don't; she hates that term. Still, it hasn't stopped her from embracing the remote work lifestyle, whether it's led her through California wine country, to the Carolina coast, or somewhere in between -- always with her dog by her side. Her writing has been published by The Week, Modern Healthcare, and her clients’ Twitter accounts.
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