Being a reluctant but avid traveler, has put me on a path woven desultorily through chaotic and sometimes down right crazed airports. This is not by choice mind you; as I have stated, I am a very reluctant flyer- but to go is to travel, even by plane.
Events in the past few months have landed me in several airports, with one recent trip that got me thinking- “how am I ever going to eat healthy when I’m constantly stuck eating airport food?” What I learned from the dozens of airports I’ve been stuck in, is, the trick is to identify menu labels. Healthier airport restaurants will label ingredients, calories, GF or Vegan.
So, while stuck in one of NYC’s finest (for more than 4 hours), I decided to go on the hunt for a good place to eat healthy. Not the mini marts planted in the middle of the endless aisles of passers by, not grub pubs with their greasy fry ups for the quicky traveler, but real food cooked by real chefs, with real kitchens, and real menus. What I found……….
Bijoux Restaurant in La Guardia had exactly what I was looking for: Atmosphere, decor (aka- comfortable seating), relaxing music, a menu with listed ingredients and customer order options. They offered some GF items that were labeled, and you could tailor your order to your digestive needs. The down side, it can get pricey. I mean you are in NYC, and you are in an airport, so be prepared to pay if you want good quality, healthy food.
My meal consisted of an avocado sandwich with fresh arugula, fresh avocado (trick, if the avocado is browned at all around the edges or in the center, then it wasn’t just cut open and may have been sitting a while), beefsteak tomato, and a tantalizing lemon chive dressing, a top a whole grain bread.
The other aspect of this I truly enjoyed (inset picture to the right, ignore the half eaten sandwich), was the order and pay method via tablet touch screen (to go kiosk). I have noticed more and more airport restaurants these days doing this. You pick out your order, add or delete your options, make a full or half meal (not all restaurants do this), order your drink, and pay- BAM- you’re done! Of course I wiggled the credit card swipe machine to make sure it wasn’t a hacker swipe machine (took the trick off a CNN report a few years back). But it was great, my meal came within minutes, I was able to re-fill my wine glass without waiting for the waitress to come back in my general direction (4 hours people- don’t judge!), and still get a paper receipt. This I highly recommend everyone do. You can’t always trust email accounts, and credit card info is not redacted just because it goes to your email. I always decline that option and get a paper receipt.
The only caveat to this exceptional meal is that gratuity is included automatically. Being it is NYC, gratuity is 15%, so please pay attention to your check before you pay. Where gratuity is automatic, you do NOT need to leave a tip. Advice the poor lady sitting next to me failed to heed and payed double the tip; the waitress was beaming when she left that table.
As I meandered about, waiting endlessly and hopelessly for my next flight, I realized you can circumvent the restaurant experience all together and order right at your gate! Mind you, I’d rather have the ambiance and distraction (again reluctant flyer here), but if you’d prefer to have a healthy meal option but not be far from your departure gate, there are “to go” kiosk’s located near each gate section. You can choose the restaurant that appeals to you, order your food, pay, list your gate area, and it tells you how long it will take to get to you. Also, if you are boarding at a specific time, you can list that and they will rush your order.
Here are a list of a few other airport restaurants I’d highly recommend for some great healthy food while waiting for your next flight:
Silver Diner (Baltimore/Washington Airport- Food Court)
Authentic diner atmosphere, it has something for everyone. Located right at the top of the gates, a very good typical diner with better quality than you’d expect. Excellent service, middle of the road pricing, and a ’60s throwback with mini jukeboxes at each table.
My best experience at this airport was Le French Bistro. The chef cooks right in front of you, they have danishes, almond butter/cashew butter (heart healthy), and egg sandwiches that can be made to order (ex: egg white only with spinach and tomato). They offer gourmet coffee, soy milk, and lots of teas. They do serve lunch and dinner, but breakfast seems to be their niche.
Café Intermezzo (Atlanta Airport- Centerpoint)
An oasis in the midst of fast-food junk in the world’s busiest airport. Soup, salad, sandwiches, pasta and treats, the atmosphere here really makes you feel like you are sitting in a café. With 2 pages of tea options and lobster ravioli, this place is well worth a visit if your stuck in Atlanta Airport (which we all are at some point). My fave healthier option- the Black Bean Burger. Again, they offer the “to go” kiosk if your on the fly.
Nature’s Table (Atlanta Airport- Centerpoint)
Over near Concourse E, is this tucked out of the way healthy eatery. From fresh made fruit juices to grilled chicken panini sandwiches with balsamic vinaigrette, or fresh made avocado and strawberry salads, this is a must try.
Chef Jimmy’s Bistro (Denver International- Concourse Center)
Craving some chicken marsala or marinated skirt steak with tomato, basil and balsamic glaze on an airport menu? Yes? Then check out Chef Jimmy’s Bistro at Denver Int’l. With fast service and a generous menu selection (you can go for a simple panini or burger) you can get all your cravings filled in one sitting. One small wrinkle- the prices are a bit above Midway.
And of course we can’t close without a nod to:
good ole’ Buffalo International and Freshens-Upper level inside security checkpoint).
Freshens offers delicious smoothies and frozen treats. Choose from fruit smoothies made w/low calorie options, energy boosting options, or a high protein option, or a dish of frozen yogurt w/toppings.This is a great mid day booster for those traveling from one leg to the next. If you want a healthy pick me up without the food coma that comes after, then check this place out. It’s cute decor and friendly staff has you feeling like your standing at a yogurt parlor outside on a sunny day (it’s a stretch, but go with it). My fave is their strawberry banana smoothies.