As holiday travel heats up, there’s a quiet, unmarked restaurant in Newark Airport making the trip less tiring for such celebrity clients as Lady Gaga, 50 Cent, Anna Faris, Billy Idol, Madonna and Pete Davidson and certain invited guests.
Classified, a luxury restaurant open since 2017 in Newark’s Terminal C, is only accessible to those who are invited by United Airlines. But just how does one get an invitation?
“It’s part of the mystique of how it works,” says Eric Brinker, VP of Experience at OTG, the company that manages Classified. “A passenger would get an email with an invitation and then an opportunity to book a reservation.” (PS: It helps to be one of airline’s most frequent customers: MileagePlus United flyers.)
There are only 36 seats in the space, a former meeting room that was largely unused before it was converted into the hidden restaurant.
To keep the spot top-secret, there’s no exterior signage for the restaurant and it’s kept off airport maps. Customers only know how to reach Classified from the instructions included in their invite.
“It’s a very discrete sort of arrangement,” Brinker adds. “Once they’re there, people know how to gain entry to the space. They’re told to look out for a host in a gray suit, then introduce yourself and mention you have a reservation.”
The menu features seasonal farm-to-table food, and unlike most airport eateries, the kitchen is equipped with a wood-burning oven.
“One of the most popular items is the Chili Lobster entree,” says Will Prunty, OTG Executive Chef for Newark. “The menu itself leans to the decadent. That was our signature from the beginning, and it hasn’t changed since.”
“It is a special occasion and it feels different from anything else in the airport, so we want to make sure that the menu translates the same way,” he adds. There’s a full raw bar that has daily offerings including east and west coast oysters, as well as steak tartare and french onion soup — “one of the big sellers,” according to Prunty.
“We get special requests all the time,” he says. “Whatever they want — if it’s under this roof, I’ll make it happen. We get a lot of vegetarian and vegan requests last minute. There’s pretty much nothing they can ask for that I can’t get my hands on in five minutes or less.”
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What ultimately draws celebrities in is the promise of some peace and quiet.
“There is so much celebrity traffic coming out of these New York airports,” notes Brinker. “The idea is to create something that’s private.”
And although Classified is invite-only, it is possible for customers in United’s frequent flyer program to request an invitation, but it’s not guaranteed.
“A lot of people ask where it is, and a lot of people definitely try to see if they can wiggle their way in,” Brinker says. “We have to be very respectful. We don’t want to embarrass anybody, but we have a strict door policy and it is by invitation only.”
If travelers don’t receive the coveted invite to Classified, they can still get a small taste of what it’s like. Since the exclusive restaurant is hidden in the terminal behind a French brasserie (no reservation required), the two share a kitchen — meaning the menus feature some similar items.