By Jacob Z. Gross
In recent years, as airlines around the world have cut back on in-flight food, a wave of business-savvy chefs have given rise to the golden age of airport dining. Want champagne and caviar? Take a seat at the Petrossian bar at LAX. Have a taste for perfectly marinated goose meat? Check out Hung’s Delicacies at Hong Kong International.
Even local joints — Ivar’s fish bar in Seattle, the Salt Lick in Driftwood, Tex. — have gotten into the act, opening airport outposts that make it feel as if you’ve visited even when you’re just passing through. (Chefs at Phoenix Sky Harbor International think so highly of their food, they’re pushing to host a James Beard Foundation dinner at the airport next year.) Indeed, thanks to a doubling of air traffic in the past 15 years — not to mention a general refinement of taste on the part of traveler — seating at the airport no longer means just pre-flipped burgers and cafeteria seating.
Here, some stats on food’s rapidly ascending staging ground.
7: Percent of travelers who buy food aboard flights
55: Percent of travelers who buy food at the airport
Ivar’s Fish Bar at Sea-Tac. (Photo: Jason Lam/Flickr)
$195,000: Price of a bottle of Chateau Margaux Balthazar 2009 at Le Clos’s flagship at Dubai International, making it the world’s most expensive wine
500%: Est. increase in the amount of space allotted for restaurants and bars in American airports since the 1960s.
200+: Number of dishes offered by the vendors at Changi Airport’s Singapore Food Street.
26 miles: Distance from O’Hare at which the cows for the beef served at Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless graze.
What’s on the menu at Rick Bayless’s Tortas Frontera at O’Hare. (Courtesy: Tortas Frontera)
120,000 lbs.: Amount of brisket sold last year at the Salt Lick at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
1: Number of airport restaurants with a Michelin star (Top Air in Stuttgart)
$167: Cost of the seven-course tasting menu at Top Air.
6.4 million: Number of croissants sold each year at Heathrow
50,000 sq. ft.: Approx. area of the dining space at Qatar’s new Hamad International Airport
$16: Avg. amount per flier spent at Chicago’s O’Hare Terminal 5 before it was redesigned this year.
$26: Amount per flier spent after the redesign.
Richard Branson’s top picks: (not including the Virgin Atlantic clubhouse)
1. Cat Cora’s Kitchen at SFO
2. Tyler Florence Rotisserie in Napa Farms Market at SFO
3. Star Alliance lounge at LAX
4. MoVida at the Sydney Airport
30 min.: Approx. length of the brewery tour at Munich International’s Airbrau, billed as Europe’s only airport brewery.
Airbrau in Munich. (Photo: calflier001/Flickr)
13: Contestants on ‘‘Top Chef Masters’’ who have opened airport restaurants
0: Free meals offered by major airlines to coach passengers on domestic flights in the U.S. since 2010.
60: Avs. number of Petrossian “Caviar Picnic in the Sky” packages (cost: up to $1,009) sold at LAX each month (includes caviar, a Petrossian tote, tsar-cut salmon, creme fraiche, pearl spoons, and toast points.
Related: Airport Review: LAX
‘‘Width of our first three fingers’’: Thickness of the burgers at Heston Blumenthal’s Perfectionists’ Cafe at Heathrow, inspired by an oral physiologist’s discovery that this is the widest our mouths can comfortably open to eat.
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