Where to Eat Now at the Revitalized LAX: The Definitive Guide
Your assistant sent you to the airport early. You zipped through security in record time. Your flight is delayed. And now&hellip you’re starving.
While that could have meant the end of your gluten-free regimen a few years back, the long awaited overhaul of LAX has had a significant impact on the airport’s gastronomic offerings. No longer do you have to rely on a bag of nuts from Hudson News or a pre-wrapped sandwich from Starbucks to stave off your hunger pangs. While these are still options (and, in fact, the Starbucks Evenings in the Tom Bradley International Terminal also serves up beer and wine), when it comes to food, to quote the airport’s optimistic motto, LAX is happening. Especially so for flyers traveling out of the Bradley terminal, which services the likes of Air France, Qantas, British Airways and Cathay Pacific.
The ongoing facelift, intended to enhance the city’s main public entry point, has had the city’s top chefs &mdash Michael Voltaggio and Suzanne Goin among them &mdashjockeying for space. Loteria’s Jimmy Shaw, who has spots in two terminals serving up his popular Mexican fare, explains, “It’s a gateway to the city, the last thing you see before you leave, the first thing you see when you arrive.” Lee Maen, whose Innovative Dining Group runs Luckyfish and B Grill by Boa Steakhouse, echoes his sentiment, adding: “It introduces international travelers to the vibrant Los Angeles restaurant scene.” No time to sit down and fill your belly before takeoff? All of the places listed here will prepare to-go boxes that you can enjoy in-flight.
THE INTERNATIONAL TERMINAL
The first to undergo a makeover, the Bradley terminal sets the bar high and not just when it comes to food. Natural light floods the building. Giant screens project idyllic beach scenes. There’s midcentury inspired seating, a plethora of places to plug in and charge up, a mecca of last minute shopping –including a Kitson and a Fred Segal –and the duty-free liquor shop pours free shots to calm the nerves of jittery travelers. Late flight? No problem: Every vendor closes for the night only “after the last flight takes off,”says Quang Nguyen, marketing director for Westfield, the terminal’s developer and manager.
Umami Burger Adam Fleischman’s empire launched with his rethinking of the classic burger, orchestrating protein, toppings and bun to maximize umami, the Japanese name for the fifth, and most addictive, taste. Fans of the mini-chain won’t find everything – the menu’s been tightened to five sandwiches – but plant-lovers will appreciate that there’s a vegetarian option. To wash it down: a selection of beer or wine.
800 Degrees Pizza Fleischman’s riff on the Neopolitan contribution to street food transports his wood-burning oven and six of the most popular offerings – including the margherita and the carne –from Westwood to the airport. The personal-sized, customizable pies emerge hot and ready to go within five minutes, a boon for those hungry travelers who tend to run late.
Border Grill Foodies old enough to remember City, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger’s first hit restaurant, will be pleased to find that spot’s popular smoked chicken salad on the menu alongside such Border Grill favorites as tortilla soup, Peruvian ceviche, Yucatan pork and grilled skirt steak. “We did it with a Mexican twist,”says Milliken, “and it holds up really well so you can eat it hours later on the plane.” Adds Feniger: “Try it with our Cadillac margarita and you’re ready for that nice long flight.”
Chaya Sushi If you’re looking for a light bite before boarding, you might want to grab a spot at the sushi bar at this branch of the dependable French-Japanese mini-chain. While you won’t find a large selection – the menu at this spot concentrates on nigiri sushi, the restaurant’s specialty rolls and salads – there’s a full bar.
ink.sack While you can sit down to eat your meal, Voltaggio’s signature black bags are perfect for taking on board. The offerings – we love the cold Southern fried chicken – may induce envy in your seatmates. Placate them by sharing sides: the spicy house-made salt and pepper potato chips or the BBQ pork rinds. Better throw in a couple of their house-made Oreos or Mexican chocolate chip cookies for good measure.