The Gobbler

How to Master the World of Airport Dining

It was the Gobbler’s duty, recently, to spend a sizable amount of time foraging for sustenance in the city’s major airports. We sipped yogurt smoothies at Newark International, sampled withered, entombed-looking pretzel dogs at La Guardia, nibbled hideously large Cinnabons in the company of dazed-looking Nigerian travelers at JFK. Did this grim journey lead to an expanded, almost Yoda-like knowledge on how to survive in this culinary wilderness? Absolutely! Thus, here are the Gobbler’s commandments for dining in airports:

Travel First Class: If you have access to a First Class Lounge, use it, and savvy fliers prefer international carriers to domestic ones. The Gobbler isn’t necessarily able to enjoy these things himself, but he knows the Virgin Airways lounge in Newark is legendary for its caviar bar and its spinach soup. The Gobbler hears enticing reports about the British Airways Lounge at JFK, but he’s denied access there too.

Make It Snappy: In airport dining, expediency is king. Despite the arrival of Todd English franchises at La Guardia and Kennedy, airports are not the place for careful, gourmet cooking. You do have a plane to catch, after all. So if you’ve been sitting for longer than 45 minutes in any airport restaurant, chances are you’re having a really mediocre meal.

Eat That Corn Dog: “Look for the thing they can least screw up,” advises one airport-dining veteran. “Steak is hard to screw up. Corn dogs are hard to screw up. I eat a lot of corn dogs in airports.” And as it happens, the Kobe-beef corn dog at Todd English’s Bonfire Steakhouse at JFK is one of the world’s great corn dogs.

Breakfast Is King: This is, by far, Gobbler’s favorite airport meal. It’s also hard to screw up an egg sandwich, or a glass or orange-juice concentrate, or a slab or two of bacon. The Gobbler’s vote for the best cup of airport coffee: Dunkin’ Donuts.

Follow the Pilots: The Gobbler met a JetBlue captain standing in line at one of the Wok and Roll outlets at JFK. Why Wok and Roll? “Chinese is the best bet at airports,” the JetBlue captain said. “Those steam trays turn over fast.” The pilot’s perennial favorites: bourbon chicken and that ageless delicacy, General Tso’s.

Follow the Lines: In airports, as in life, the wisdom of the masses is rarely wrong. The fine Boston restaurant, Legal Seafood, has wildly popular outlets at Logan, in Boston, and Reagan International in D.C. At the New York airports visited by the Gobbler, the long-line prize invariably goes to McDonald’s.

Chicken Salad Is the Devil: Experienced travelers know to shy away from any cold, mayonnaise-based product in an airport. This means no waxen pieces of sushi, no crusty chicken-salad sandwiches, no elderly tuna wraps. The Gobbler likes the salads at the new Balducci stand at JFK, however, and the Cibo stands at La Guardia have a new line of preservative-free vegan noodles and dumplings. Gobble them quickly before they rot.

Ingest That Spirulina: You can get this health-helping algae product mixed into yogurt smoothies at Newark, along with a whole raft of immune boosters and antioxidants. Do these wholesome supplements work? Who cares! When foraging for food in the giant petri dish that is an airport, it always helps to have peace of mind. —Adam Platt

How to Master the World of Airport Dining