Food is no longer just an afterthought for some airlines and airports. In fact, there is now a new travel blog, FlyandDine.com, dedicated to covering just airline and airport food. Its “Eater-in-Chef” Jason Kessler shares his pick for the best new airport and airline food.
Like Pavlovian dogs salivating at the sound of a bell, most air travelers hear the phrase “in-flight meal” and immediately get nauseous. That’s really a shame because airlines are putting more care and effort into their menus than ever before. The truth is, food on planes these days is pretty good. In fact, the whole air travel food experience has gotten a major upgrade. That’s exactly the reason I started FlyandDine.com, the first website dedicated to documenting what and where to eat while you fly. Whether you’re in the air, at the terminal, or on the ground, Fly&Dine is your resource for figuring out what to eat on the go, and we’re luckily entering into a new age of food travel. Here are five huge developments making the entire travel experience much better:
Constantly Evolving Menus
There are no sweeter words to a constantly flying road warrior than “new menu.” For those forced to eat regularly on airplanes, it’s far too easy to become sick of the same bowl of warm nuts and ice cream sundaes that appear before and after every business class meal. It’s even worse if you’re stuck in economy, where your choices are usually limited to pre-packaged junk or poorly made sandwiches. In recent years, though, the airlines are making a concerted effort to offer appealing meal options and, more importantly, rotating those options. American recently ended its relationship with Marcus Samuelsson, but continues to innovate with new menu items like Thai-seasoned chicken breasts, and United seems to constantly change their “Bistro on Board” menus. Virgin America is overhauling their entire first class menu on March 4, and that includes the introduction of a brand new flavor from San Francisco’s favorite artisanal ice cream maker Humphry Slocombe—with a special signature flavor chosen by flyers via Twitter. The major American carriers still can’t compete with much better food options on international airlines but, with major menu renovations coming regularly, they’re certainly moving in the right direction.
Terminals as City Samplers
The best part of food festivals is getting to sample bites from a bunch of local restaurants, all in one place. Airports must have picked up on this fact because they’re turning their terminals into permanent food festivals, with outposts of local favorites giving travelers the chance to try iconic names without straying far from their gates. LAX is leading the charge, with a massive overhaul to all of its terminal dining options, including Michael Voltaggio’s ink.sack, French dip specialists Cole’s, and Sushi Roku-inspired Luckyfish. In Grand Rapids, awesome brewery Bell’s just opened at Ford International Airport, while San Antonio and Fort Lauderdale are jumping on the local restaurant bandwagon with a whole slew of new restaurants opening in the next few years. Ever wanted to try Rick Bayless’s food? You can at Tortas Frontera at O’Hare. Heard about The Salt Lick, but can’t make it out to Driftwood? Both DFW and the Austin airport have you covered. It’s a brave new world at the terminal, people, so don’t bother eating before you get through security.
Actual Food Professionals as Consultants
Airlines have used major chefs like Neil Perry (Qantas) and Heston Blumenthal (British Airways) to try and make their food more enticing for years now. That trend continues with a truly exciting development for Delta: Restauranteur Danny Meyers’ Union Square Hospitality Group has come on board to offer barbecue favorites from New York’s venerable Blue Smoke restaurants. ‘Cue in the air is a perfect choice, as the oven reheating process on airplanes should actually work to make the meat even better. One can only hope that every major airline will soon partner with a big-time restaurant group to turn your favorite dishes on the ground into new favorites in the air.
One of the best recent developments in air food is the ability to choose your meal before you fly. I took an American Airlines flight from Tokyo to LAX and couldn’t wait to try my pre-ordered filet (verdict: not bad!). While most of the pre-ordering is only available in the premium cabins, Qantas has recently expanded its “Select on Q-Eat” program to its premium economy seats as well. That means you no longer have to worry that you’ll be stuck with the fish curry when they run out of chicken and, if you ask me, that’s a major upgrade for everyone.
So, what if all of these new menus and consultants don’t do much for you? Grab something from the terminal and take it along for the ride. Sounds easy, but it’s even easier when the terminal restaurants do the work for you. That’s what’s happening in London’s Heathrow Airport, where Gordon Ramsey’s Plane Food is offering three-course meals packed in special insulated containers. Same thing at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal, where Petrossian is putting together “Picnic in the Air” packs with caviar, blinis, and crème fraiche. Even if you’re flying in the back of the plane, you can still eat a First Class meal and be the envy of your seatmates.
For more culinary options, please check out:
- Diet Busters: 10 Surprising Unhealthy Airport Menu Options
- Your Best Gluten Free Airport Food Options
- Airplane Food Worth Noting
- Airline Recipes You Want to Cook
Jason Kessler is the Eater-in-Chief at FlyandDine.com