In Sunday’s New York Times, Matt Gross checks out restaurants at (or near) seven airports to see what’s worth eating. Some of the best spots, he discovers, are outside the terminal. The Atlanta airport’s taxi assembly cafeteria, for example, serves great African food; at LAX you can hop on a parking shuttle to In-N-Out Burger, the uberpopular fast food chain with a cultlike following. Gross is impressed with the fare at the Dallas/Forth Worth airport and the restaurants in the new JetBlue terminal at JFK, not so much with the offerings at LaGuardia.
O’Hare, though, is the only place he discovers nary a redeeming quality:
But O’Hare — the nation’s second busiest airport, with 76 million passengers in 2007 — was easily the worst airport I visited, particularly disappointing since Chicago is one of America’s great restaurant cities. Instead of Air Alinea or Tobolobampo to Go . . . diners will find: Chicago-style hot dogs so poorly assembled as to cast doubt on the city’s architectural heritage; collard greens so bland and peach cobbler so mucoid they’d start riots on the South Side; and greasy, flavor-free cheeseburgers whose only claim to fame is that they inspired a “Saturday Night Live” sketch featuring John Belushi, a comedian renowned, of course, for his discriminating palate. I watched my fellow diners with envy: a woman who pulled a packet of Alka-Seltzer from her purse; a bald, beefy man in handcuffs who was no doubt looking forward to decades of prison food.
Listed on his roundup of places to eat are the Billy Goat Tavern, BJ’s Market & Bakery, and Goose Island Pub, which he presumably deems the best of the worst; commenters offer equally lukewarm recommendations of La Tapenade Mediterranean Cafe, the Berghoff Cafe, Cibo Express Gourmet, and Wolfgang Puck Cafe.
Mostly, though, the commenters agree that O’Hare is about as low as you can go in terms of airport food. Suggestions include cabbing it to nearby restaurants like bistro Chez Colette (in the Sofitel O’Hare) or Carlucci or, better yet, flying into Midway and eating at Harry Caray’s, Lalo’s, Superdawg, or Manny’s Deli. According to one person (whose hatred of O’Hare is equalled only by his love for capital letters and quotation marks):
You CANNOT overstate the horror of O’Hare’s “food.” There is NOTHING to eat, except for stale sandwiches in the “international” terminal. NOTHING!!!!!!!
Personally, I kind of like the idea of Air Alinea. If there’s anything that could make people actually want to fly through O’Hare (besides fewer delays, of course), that might be it.