We’re already in the third week in August (can you believe it?), which means there’s only so much time left to schedule that summer getaway, so you might want to get on that. But whether or not you choose to take the LIRR to Fire Island, a plane to Italy or just the PATH train to get back home to Jersey City, you’re still destined to spend at least a few hungry hours in New York’s transportation centers. (We all know how bad airport food can be.) And unless your idea of good eats is greasy fried rice at Penn Station, a soggy, microwaved egg & cheese sandwich at an airport kiosk, or a $3 bag of in-flight M&M’s United Airlines, you’ll need help navigating these notorious food wastelands. That’s why we’ve rounded up the precious, few bright spots, from the glittering Oyster Bar at Grand Central to Alex Raij’s brand new Spanish tapas spot, Piquillo, at JFK.
Biergarten in LaGuardia Airport
Surprisingly enough, LaGuardia has become the unlikely beneficiary of a slew of big-name restaurant openings as of late. Pat LaFrieda is behind a custom burgers spot, Lafayette’s Andrew Carmellini has Victory Grill, “Chopped” judge Aarón Sanchez serves tacos and tortas at Vuelo Taqueria, and DiFara’s Dom DeMarco even slings pizza at Tagliare. Although if you ask us, the most exciting development is the recently opened, 2,900-square-foot Biergarten from Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery with over 25 craft brews, five beer-based cocktails, and an extensive menu of suds-friendly bites, like Knockwurst in a Blanket, Chicken Schnitzel Sandwiches, and Bavarian Cheese Dip.
Piquillo in JFK Airport
JFK has also seen a spate of intriguing openings lately, like Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack, Marcus Samuelsson’s Uptown Brasserie, and Jason Denton’s Bar Brace; all providing a welcome reprieve from franchise standby’s like Wendy’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and Sbarro’s. But the most unique of the bunch is definitely Alex Raij’s Piquillo, the first-ever Spanish tapas spot to exist in a U.S. airport (yes, really). The Txikito chef has structured the menu around Cazuelas, or little earthenware crocks, filled with everything from Catalan Braised Chickpeas and Veal Stew to Galician-style Octopus and sizzling Garlic Shrimp.
While it’s undoubtedly the most widely used public transit hub in the city (boasting Amtrak, PATH, LIRR, New Jersey Transit, bus and subway lines), the culinary atmosphere here remains doggedly miserable. So after securing your train ticket, flee Penn Station for the nearby Ace Hotel. In addition to the two terrific April Bloomfield restaurants (The Breslin and The John Dory), you’ll find both Stumptown Coffee and a branch of Tyler Kord’s inexplicably yummy No. 7 Subs. Believe it or not, your stomach will respond much more favorably to the Broccoli, Pickled Lychee, Peanut and Ricotta Salata-stuffed sandwiches than anything you’re likely to find in Penn.Read More
Being that you’re officially on vacation, why start counting pennies now and resigning to Thai Toon or Eata Pita? There’s a reason Grand Central Oyster Bar is an actual dining destination, even for people with no intention of ever boarding a train. Built at the same time as the station, the Oyster Bar has been serving luxurious Pan Roasts, a bevvy of Raw Oysters, and Shellfish Plateau’s, and more ever since 1913. And if you order those Raw Littlenecks, Fried Calamari, and Oyster Slider’s during Happy Hour (there’s even one on Saturday, for you weekend travelers!), it’s not much more expensive than the fast food downstairs!Read More
The Food Truck Court near the World Trade Center PATH Train
There’s several sports bars and fine dining restaurants on the outskirts of the World Trade Center, but we’d suggest heading down Vesey Street towards the World Financial Center for some truly interesting eats. Bypass the generic franchises on the ground floor and head straight for the courtyard, which has become a dedicated haven for the city’s best food trucks. The hardest part will be choosing just one. Should you get a Lobster Roll at Red Hook Lobster Pound, an order of lamb-filled Tibetan Momo’s (dumplings) at Chinese Mirch, or a pita filled with fantastic Falafel and crunchy Israeli Salad at Taim Mobile? We say pack a picnic for the PATH and go with all three.
Tabata Ramen near the Port Authority Bus Terminal
Just because you’re leaving out of Port Authority doesn’t mean you’re resigned to eat there. No way, especially when your higher-end eating options are limited to Auntie Anne’s, Munchy’s Gourmet and Au Bon Pain. Instead, head around the corner for some seriously good, $10 bowls of pork bone Tonkotsu at Tabata Ramen. And there are 12 other unique types of noodle soups to choose from at this clean and cheerful spot as well, including Dark Men, a black sesame-based soup, Sutamina, a spicy miso and soy sauce soup, and the eponymous Tabata, flavored with coconut milk and cilantro in a nod to the owners Burmese heritage.
Smashburger in Newark Airport
This Jersey-based airport may not have attracted quite the same level of culinary firepower as the others, but there are still plenty of alternatives to Subway and Chili’s Too. So please, please don’t get your fast food fix at McDonald’s or Cheeburger Cheeburger. Especially since the totally decent Denver chain, Smashburger, has a new outpost in Terminal C. Known for offering menu items inspired by their host city (Brooklyn’s own Dekalb Avenue spot offers a Pretzel-bunned, Pastrami-topped patty), Smashburger’s Newark location carries NJ Beef Hot Dogs and Taylor Ham, Egg and Cheese Sandwiches.
M.O.B near the Atlantic Terminal
Thankfully for Brooklyn residents, there’s no need to travel into the city for a trip on the LIRR. Granted, the dining options in Atlantic Terminal aren’t any more appealing than those at Penn Station, but excellent alternatives abound on the surrounding streets. We’re all about the affordable, Brooklyn Bridge-shaped Flatbreads at M.O.B, which come with super healthy toppings like Cashew Yogurt, Edamame and Watercress (the “Bright Eyes”) as well as Shitake Mushrooms, Sautéed Kale and Parsley (“the Strong Man”). Sure beats the cheesy breadsticks and an All-Meat Combo pie at the Terminal branch of Chuck E. Cheese.