I’m going to proudly admit that I am no fan of chain restaurants, especially when I’m traveling. They tend to turn up the calories, load in some sodium and sugar, and really do not give you a local flavor whatsoever. Let’s face it though, sometimes you end up in a new airport and have limited options and zero time to make an educated choice. Here are the top 10 ETA recommended chains:
1. Legal Sea Foods
One of my all time favorite chain restaurants, period. Legal is a quality spot for a sit down meal or a quick grab and go. They even have live lobsters at airports like Boston Logan that you can grab and take home for later! My classic standby here is the thai calamari- sweet and spicy. Does the trick every time.
2. Manchu Wok/Panda Express
These two food court staples are one in the same in my mind- if you see one or the other, you can count on a very similar experience. Great for a quick and balanced meal on the go, if you play it right. There are lots of options that have a good amount of vegetables in them. Also a supply of not so healthy options, so choose wisely here! I love the lo mein noodles, beef & broccoli, chicken & mushrooms, bourbon chicken, steamed veggies & orange/general tso chicken. Drink lots of water- sodium overload is possible.
3. Pei Wei
Another option for some good Asian grub on the go. Tough to find as only a few airports have them. From noodles to stir fry, lots of options here. Remember that veggies are key- any Asian option usually is the way to go, you’ll get some nutrients in and they’ll most likely be delicious. My favorites are the spicy chicken and crab Rangoon- with a big glass or two of water, that sodium is a killer.
4. Steak n Shake
A regional favorite that brings me back to growing up in the Midwest, Steak n Shake brings back fond memories of family road trips and drunken nights out with college friends. I never pass up a chance to visit- a Frisco Melt with their signature shoestring fries always hits the spot.
Generally my favorite of all the fast food giants that I try not to frequent too often, Wendy’s is my top pick for mass market burgers for their fresh beef- somehow their food seems to be a bit more real than their competitors. Single cheeseburger does the trick. Fries are *meh*, so I’ll save the calories for something else!
6. Vino Volo
I’m a true lover of wine, so when I can get away with it (i.e., not working), I love to stop and enjoy a glass before taking off on my next flight. Vino Volo is great because they offer a huge variety of Wine and also do wine flights for reasonable prices. Their wine flights come with 3 glasses that you pick and customize to your liking. Each wine comes with a story, so you get to educate yourself while trying a new wine on the fly.
7. Romano’s Macaroni Grill
Sometimes you just need a generic bowl of pasta. This place delivers just that. From healthier options like entree salads and a few seafood options to the fat bombs of Fetuccini Alfredo or Chicken Parm, Macaroni Grill wins for providing a nice place to sit down for a decent meal- their bread is great too!
This is a tough one to find! But if you do, you’re in for a treat. I refer to BurgerFi as the In-n-Out of Florida. It’s gaining popularity due to their high quality ingredients including some vegetarian options. My order- a single with grilled onions, BurgerFi special sauce, iceberg lettuce, ketchup & mayo. Order of Cry & Fry (half onion rings/half fries) with a coke. Oh boy, the diet is blown! Bright side- their Veggie Burger is BOMB! Get it “Green Style” to save on filling carbs, or order the “Conflicted”- 1 Beef Patty + 1 Veggie Patty.
9. Wow Bao
By now, you’ve most likely noticed my love for Asian food. It is without a doubt my favorite cuisine. Wow Bao is a fantastic option because you can score some seriously delicious and unique dim sum on the fly. I go for the Kung Pao or BBQ pork buns here. Great for a quick snack that will no doubt fill you up and satisfy those hunger pangs.
10. TGI Friday’s
I once got into a big arguement with my family over going to a TGIF when we were in New York City and had literally thousands of other options. It’s well known that I’m not a big fan, however, when it’s the best/only option around, you really can’t go wrong. I will give them some credit, their Chicken Fingers are the best around. Also the Jack Daniels Menu Items are pretty good too.
Hopefully you have time to really Eat The Airport and discover one of the many gems that give you some local flavor. If you’re in a pinch and just need something in your belly, I hope this guide helps you make the most of it.