Can airport food actually be any good? Even in NYC, one of the greatest culinary destinations in the world, finding a solid spot to enjoy at the airport before a flight can feel like a struggle.
“There are a lot of factors that make airport dining really hard,” says Zach Griff, travel analyst at The Points Guy. “The first, and most important, is that everything that goes through an airport has to clear security.” That means every single ingredient at the airport bound for your bowl or plate has spent time waiting in a security line-just like you. Add those ingredients to airports’ cramped cooking spaces, restrictions on gas ovens and stoves, and knives that have to be tied down to counters or walls. “All that taken together,” says Griff, “makes it very hard to offer a restaurant-quality experience in an airport at a comparable price.”
But don’t despair! As New York’s largest airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) has more than enough dining options for you to find something worth paying the airport premium for. Plus, it’s got a handy AirTrain to zip you between terminals when you’ve got some time to find the best bite.
To help you on your culinary journey before your actual journey, we’ve rounded up our favorite places to eat and drink in each terminal. But please be aware: As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, JFK’s restaurants are now exclusively offering takeout and to-go options. We’ve noted which restaurants are open and which are temporarily closed, but changing COVID precautions will continue to affect airport dining.
Wherever you choose to eat at JFK, it’s imperative to practice strict social distancing and wear a mask as much as possible while traveling. Whether you’re a New Yorker leaving home or just passing through for the day, we’re all in this together.
Martini Bar Departures Level S Concourse, Gate 9 Beggars can’t be choosers, and if you’re begging for a drink in Terminal 1, you’re choosing Martini Bar. Serving up beer, wine, and get-the-job-done cocktails, you can throw a few back while people-watching fellow travelers or staring at whatever the TVs are tuned to. Just remember: You’ll be happy you shelled out for that martini when you’re on the plane with your PPE on and knees all smushed.
Soy & Sake Departures Level Gate 6 This counter-service spot has a short menu that’s served up pretty speedily, making it ideal for an on-the-go meal. Dumplings, rice and noodle bowls, and-as the name implies-a selection of sake make this worth a quick stop. Unless you’ve got the time to jump on the AirTrain and try the eats at another terminal, a plate of microwaved gyoza and cup of Junmai Nigori should tide you over until you reach your destination.
Other options in Terminal 1: Check airport listings to confirm if they’re open or temporarily closed: Dunkin’, Eat & Go Istanbul, Euro Café, Jikji Café, McDonald’s, Panini Express, Pizza Pub, Soho Bites, Starbucks, The LOCAL, Tuscany Café, Uptown Market, Wok & Roll
BKLYN Beer Garden Opposite Gate 67 At BKLYN Beer Garden, opt for the sort of salty snacks that pair well with a cold beer: Giant pretzels with German mustard, crispy pickles, and cheddar bratwurst all hit the spot. An extensive selection of bottles and drafts pairs the familiar finds (Heineken, Bud Light) with some of the city’s local faves (Bronx Brewery Pale Ale, Brooklyn Sorachi Ace). You’re not that far from Brooklyn, so go ahead and pretend that you’re hanging with friends in BK.
Other options in Terminal 2: Open: Cibo Express, Croque Madame, Tagliare, Wendy’s Temporarily Closed: Due Amici, Shiso
Blue Smoke on the Road Gate B37 This travel-sized version of Danny Meyer’s BBQ joint Blue Smoke serves up a pretty solid pulled pork sandwich. Sure, it’s across the way from a Shake Shack, but if you can resist the siren song of fast food, you’ll be rewarded with a more elevated meat experience. It’s a good choice for breakfast, too, with a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich that’ll make that 4am cab ride to the airport just a little more worth it.
Uptown Brasserie Gate B32 Marcus Samuelsson, the chef behind Harlem’s famed Red Rooster restaurant, is serving up the Southern food he’s known for-like a catfish sandwich with Carolina coleslaw-at this sit-down spot. Uptown Brasserie is an especially good choice for breakfast, too, when buttermilk pancakes and chicken and waffles are served up hot from the open kitchen and best washed down with a couple of smoky Bloody Marys.
Mi Casa Cantina Gate B23 If you want to skip the whole “eating” thing and just get a little tipsy before your plane takes off, Mi Casa Cantina’s tequila cocktails oughta do the trick. The cocktail menu was created by Lynnette Marrero, the bar director at Williamsburg’s Llama Inn, and features over 25 tequilas and mezcals to choose from. Take your pick-any one of them is sure to steel your nerves before a choppy flight.
The Palm Bar & Grille Retail Hall – West Fancy-pants steakhouse The Palm is serving up filet mignon, lobster ravioli, and other elevated airport foods at their offshoot Bar & Grille. If you’ve got some per diem to burn on a business trip (or if you just need a quiet-ish spot to nurse a couple of whisky cocktails before you board a plane to see your in-laws for the holidays), pull up a chair and treat yourself to a pretty decent steak dinner.
Other options in Terminal 4: Check airport listings to confirm if they’re open or temporarily closed: Bento Sushi, Buffalo Wild Wings, Camden Foods, Canal St. Noodle House, Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar, Central Diner, Dunkin’, Five Borough Food Hall, Flatiron Coffee Roasters, Jamba Juice, La Brea Bakery, Le Grand Comptoir, McDonald’s, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Pizza Vino, Shake Shack, Tigin’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, Urban Crave
Artichoke Pizza Food Hall This pizza joint born out of the East Village in 2008 is known for its saucy slices and signature artichoke pizza with spinach, cream sauce, and pecorino romano cheese. The slices are big and make for a relatively affordable meal in a sea of overpriced options, putting this Artichoke Pizza location solidly into the win column, no matter what anybody says.
Deep Blue Sushi (Temporarily closed) Marketplace Airport sushi? Sure! Deep Blue’s glowing lights and club-like atmosphere makes it almost seem like a real live restaurant. The rolls are surprisingly fresh, but anyone squeamish about raw fish that’s had to make its way through a security line can order from a big menu of noodles and fried rice. While the main restaurant is currently closed due to COVID restrictions, you can still grab food to go from Deep Blue on the Fly, also located in the Marketplace.
Other options in Terminal 5: Open: AeroNuova, Aunt Butchie’s Bakery Café, Cibo Express, Custom Burger, Eggy Weggy, H&H Bagel, New York Sports Grill, Re:Vive Bars, Starbucks Temporarily Closed: 5ive Steak, Away Café, Caribbean Kitchen, Horizon Bakery Café, Jamba Juice, La Vie, Loft, Lucy’s Asian Kitchen, Market Table & Feature Entrees Bar, Piquillo, Revolucion
Le Grand Comptoir Food Court Terminal 7’s food options are, admittedly, limited, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a spot to throw back a glass of wine. Le Grand Comptoir wine bar is the perfect place to sip a chilled white while you graze on some olives or a simple charcuterie platter-anything arranged instead of cooked is always a good choice in an airport. The drinks aren’t cheap, but they will liven up your time in Terminal 7, which is more than worth the price.
Other options in Terminal 7: Open: Dunkin’ Temporarily Closed: Apartment 7B, Brooklyn Rebel, Burger Joint, Irving Farm Coffee, Kobeyaki, Long Island Brew House
Abitino’s Pizza Food Court Another airport offshoot of a local pizza joint, Abatino’s is serving up slices to go in JFK’s gigantic Terminal 8. Here, the crust is thin, the cheese is hot, and you can fold it in half and eat it like a real New Yorker while you race to your gate. They serve wine and beer, too, so you can take the edge off just in case you get seated next to a screaming baby.
Other options in Terminal 8: Open: Baskin Robbins, Cibo Express, Dunkin’, McDonald’s, Mezze Café, Starbucks Temporarily Closed: Angelina’s Metro Market, Auntie Anne’s, Bobby Van’s Steakhouse, Cascata, Drink Martini Bar, New York Sports Bar, O’Neals Restaurant, SoHo Bistro
The Sunken Lounge If you’ve got some time to kill, head a little off the beaten path to the TWA Hotel, which has recently been redesigned in swinging 1960s style. The Sunken Lounge, which awaits you at the entrance, has giant windows and strong drinks-what more could you ask for? Pull up your suitcase, kick up your feet, and order the “Come Fly With Me,” which is made with vodka and prosecco and comes with your very own TWA flight wing pin.
Paris Café Jean-Georges’ Paris Café lets you eat a meal away from the hustle and bustle of the busy terminals. The simple menu with healthy-ish options (salads, salmon, chicken breast) has a very ladies-who-lunch vibe, which is highlighted by the vintage decor. Get in the spirit with a Campari daiquiri or a bubbly glass of Ruinart-just make sure you stay sober enough to make the journey back to your gate.
Other options at the TWA Hotel: Open: Crêpes Your Way, Feltman’s of Coney Island, Fly-By Bagels, Mister Softee, Vinny’s Panini Temporarily Closed: Connie Cocktail Lounge, Intelligentsia Coffee, The Pool Bar (only available for guests of the hotel)Sign up here for our daily NYC email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun New York has to offer.
As spring makes its way through New York City, not only do we get to enjoy beautiful weather, stunning cherry blossoms, and cool activities priced at $Free.99, but it’s also the perfect time for some limited-edition desserts.
With Easter fast approaching, bakeries are filling their shops with tons of chocolate eggs, carrot cake-flavoured everything and all types of flavours that offer both nostalgia and innovation within the city’s dessert landscape. After you’ve picked up a cake from the city’s best new bakeries, from Easter Bunny Churros to Carrot Cake Macarons, here are 8 Easter desserts to try in NYC right now.
Throughout April Various locations
There’s great news for devotees of Magnolia Bakery’s Classic Banana Pudding: For Easter, the spot is mixing up the iconic dessert’s vanilla pudding with some carrot cake. The Carrot Cake Pudding is filled with freshly grated carrots, coconuts, pineapples, raisins, and walnuts. And if both bananas and carrots aren’t your thing, they’ll be offering their Classic Vanilla Cupcakes in pastel colours with a Cadbury chocolate egg hidden inside.
Through Easter Sunday NoHo and Seaport
Known for their celebrity face and meme-worthy decorated cookies, fans of Funny Face Bakery know that a new fun design is always just around the corner. For Easter, they’ve created the adorable Hoppy Easter decorated cookie that resembles a classic box of marshmallow Peeps. Along with that, they also have the return of their fan-favourite Caramel Pretzel Chip cookie flavour, plus a set of three mini-decorated cookies perfect for gifting.
Friday, April 7 through Easter Sunday West Village
With the ever-changing flavours at The Doughnut Project, it’s super easy to miss out on trying out a new debut. But this Easter weekend, there will be two new flavours available. One is of course, a carrot cake doughnut topped with a cream cheese glaze, and the other is known as the Doughnut Nest-a French cruller “nest” with a cream-filled doughnut hole “egg” in the centre.
Wednesday, April 5 through Easter Sunday East Village
For stellar vegan desserts this holiday, head to The Fragile Flour, a plant-based bakery and dessert wine bar. They’re known for going all out for each holiday with a variety of new pastry options that you can pair perfectly with a glass of wine. This Easter, they’ll have a whole dessert menu that’s both delicious and gorgeous for posting on IG. The menu includes Stuffed Carrot Cake Cookies, a Lemon Cake (whole or by the slice), some festive cupcakes, and specialty macarons.
Through mid April Midtown
For a luxurious take on Easter chocolates, browse the selections available at Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate. You can even pick the Easter Signature Chef’s Selection for a special box curated by award-winning chefs. For something other than chocolate, choose between the Carrot Cake Macarons or the cake flavored Easter Marshmallow Trio, both of which are almost too cute to eat.
Throughout April Nolita
This churro-centric spot is putting the cutest Easter spin on their crispy cinnamon churros by twisting them up into bunnies and bunny ears. At Churreria, choose from a Bunny Churro Lollipop topped with your choice of chocolate or dulce de leche and sprinkles, or the bunny ear churros in the Ube and Matcha ice cream sundae or the Ube Milkshake, both of which are made with ice cream from il laboratorio del gelato.
Throughout April NoHo
You’ve surely seen this croissant tons of times while scrolling through IG or TikTok, whether it’s the Pain au Chocolat one or the latest of the month. Known as Suprêmes, these filled croissants went viral and continue to live up to the hype each time a new flavour comes out. April’s flavour-sour cherry amaretto with a Luxardo custard and toasted almonds. While you’ll have to be super early and wait in line during one of their three drops of the day to get a taste, we promise you it’ll be worth it.
Seasonal Various locations
We all know the iconic cookies from Levain-they’re gigantic, perfectly crispy and chewy, and well worth the long lines. For spring, the shop is launching a new flavour: Caramel Coconut Chocolate Chip. Filled with gooey caramel chips, fresh shredded coconut, and melty dark chocolate, it’s one you’ve got to try while it’s still around. To further celebrate the new season, all of Levain’s storefronts will be decked out in spring floral displays, serving as the perfect backdrop for pictures.
Alaina Cintron is an Editorial Assistant at Thrillist. Her work can also be found in Westchester Magazine, Girls’ Life, and Spoon University. When she’s not at her desk typing away, you can find her exploring a local coffee shop or baking a new recipe.