A dear friend of mine from high school, who is now settled in Australia, sent me a note the other day saying “I am a picky eater and don’t know what to eat at the airport when I am travelling. Should I try a new cuisine while I have a layover in a foreign country?” I promised her that I will respond in detail, so here it is.
Airport is not the place to experiment with food or try a new cuisine that you are unfamiliar with. Generally, airport gourmet consists of fast food or sport bar like restaurants. Very rarely, would you find a palatable freshly cooked meal at an airport (with some exceptions). My recommendation is to stick to what you are familiar with. If there are certain brand names that you have tried and liked before, eat there.
Since an airport caters to people from different cultures, ages and preferences, the choices tend to be more international than local. You will tend to find pretty much the same categories of foods – American, Chinese, Italian, Coffee Shops, Bars, etc. at each airport without fail. There may be one or two restaurants that would offer regional fare based on the location. For example Mexican is quite common in Southwestern United States, steaks in the Midwest. Again, if you have eaten a stake before, go ahead and have one. But if you are a newbie, please don’t make the airport a place for your virgin foodie experience.
Frequent travelers often complain about not being able to eat healthy while on the road. Your choice of what you are consuming is perhaps the most important decision factor in picking an airport restaurant. I have found that if you do pay attention and look around, you can always find healthy options such as soups, salads and sandwiches at the very least. The hardest part is to control your mind that may be wandering off to the tempting smell of French fries and doughnuts.
Some common sense should also be used when picking from the menu. You don’t want to eat seafood in a fast food restaurant. A lot of people are conscious of where their meat comes from and I bet your airport restaurant will not be able to provide you this information. Best option is to stay vegetarian as much as you can, but go easy on the cheese and white flour. Eating too many carbohydrates can leave you feeling bloated in the sky.
I like to pack my own snacks before I leave home. Granola bars and dried fruits (almonds, raisins, etc.) are my favorites. That ways, I always have something on me in case of delays and I am not famished and reaching out to the first available food joint that I spot. These days, there are outlets for frozen yogurt and nuts everywhere, so you can forego the free peanuts, pretzels and cookies.