Neman: Eating at airports: pricey but tasting better? | Food and cooking

Neman: Eating at airports: pricey but tasting better? | Food and cooking

I have a friend who used to love to fly into the Atlanta airport.

This was before she moved to Atlanta, where she learned that driving to the airport from just a few miles away could take longer than flying there from, say, Denver.

Apparently deciding that Atlanta does not have quite enough traffic, she now lives in Washington, D.C. But that is not important now.

What is important is the reason, or one of the reasons, she liked the airport: The prices for the food they sell there is the same as it is at restaurants outside the airport.

A hamburger that costs $5.99 at any other Burger Doodle in town would also cost $5.99 at the airport Burger Doodle. A $2.75 Coke at a Fred ‘n’ Ginger’s restaurant in Buckhead would also cost $2.75 at the airport.

Or at least that is what my friend told me. And maybe it was true at the time, But now, the prices at the airport are allowed to be up to 10 percent higher than for the same items in the real world.

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So that $5.99 burger could cost $6.59 at the airport. The $2.75 soft drink could cost $3.03.

Still, that’s not bad, all things considered. And the main thing to consider is that airports essentially have you hostage. If you want to eat at one, there is no possibility you can go eat at another airport down the street. You’re trapped where you are. They can charge whatever they like.

I recently spent a pleasant few hours at St. Louis Lambert International Airport without going anywhere. I was thirsty, so I bought a very large iced tea. It cost me five bucks. As John Travolta says in “Pulp Fiction,” it was pretty darned good. I don’t know if it was worth five dollars, but it was pretty darned good.

My time at the airport was spent in the company of an airport employee who, it suddenly occurs to me, I probably shouldn’t mention by name. It wouldn’t do for him to be seen playing favorites, but he wanted to tell me about his new favorite place to eat.

It’s in Terminal 1. It’s called Pizza Studio. It’s part of a small chain with just 11 locations across the United States, plus several in Canada and a couple in Brazil.

I haven’t been to any of the Pizza Studios, including the one at Lambert (it’s the only one at an airport, though there is also one at a hospital in Chicago). So I am in no way making a recommendation. But it sounds as if the employee who was telling me about it eats there several times a week.

When is the last time you ate an airport meal that you would happily and willingly return to the next day? And the day after that?

We often think of airports as being the first impression a city gives its out-of-town visitors. While that is true to a certain extent, it is not true of airport restaurants. No one ever travels to a new city and decides to eat at the airport. Airport restaurants are for people leaving a city, whether they live there or are traveling home.

So airport restaurants are often a visitor’s final impression. By the time a traveler eats at an airport, he has already formed his opinion of the city. At that point, the airport meal is merely a matter of fuel.

Lambert has some pretty good places to eat and, if I’m being totally honest, a few not-so-great places to eat. Next time I’m flying somewhere and I actually have time for a meal, I will definitely check out the pizza.

A new hamburger place there looks pretty good, too.

Daniel Neman • 314-340-8133 Food writer @dnemanfood on Twitter [email protected]

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