When you're looking for a spot to enjoy a nice meal out, chances are airports aren't at the top of the list. Purchasing terminal food is typically a last resort so you don't starve on the plane, and the ambiance of a sit-down meal is kind of ruined by loud speaker announcements and finding space for your luggage.
But, some airports have created authentic dining experiences with top-notch meals. Where are these culinary hot spots? RewardExpert, a free service that helps travelers fly for cheap by maximizing miles and points, just released their 2017 Airport Dining Scorecard, revealing which transportation hubs have the best food.
RewardExpert compiled nearly 75,000 restaurant reviews from the top 20 busiest airports in the country using data from sources including Yelp, Zagat, J.D. Power and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Each airport was then given a score for three categories: satisfaction, price and quality. The combination of these categories determined the best airport overall, as well as the top airports for different dining categories like vegetarian and gluten-free cuisine.
"Airport infrastructure has been widely discussed this past year, and dining amenities can play a big factor in a traveler's experience at an airport," said RewardExpert CEO Roman Shteyn in a statement. "We set out to find which major U.S. airports go above and beyond to offer exceptional culinary options for those in transit."
So, where can you get the best meal on the go? Denver International Airport came in at No. 1 as it ranked the highest in overall quality and second in price and variety. Restaurants like the field-to-fork Root Down has a 4 1/2-star rating with more than 1,000 reviews to its name, along with other highly rated eateries like Tapas Sky Bar and Crú Food & Wine Bar.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport took the No. 2 and 3 spots on the list, while Philadelphia received double honors by coming in fourth overall and for being the best airport for cheap eats. A meal at Philadelphia International is nearly 20 percent less expensive on average than the most expensive airport to eat at in the top 20 — and many restaurants offer quick-service local delicacies.
Houston Bush Airport rounded out the top five, but actually came in first for being the best airport for vegetarian and vegan options. Though Texas is known for its barbecue, nearly all of the 90 restaurants in the airport have multiple vegetarian entree options.
In terms of the spots with the worst food, New York City's airports ranked at the bottom. All three major hubs — LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark airports — took the last three spots on the list. Why? Despite being near one of the biggest culinary centers of the world, these airports had limited options, high numbers of low-rated chains and high prices.
Check out the full list below!
RewardExpert 2017 Airport Dining Scorecard