Jet Blue’s $800 million Terminal 5 at New York’s Kennedy airport is what might be the holy grail of American airport dining. Most of the typical fast casual chains and fast food regulars – only Jamba Juice and Dunkin Donuts appear – are missing, but in their place are many carefully chosen restaurants whose menus were designed by prominent New York chefs and independent restaurateurs.
The restaurants serve more than burgers and fries – though they do offer those as well – are influenced from a wide variety of world cuisines, which is rare in an American airport. There is a mix of both fancy, pricier eateries where you can take your time with a glass of wine and a long leisurely meal. Service at some of the sit-downs tends to be slower than usual for an airport, but there are fast budget meals that you can grab on the fly. Also, you won’t get as good of meals as from the restaurants of the chefs who design the menus and the waters don’t always know Merlot from Malbec – it is still the airport – but it’s definitely a step up from the garbage in the other terminals.
5IVESTEAK: Michael Coury, concept chef for OTG Management, designed this steakhouse and bar. The typical steakhouse menu (Black Angus New York Strip, Dry Aged Porterhouse, Braised Short Rib) is spiffed up with ad-ons and condiments like Truffle butter, Apple wood smoked bacon, chimichurri sauce, and béarnaise. The Fish & Chips are served with a jalapeño pickle tartar, while sides include crispy hash browns, Truffle Fries, Roasted Beets, and Mac & Cheese.
Aeronuova: Mario Batali protege Mark Ladner created this modern Italian trattoria that doesn’t get watered down for the airport. There’s a generous list of Antipasti and Salumi (Melanzane, Rapini, Speck, Mortadella), twelve Bruschettas, a list of cold Pesce, Pastas, and a decent Secondi selection: grilled salmon, Osso Buco, Vitello, and Skirt Steak.
Piquillo: Alexandra Raij, formerly of Tia Pol in Chelsea, created this Spanish tapas bar that proclaims to be the first in a U.S. airport. Seasonally changing greenmarket inspired specials pair with a nice selection of Spanish cheeses and charcuterie, Bocadillos (Chorizo & Tomato, Madrid Style Calmari), larger courses like lamb chops and grilled shrimp, and even a few Cazuelas, stews that are served in small earthen crockpots.
La Vie: Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr (of Balthazar and Pastis) French brasserie serves lighter café fare like Nicoise Salad, Onion Soup, Croque Monsieur, Trout Almondine, and Moules Frites. My choice: Sliced Steak Sandwich with Caramelized Onions and Gruyere cheese with pommes frites or Duck and Pistachio Terrine with grilled country bread.
Deep Blue: Michael Schulson, formerly of Buddakan, designed this Asian restaurant and sushi bar. There’s a decent list of rolls, specialty rolls, and sashimi and they are reasonably priced enough that if Deep Blue was dropped in midtown you would likely still go. Nothing is overly adventurous (Kobe Beef Tataki Rolls, Toro Sashimi, Dragon Rolls), but how adventurous do you want your airport sushi to be? I’d stick with the Robatiyaki (Foie Gras, Sage Wrapped Chicken, Shishito Peppers) or some of the appetizers (Soba noodles, spring rolls, pork gyoza).
Revolucion: Chef Roberto Santibanez, formerly of Rosa Mexicano, runs this Mexican restaurant with modern takes on classics like carnitas and chicken mole.
Revive: This is one of the more interesting dining options of any airport I have seen. Revive has high tech screen monitors where you can order food and beverages that can be delivered straight to the gate areas. You pay everything (including tip) via credit card right from the screen. It’s simple: Pizzas, sandwiches, Paninis, salads, but the idea is you can take it on the plane with you. Orders take about 10 minutes to be delivered.
Loft Kitchen & Bar: An open-kitchen restaurant and bar with modern American dishes in an atmosphere reminiscent of a trendy, New York style Loft apartment with wall sized art.
New York Sports Grill (NYSG): A typical airport sports bar with an awesome beer selection (48 on tap!). Pub grub.
Horizon Bakery Cafe: This is a French bakery with artisan breads and an emphasis on organic and natural products. Simple Euro bistro items: salads, soups, sandwiches and desserts.
Most of the other eating options in the terminal are in the cafeteria style Gourmet Food Hall. Here are the highlights:
Boar’s Head: Custom sandwiches, wraps and panini, from the New York purveyor of deli meats and cheeses.
Lucy’s Asian Kitchen: Quick-serve Asian with everything sautéed in woks as you wait.
Philly Cheesesteaks: Cheesesteaks!!
Pommes Frites: A bastardized Belgian style frites shop with three types of tubers (Idaho, sweet and yucca) and 18 sauces to choose from.
Aunt Butchie’s Bakery and Café: The Brooklyn bakery brings cakes, pies, and gourmet coffee to Terminal 5.
Cibo Express Gourmet Markets: More than 40 sandwiches you can take to go and hundreds of other gourmet foodstuffs, including imported beer and organic, vegan, Kosher, all-natural, no-sugar, gluten-free, and other random health conscious items.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.