Fueling Up Before Flying

New airport terminal will elevate cuisine options for travelers.

If you play a word association game with the phrase “airport restaurant,” you’d probably come up with words like “ripoff,” “chain,” “junk food” and “mediocre.” You’d picture yourself sitting at a tiny table in a bustling, dissonant terminal, eating subpar and overpriced fast food.

This is strange. Frou-frou merchandisers long ago realized they have immediate access to relatively well-heeled, captive audiences in airports. But travel the world, and you see that restaurants have not kept pace. As a result, Prada might be sandwiched between a Dunkin’ Donuts and a Wingstop. Chanel might be down the way, just past Cinnabon and Panda Express.

Until recently, finding decent food even in New Orleans’ own airport was tough.

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Given that this is a world-renowned restaurant town, that borders on bizarre. In airports around the country, it’s not unusual to find New Orleans-themed food. As far away as Bogota’s lustrous new El Dorado airport, the nicest restaurant in the waiting area is a place called Orleans American Bistro. It may be your only chance to eat a po-boy in South America.

It must be said that, in recent years, the offerings at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport have improved significantly. For instance, Dooky Chase’s occupies a prominent spot at the entrance to Concourse C, and there’s a Ye Olde College Inn squirreled away in Concourse D.

Yet the new terminal, scheduled to open in late 2018, promises something grander: a de facto culinary amusement park. Among the expected offerings is a who’s who of local restaurateurs.

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John Besh will open another Johnny Sanchez location with fellow celebrity chef Aaron Sanchez and a Pizza Domenica with Besh protégé Alon Shaya.

John Blancher will keep the Ye Olde College Inn offshoot going in the new airport. Fellow Carrollton Avenue mainstay Angelo Brocato’s will serve gelato and Italian cookies there as well. Neal Bodenheimer, the craft cocktail king, will help travelers take the edge off with a new location borrowing the name of his Freret Street bar, Cure.

 Dooky Chase scion Edgar Chase IV will open Leah’s Kitchen, drawing from his grandmother’s recipe book. Chef John Folse, another dean of Louisiana cooking and co-owner of Restaurant R’evolution, will open Folse Market, serving casual fare. Young upstart Mike Gulotta of MoPho will expose world travelers to New Orleans’ Vietnamese angle.

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Not to be left out, Emeril Lagasse is planning a location called Emeril’s Table. Susan Spicer, meanwhile, is adding a new spot under the banner of her Harrison Avenue restaurant, Mondo.

And, for those in a rush — or those who are fans of A Confederacy of Dunces — there will still be a Lucky Dog stand at the airport.

New Orleans’ airport has long served as more of a destination airport than a major hub. If you’re in New Orleans’ airport, you’re probably there because you want to be in New Orleans, or you’re from New Orleans and you want to go somewhere else.

If you’re in Atlanta’s airport, by contrast, there’s a decent chance you just want to go somewhere else, and not simply because you don’t like Atlanta. Rather, it’s a major hub. Tens of millions of people pass through each year. Millions are between planes, and they want something to eat. Many travelers might have hours to kill and so could take their meals at a leisurely pace. And as we all know, domestic airlines are getting increasingly, er, economical when it comes to nourishing their passengers.

Given this situation, the merciful thing for an airline to do is allow their passengers to change planes in an attractive, comfortable place with good food to eat.

If the dream team of New Orleans restaurateurs assembled at the new terminal play this right, they could make MSY every traveler’s favorite airport by turning the dreaded layover into an epicurean sojourn.

Did you know?

Restaurants Heading to MSY in 2018

Johnny Sanchez

Pizza Domenica


Cure (cocktails)

Leah’s Kitchen

Folse Market


Emeril’s Table


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