While most of us will agree that flying in America has grown insufferable in recent years, killing time at airports — and let’s face it, with flights always late, we have a lot more time to kill — has grown considerably more pleasant. There are offerings of WiFi, well-stocked book stores, chic shopping outlets and game consoles at most major airports.
And let’s not forget that anchor of time well spent at the airport these days: The upscale bar.
Gone are the days when you were forced to quaff Buds at some seedy ‘deli’ somewhere between Terminal B and C.
Most of the country’s busiest hubs now have wine bars and brew pubs where you can pass the hours actually drinking like an adult. You can try a flight of French whites, a hoppy pale ale from a local brewer or a sophisticated cocktail before heading off to Buffalo or Akron or wherever.
Yes, often you’ll need to take out a second mortgage on your house to afford a third drink; I’m not praising the prices at these places here. But simply to have the option of falling back on something more refined and civilized, during a travel experience that is usually anything but, has been a positive trend during the past several years — and one that is certainly in stark contrast to the direction our experiences seem to be going once we board a plane.
Joe Brancatelli, who pens the Seat 2B column at Portfolio.com, praises this trend in his latest dispatch. He singles out places like Cibo Bistro and Wine Bar at Philadelphia International Airport , with its 32 wines available by the glass, and Vino Volo at Dulles, which manages to pair a substantial offering of wines by the glass with appropriate small portions of food.
Both establishments have opened in other airports (Vino Volo just opened its eighth location at Detroit’s Metro Airport last week). Then there are the dozens of brew pubs that have sprung up at hubs nationwide (like Columbus Brewing Company at Columbus International and the Wasatch Brew Pub at Salt Lake City International), all owned by HMSHost, a division of Italy’s Autogrill (yep, Italy owns most of the brew pubs in which you like to kill time at your local airport).
So, things have gotten better on the ground even as they have gotten worse in the skies.
Gadling would like to hear from you: Nominate your favorite airport bar these days. Wine, beer or cocktails; chains or one-offs; upscale or old school — whatever. Extra points if you can tell us something about the place: what to expect, prices, a good menu recommendation, etc. Feel free to sound off on whether such places represent a positive or negative trend in travel today.
I’d like to dedicate a future post to publishing some of these tips and thoughts.