LAX Theme Building restaurant gets top honors

Encounter Restaurant
, housed in Los Angeles iconic Theme Building was named a top spot on the list of best airport restaurants by recently. placed the airport restaurant on its list of top ten favorite list calling it, “… a 1960s Star Trek set gone Technicolor, serving ‘art-food’ (American classics in oddball visual arrangements) that’s simultaneously hip and kid-friendly.” when asked by USAToday.

But Frommer’s is just the latest in a string of high rankings for Encounter. placed Encounter on its list of Ten Best Airport Restaurants in the World. Esquire, whose list includes One Flew South at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport and Piquillo at JFK added “With its Star Trek-meets-Austin Powers decor (not to mention menu) and a lighting design by former Disney Imagineers, this recently refurbished restaurant has to be seen to be believed.”

Food and Wine has also given Encounter the nod, including it on its “Ultimate Airport Dining Survival Guide: Best Airport Restaurants noting “It’s home to this space-age restaurant, known for 360-degree views, stylings stolen from The Jetsons and California-style dishes like organic salads and mushroom ravioli with grilled asparagus”

The 50-year-old landmark LAX Theme Building, recently finished a three-year, $12.3-million renovation, which included a unique seismic retrofit involving the installation of a rooftop Tuned Mass Damper (TMD) containing 600 tons of steel (equivalent to the weight of two Boeing 747s), which was the first time in the U.S. that a TMD was installed at the top of a building.

The restaurant was created and is operated by a joint-venture partnership between Delaware North Companies Travel Hospitality Services, Inc. and Connie Bass, a Los Angeles entrepreneur and operator of the Ultimate Symphony Event Planners, a full-service event planning and gourmet catering service, and Cookies By Connie #1. As Director of Outside Sales and Marketing for the Encounter Restaurant she is responsible for local marketing efforts, community outreach and media relations. As a side dish, the Los Angeles native positions the restaurant as an entity for airport travelers, as well as for the diverse communities surrounding the airport.

Encounter’s hours are: Lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., 7 days a week. Dinner: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, 4:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The observation deck is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It is located at 209 World Way at LAX. For more information and reservations, call 310-215-5151.

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Plan your airport layover with T+L’s Airport Navigator

I hate airports. I hate sitting around and waiting, and I hate being unable to escape the thought that soon my plane will be the one zooming down the runway and lifting off into the sky. So rather than arrive early to the airport and allow myself time to get anxious about flying, I prefer to arrive at the last possible second, so that as I run through security and down the terminal, I don’t have time to think about my fears.

Unfortunately, sometimes I have an unavoidable mid-length layover at an airport – one that’s too short for me to go out and explore the city and too long for me to just sit at the gate and wait for my next flight. At those times, I need to find something to do to keep my mind occupied. Often, this means that I end up wandering the unfamiliar airport for about an hour in search of something good to eat, before giving up and buying the next thing I see – usually an uninspired sandwich or a bag of chips.

Next time, I’ll check Travel and Leisure’s Airport Navigator for tips on my airport before I go. For each of 20 airports, T+L has put together a list of places to eat and drink, shop, things to see and do, and places to relax. They’ve covered several major hubs in Europe – London, Madrid, Rome, Paris, and Amsterdam among them – plus major Asian airports like Hong Kong, Beijing and Tokyo. They’ll give you the scoop on Sydney, Cairo, Dubai, Johannesburg, Buenos Aires and Mexico City, along with info on Vancouver and Toronto in Canada, but coverage in the US is non-existent.

Along with listings of each airport attraction, the guide offers reviews, websites, hours and price ranges.

7 fantastic airport restaurants from around the world

When I started traveling as a young kid, I was perfectly content with one of the bad cheese sandwiches served on Air UK.

Nowadays I’m a little more spoiled, and am often on the lookout for good food on the ground, as many airlines have stopped serving anything decent (or anything at all) once you are on board.

Here are 5 airport restaurants from around the world that stand out amongst the usual McDonalds and Chilis junkfood.

Gordon Ramsay Plane Food at London Heathrow

There is more to Gordon Ramsay than yelling at kitchen staff on TV. He owns and operates a large number of restaurants around the world, including one in the recently opened Heathrow Terminal 5.

Plane Food serves food all day, including a fantastic breakfast lineup. How about a nice Croque Madame with pan fried quail’s eggs before your flight? Or if you are in a hurry, you can even pick up one of their amazing picnic meals with treats like a roast beef, truffle and watercress sandwich. It sure beats the usual Big Mac people bring on board their flight.

Location: London Heathrow Terminal 5, unit 29
Website: Gordon Ramsay Plane Food
Opening hours: 5:30am-last departing flight (casual dress code)

Berghoffs at Chicago O’Hare

Berghoffs Cafe has been a Chicago icon since 1898. German immigrant H.J.Berghoff made a name for himself when he sold his beer at the 1893 worlds fair.

The downtown location is well known for its authentic German food, but the airport location offers a more limited menu. You’ll still find delicious corned beef sandwiches, but also pizza and basic mexican food. Of course, the airport location also sells the signature Berghoff beer and root beer.

Location: Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Terminal 1, Concourse C, Gate 25
Website: Chicago O’Hare concession listing
Opening hours: 5:15 am-10:30 pm

The Caviar House at London Heathrow

The Caviar House has long been one of the more upscale airport concessions. What started with just a handful of airports, has now evolved into over 15 worldwide locations. The first one I can remember was at London Heathrow Terminal 4 (Heathrow now has one at each terminal).

The Caviar House sells Caviar (duh), Salmon, Oysters, and many other seafood products. To compliment your snack, they also have a fantastic lineup of Champagne and Vodka. It isn’t cheap, but since many people passing through the airport are on their way to a vacation, it could be the best way to start off a great trip.

Location: London Heathrow Terminals 1,2,3 and 5 (as well as 10 other international airports)
Website: The Caviar House
Opening hours (London Heathrow): T1,2,3: 7am-9:00 pm, T5: 5:30 am-last departing flight

JFK Terminal 5/JetBlue

With the launch of terminal 5, New York JFK airport suddenly went from one of the worst airports in the world, to one of the more decent options.

Unless I was flying British Airways (with lounge access), I always dreaded flying through JFK. Of course, it took a low cost airline to bring some luxury to JFK. When Jet Blue moved into Terminal 5, they brought along a great lineup of restaurants.

For once, someone decided to design an airport terminal without filling it with the usual suspects. The T5 restaurant lineup includes Aeronuova (an Italian eatery), 5ive steak and Deep Blue Sushi.

Even the food court food court has a good assortment with Cheeburger Cheeburger, Fresco Pasta and Belgian fry joint Pommes Frites.

In total, you’ll find 20 different restaurants and bars at JFK Terminal 5.

Location: John F. Kennedy International airport, Terminal 5 (Jet Blue terminal)
Website: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Opening hours: varies per restaurant

Airbräu at Munich International airport

Airbräu opened at Munich airport in 1999, and is the only restaurant in the world to bring an authentic Biergarten to an international airport. As far as I can tell, they are also the only airport facility where you can order a 10 liter beer and have yourself one heck of a party.

Of course, Airbräu also has a pretty comprehensive menu offering everything from pork sausages to roast duck and of course, Schnitzels.

The funniest thing on their menu is the “Hang Mans Lunch”; for 95 Euro cents, you get a glass of water, a bread roll and a cigarette.

Location: Munich International airport in the concourse between terminals 1 and 2.
Opening hours: 8am-1am daily

The noodle bar at The Wing – Hong Kong International Airport

This entry in my lineup is a little unfair as it is not accessible to everyone. The noodle bar at The Wing is inside the Cathay Pacific lounge at Hong Kong Airport.

To get into The Wing, you’ll have to be flying in Business Class or First Class (or be a top tier elite member of the airline). Once inside, you can grab yourself a bowl of freshly made noodles from the self service bar.

I’ve been to the Wing several times, and absolutely love it. If you are leaving on a late night flight, the place is usually quite peaceful, and having access to free noodles (and free beverages) is a fantastic way to start your trip.

Location: Hong Kong International airport – right after the security checkpoint
Opening hours: 5:30am – last departing flight

In De Bonte Koe – Amsterdam International airport

Amsterdam airport has always been a great place to spend some time. Between their massive assortment of stores and the airside Casino, you’ll always find something to do. The airport has its fair share of generic fast food places, but they also
offer a couple of more upscale choices.

One of them is “In de Bonte Koe”. This establishment is decorated like the famous 17th century Dutch ship, De Bonte Koe. The food choices are fairly basic, but since it is above the main terminal, it is a great way to escape the crowds.

Location: Amsterdam Schiphol International airport, Lounge 3, 2nd floor
Opening hours: 11am-7:30pm

Our Readers Respond:

* John says: “You know, a good Cornish pasty and a pint of real ale at Newquay Airport in Cornwall beats just about any other airport food ever.”

* Marilyn Terrell says: “If you’re hungry at Dulles airport and it’s not time for breakfast, I’d suggest local favorite burger joint Five Guys, which serves a juicy (messy) burger with free toppings. They also serve fries, and a sign will tell you what state the potatoes are from that day.

* Anne says: “I wholeheartedly endorse the Cuban restaurant in the Miami airport: La Carreta. You have to leave security, and re-enter, but let me promise you: it is worth it. Delicious rice and beans, Cuban sandwiches, tostones, the works. And the best possible mix of clientele–from baggage handlers to tourists. It’s also a great place to kill some time, as I’ve never had a flight leave from Miami on time.

* Zach Everson says: “Legal at Logan (Boston) and Reagan (DC). A chain now, but an excellent one. Chappy at DC is a great bartender.”

** Alan says: Try Vino Volo at multiple US airports, including BWI, JFK, etc. Good wines, good atmosphere, neat snacks. Its a good place to take a break. [Also,] two airports with diners…NJ Diner at EWR and Silver Diner in the Southwest Terminal (Concourses A and B) at BWI. Putting in all the chrome at BWI cost an obscene amount, but it really is a different look for the airport. [Finally,] California Tortilla at BWI and DCA…fast Mexican food, high quality. The street locations are more fun, but the value is still there at the airports.”

** Scott McMurren says: “In Seattle, the Pacific Marketplace food court is fabulous. My absolute, standout favorite is Anthony’s walk-up Fish Taco stand. They typically have Mahi Mahi and Rockfish. I go for the Rockfish. There’s also a Wolfgang Puck restaurant on the C Concourse to grab a pricey Caesar Salad to go….oh-so-much better than anything served on board, IMHO. There are TWO delicious wine bars that serve some glorious vintages by the glass. High marks!

** Coreyo says:at Kansas City International Airport you can get classic KC BBQ and KC beer at the Boulevard Brewery with Arthur Bryant’s BBQ”

** Heather says: “The best sandwich in the world is called “The Wreck” available at Potbellies at Chicago Midway. The staff is no frills and even when the line goes all the way out the door the wait is never long.”