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Tortas Frontera at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Photo: Conrad and Peter

Tortas Frontera at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Photo: Conrad and Peter

As a best-case scenario, you can breeze in and out of the airport without much trouble. In reality, however, that rarely happens. And while you nevercould count on decent sustenance in flight, these days the options are next to nil.

Fortunately some airports rise to the occasion, offering fare—and tipples—that satisfy the food-enthused.

At Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, terminals one, three and five, Rick Bayless leads the charge at Tortas Frontera, giving travelers reason to not just endure—but actually look forward to—layovers. The menu is a near-replica of XOCO in Chicago, and it offers addictive, namesake sandwiches on chewy-plush rolls. The best of the bunch: the cochinita pibil, a killer mix of Yucatan-style pulled pork, black beans, pickled red onions and singeing roasted habanero salsa. Get a fully loaded guac from the guac bar to go with; it’ll include nubs of Neuske’s bacon, toasted pepitas, shards of sun-dried tomatoes, roasted poblanos and cotija cheese. Top it off with a refreshing mango-lime agua fresca or a hand-shaken margarita.

If you found yourself wondering if quality airport is an oxymoron, Legal Seafood at Logan International Airport will help change your tune. Standing as a beacon, albeit one with a drool-worthy raw bar, it dishes up fried clams and creamy in terminal C.

Meanwhile, at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, Custom Burgers By Pat La Frieda serves a fine, griddled burger for about $5. Find it in the Cibo Express Gourmet Food Hall, Delta terminal D. Walk a bit beyond and find Tagliare, a collab between Don DeMarco Jr., of  Brooklyn’s fabled Di Fara, and OTG Management (also terminal D).

Of course, fans of Los AngelesPink’s will have a field day at the LAX outpost, where you can get its snappy encased meat topped with cheese and chili and sidled by onion rings (LAX, Bradley International terminal, departure level).

What’s more, Miami’s popular La Carreta has a seriously tasty offshoot at Miami International Airport. Whether you settle on the memorable Cuban sandwich or the impossibly tender ropa vieja, picadillo or tostones, be sure to wash it down with a Malta soda. Located in the American Airlines terminal, between gates D and E.

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Jennifer Olvera

Jennifer Olvera

Jennifer Olvera is a culinary travel writer, recipe developer and author of Food Lovers’ Guide to Chicago. Find her on Twitter at @olverajennifer.
Jennifer Olvera

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