From organic wine to the best of local craft beer, these bars are a welcome oasis for weary and thirsty travelers.
Whether you’re clinking glasses for a pre-vacation celebration or drowning your misery after yet another flight delay, imbibing choices at most American airports are often limited to raucous sports bars or generic, nondescript spots with spare menus and overpriced, mediocre booze. While airport bars are by definition bleak, sometimes you’ll find a watering hole that’s a cut above the rest. From Southern spirits and sushi at One Flew South at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to champagne and caviar at Los Angeles International Airport, these top bars at the country’s 10 busiest airports are the least-depressing hangouts for thirsty travelers.
Top Picks for You
One Flew South
WHERE: Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL), Terminal E
No passport is needed to enjoy this Asian-Southern fusion spot located in the airport’s international terminal. From the stellar service and impeccably made cocktails to signature dishes like the black cod with green curry, coconut, purple yam, pickled green tomato, and toasted rice “granola,” One Flew South will make you forget you’re in an airport bar.
INSIDER TIPGrab a seat at the full-service sushi bar to watch chefs prepare rolls, nigiri, and sashimi with precision and speed.
Petrossian Caviar & Champagne Bar
WHERE: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Terminal B (Tom Bradley International)
What’s more indulgent than pre-flight champagne and caviar? Get both, plus over 20 high-end vodkas, smoked salmon, charcuterie, and other decadent bites, at the Parisian brand’s LAX outpost.
INSIDER TIPShort on time? The restaurant offers a grab-and-go picnic pack which includes caviar, blinis, and crème Fraiche, all tucked into an insulated, carry-on bag. Sorry, no champagne to go.
WHERE: O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Terminals 1 and 3
Yes, it’s not a bar-bar, but the restaurant’s extensive beer list and potent margaritas combined with Rick Bayless staples like fresh guacamole, molettes, salads, soups, and namesake griddle-baked tortas make it one of the best places to eat and drink at O’Hare.
INSIDER TIPPlace your food order ahead of time via the website or app. While you can’t order booze online, you can skip the line, grab your food, and then post up at the bar to sip your margarita without the 20-minute wait.
Bleu Mediterranean Bar
WHERE: Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW), Terminal A
While this bar has a decent list of domestic and imported beer as well as wine by the glass, the cocktails are the real draw. Try the house martini, with Ketel One Citron vodka, blue Curaçao, St-Germain, and white cranberry juice.
INSIDER TIPOrder a pour of one of the bar’s premium spirits, like the Lagavulin Scotch Whiskey 16 year single malt.
WHERE: Denver International Airport (DEN), Concourse C
With a selection of local beers, organic and biodynamic wines, and house-made cocktails incorporating seasonal ingredients, the drinks at the airport location of this local favorite are as well-sourced and sustainably-minded as its food.
INSIDER TIPThe restaurant offers gluten-free beers and ciders for those with allergies.
WHERE: John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Terminal 4
The airport installation of this Danny Meyer concept has all the trappings of an airport bar—big-screen TVs, runway views, no-frills—but with significantly better food and drink. With signature cocktails, several local beers bottled and on tap, and a sizable bourbon and Scotch collection, the booze and the barbecue outshine most of the airport’s other options.
INSIDER TIPTry the house margarita or Dark & Stormy, both of which pair well with the restaurant’s pulled pork plates, wings, and ribs.
WHERE: San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Terminal 3
From Lagunitas to Almanac, this bar has almost two dozen California-based brews available bottled and on tap. Not a fan of beer? Uncork’d also has a substantial list of bubbles, whites, reds, and rosés by the glass, mostly from in-state producers.
INSIDER TIPTry one of the bar’s booze flights: $9 for three, four-ounce pours of any beer on tap or $12-25 for three wines in cleverly titled packages ranging from “Think Pink” to “Fab Cabs.”
WHERE: Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport (LAS), Terminal 3
This local, family-owned chain serves only from stouts, IPAs, and seasonal selections from its sister brewery, Ellis Island, plus reliable pub fare like nachos, burgers, wings, and fish and chips.
INSIDER TIPHave a weekend flight or layover? Don’t miss weekend brunch, complete with $2.50 Bloody Marys and mimosas.
Rel’Lish Burger Lounge
WHERE: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Terminal B
Yes, this offbeat burger joint that sometimes tops its patties with Cheetos also has some of the airport’s best drinks. From on-tap cocktails like rum punch and a house margarita to craft beer, wines by the glass, and premium spirits, the bar has something for everyone.
INSIDER TIPAvailable at breakfast, the outlandish Rel’Lish Bloody Mary, garnished with a green bean, asparagus, pepper, and an optional pepperoni straw, is as tasty as it is Instagrammable.
WHERE: Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (CLT), Main Concourse
This Euro-chic bistro offers over 30 wines by the glass, plus small plates like cheese and charcuterie plates and flatbreads, perfect for sharing and decompressing pre or post-flight.
INSIDER TIPDrink as little or as much as you want. The wine list includes options for three, six, and nine-ounce pours as well as select Old and New World flights.