The 10 Best Restaurants At Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
Unpacking the best dining options at the world’s busiest airport.
There are two types of travelers: those who love Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and those who hate it. Whichever category you fall in, you know the world’s busiest airport is a lot of everything. This includes hundreds of food options. But which ones are really worth the time and money? We trekked more than 48,000 steps around the terminals, sampling bites from as many kiosks, cafés, and corner eateries as we could. What we ended up with (besides a newfound appreciation for Plane Train seats) are 10 dining destinations you should check out before taking off.
Papi's Cuban Grill
When you finally make it through the TSA lines and have an emotional reunion with your shoes, Papi’s in Terminal T will welcome you with open arms (and a bar). The specialty cocktails fill up an entire page of the menu, so when you’re in the mood for a drink that tastes like it should have a mini umbrella in it, this is your spot. They do an American breakfast in the morning with standards like omelets and french toast, but it's always a good plan to hit it for lunch for Cuban cuisine staples like their cheesy pork sandwich on crispy bread with tangy pickles. Sit at the bar or snag a window seat overlooking the domestic terminal drop-off and high five yourself for avoiding that mess by taking MARTA.
photo credit: Amy Sinclair
Grindhouse Killer Burgers
Terminals T and D
While there’s a host of burger joints around the terminals, Grindhouse’s two airport posts (Terminal T and D) are the best fast-casual options and the only spots where you can get ’em while also staring at vintage toys on the shelves. But unlike at the popular, eclectically-decorated offsite locations around town, here you select breakfast or lunch from a self-service touchscreen. Pat yourself on the back for making the proper order of a Grindhouse-style double burger (dry-aged beef, American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and Thousand Island-y Grindhouse sauce), crinkle fries, and a Blizzard-like Oreo Chiller you can devour at the bar or from your seat at the gate.
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Cat Cora Kitchen
A marble countertop bar, a kitchen window to watch as chefs prep your food, and menu options like fig and ricotta toast and port-marinated lamb shank almost make us forget we’re at the airport when we eat at Cat Cora’s—although the carry-on suitcases in between tables provide a helpful reminder. Hit this contemporary American food spot when your flight has been delayed because service doesn’t exactly reach supersonic speeds. But killing time with a glass of wine and one last creamy shrimp and grits meal before leaving Georgia always feels like a win.
Varasano’s has always been a quiet, low-key pizzeria in Buckhead. But the location in the airport is neither quiet nor low-key since it sits at the back of an always busy food court in Concourse A. While the menu isn’t as robust as the original restaurant, it's easy to forgive them since you’re just here for the pizza anyway. The airport Varasano’s still cooks its dough at high temperatures, so you get the crispy yet soft-centered Neapolitan crust that we love from the brand. And with fresh mozzarella and other high-quality toppings, Varasano’s is the best option for pizza in the airport.
LowCountry New Southern Cuisine
Before Atlanta-born celebrity chef G. Garvin opened his midtown restaurant, his southern cafeteria-style food stall was holding things down in Terminal A’s food court for nearly a decade. For anyone in the mood for a home-cooked meal, LowCountry delivers just that—and much faster than any other hot food vendor in the airport. The baked rosemary chicken is tender and filling enough to keep you content on any long-haul flight. Plus, LowCountry is a good intro to Atlanta’s famous meat-and-two culture since you can pair the chicken or another protein with soul food staples like mac and cheese and cheesy grits. And if you finish your meal with the bread pudding, you're gonna be good and ready to sleep through your flight.
If you're just passing through Atlanta, all you might notice about Paschal’s is its cafeteria-style spread of ribs, collards, and other soul food staples. What we see is a tasty extension of a culinary institution rooted in the ATL since the ’40s. But the thing we love most about this airport outpost is that it doesn’t cut corners in the kitchen. The forkfuls of down-home delight you get with the fried chicken and mac and cheese here in the food court is nearly the same as what you get at the iconic Northside Drive location—only thing missing is the attentive service and ’70s soul tunes.
The Mustard Seed BBQ
There aren’t a ton of BBQ options at the airport, which makes sense because scarfing down huge helpings of pork, baked beans, and mac and cheese might not be the ideal meal before being squished into a middle seat for five hours. But when Mustard Seed’s tender brisket and slightly vinegary potato salad touches our lips, it puts all thoughts of fighting for an arm rest out of our minds (it belongs to the middle seat. Period). It’s worth the trek to Terminal D to get our hands on a solid Southern meal, and the laid-back vibes of the wood-paneled space feel homey and warm.
photo credit: The Infatuation
Chicken & Beer
One of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport’s tastiest destinations, Chicken + Beer in Concourse D pays homage to co-owner Ludacris’ prolific past with CD plaques and murals on the wall. Most importantly for travelers, its primary focus is serving bar standards, southern staples (catfish, ribs), and good brews. Try the three plump whole wings covered in a spicy Hotlanta sauce that tickles long after you’ve finished your IPA—we’re still dreaming about the fluffy maple butter biscuit that comes on the side. The dish is so good you’ll want seconds, but by then, you’ll have to literally “roll out” of Luda’s restaurant.
One Flew South
We’d rather drag a broken rollaboard down Peachtree than fight families for a gate seat, which is why we just hit One Flew South if there's extra time before departure. Plus, drinking sake while pretending to forest bathe in floor-to-ceiling imagery of lush green trees beats any fancy lounge pass. Since 2009, the Asian and southern fusion restaurant has had people reconfiguring their flight schedules for a taste of their internationally-famous dishes (they’re now on the BeltLine, too). The sushi offerings are first-class, especially since they get multiple weekly fresh fish shipments. The venue also offers creative dishes like soy and ginger-marinated tuna jerky and the best burger in the entire airport.
The real reason ATL experts recommend that you arrive three hours early for an international flight isn't about getting through security, but for relaxing at Ecco. Yes, that's a bold claim but we stand by it. A (dare we say) sexy restaurant and bar in Terminal F, the wood-accentuated, softly-lit Ecco is where you park your bag and get lost in a gratifying glass of red wine and their Italian-inspired menu. For the optimum experience, sit on the rear balcony while enjoying a tender steak panini and garlic-sprinkled fries and peer down on your fellow flyers rushing to their gates.