NYCGuide

The Best Restaurants At John F. Kennedy Airport

Where to sprint for a stromboli before the plane doors close, or settle in with a reuben and a beer when your flight inevitably gets delayed.
The Best Restaurants At John F. Kennedy Airport image

photo credit: Anne Cruz

Somehow, John F. Kennedy International Airport is now kind of worse than LaGuardia—imagine saying that to a New Yorker a few years ago. And while there are still some solid spots for a pre-flight meal, because of the constant construction hellscape, you might think you should avoid eating here altogether. But with the exception of Terminal 1 (where the options are shockingly bad), that’s not true. Here are all our favorite places in Terminals 4, 5, and 8 for grabbing a snack before heading to the gate, waiting out a two-hour delay with a beer and a burrito, or having a surprisingly good salad.


TERMINAL 4


photo credit: Anne Cruz

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JFK Airport

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Uptown Brasserie is a little further away from the main Terminal 4 hub, but it’s a great option if you want to have a sit-down meal (and a pre-trip Bloody Mary or mimosa) closer to your gate. The menu covers a lot of ground with breakfast plates, sandwiches, and steaks, but the salmon with grilled asparagus, new potatoes, and warm lemon honey mustard is one of the best airport meals you can find anywhere.


If you’re trying to schmooze your travel companion on a business trip or simply got to the airport early and will not settle for a sad turkey sandwich, order a steak at the Palm. Get the NY strip, which is served with rich garlic mashed potatoes, and add on an order of the wild thyme and mushroom gnocchi with black truffle puree and parmesan. There’s also a picture of Alex Rodriguez’s face next to comic book Batman on the walls, which might be just as memorable as the steak.  


You can get a full meal, a beer, and a view of all the planes and baggage trucks driving around on the tarmac below at this gastropub in Terminal 4. Get the roasted cauliflower and quinoa salad, which gets tossed with grapes, toasted almonds, and citrus yogurt for the rare kind-of-healthy airport meal. You might think good airport salad is an oxymoron, but this one proves otherwise. 


There are a few Shake Shack locations in JFK’s gargantuan Terminal 4, and they’re all pretty consistent. We’re big fans of their breakfast sandwiches, which feel even more special since they’re only available at airports. You can also preorder ahead so you don’t have to wait in an absurd line after trying to tie your shoes while waiting for your bag.


TERMINAL 5


If you’re the type of person who needs to physically see your gate right after passing security, you'll be happy at New York Sports Grill. It’s located close to gates 10-13, so you can relax with a beer without having to pop back to Terminal 5’s main atrium after checking when you board. It’s also a little further removed from the chaos of people aimlessly looking for their gates and buying last-minute neck pillows, which makes it easier to find a table during peak hours. The tap list is long and full of IPAs and sours from local New York breweries, and the toasty reuben will keep you full enough to resist purchasing an overpriced snack box on the plane. 

AeroNuova is located at the center of Terminal 5’s main hub, so you can keep an eye on the departures screen to check for gate changes, observe the sparrows that fly through the terminal, and enjoy some well-sauced rigatoni or cabonara while checking what the weather’s like wherever you’re going. If you’re craving something a bit lighter, the beet and farro salad is a solid bet.

Revolucion is another great spot to camp out in Terminal 5, especially if you pulled up to the airport three hours early just to get through security in five minutes. The carnitas in the burritos are full of flavorful, tender meat and are served with a housemade salsa verde you’ll want to pour on everything. If you’re in a rush to grab the shuttle bus to Terminal 8, they also have a to-go counter next door. 


The best thing you can get at Artichoke is a breakfast stromboli, which is made with pizza dough and stuffed with eggs, cheese, sausage, and vegetables. It makes for an ideal hangover cure if you took a cab from the club to the airport, or simply just want to make everyone at the gate within wafting distance jealous.


Besides housing a slice of pizza from Artichoke, a sandwich from H&H is the best move in the little food court right after you get through security. It’s our go-to place for a sandwich, and you can customize it with different breads, meats, and cheeses. And yes, you theoretically could add on muenster, swiss, cheddar, and american if you feel like it.


TERMINAL 8


If you ignore all the luggage, you could almost forget that you’re eating at the airport in O’Neals, a cozy pub in Terminal 8. Decompress at the booths while waiting for your flight home after a week-long trip to your parents’, or hang out while firing off a few emails and doing some last-minute research before heading to Paris. Go for the fried green tomato BLT or buttermilk-brined fried chicken that’s perfectly crisp and juicy.


If you have a couple hours to spare at Terminal 8, it’s worth spending them in this Manhattan-based steakhouse. We’re partial to the classic 16-ounce New York sirloin, but there’s also pastas, salads, and sides, too. As far as sit-down spots in Terminal 8 go, this is one of the nicer ones. You’ll feel like you’re sipping cocktails in a fancy airport lounge, which comes in handy if the real lounge is at max capacity. 


If there’s one thing you can always depend on at the airport, it’s a weirdly specific vending machine where you can buy a phone charger or Kylie Jenner-branded makeup after getting off of a red eye at 4am. You can also depend on Farmer’s Fridge for a vending machine salad, which is a weird thing to say, but it’s your best option when you have 10 minutes to run to your gate. These fridges are scattered throughout most terminals in New York City airports, and they’re surprisingly decent if you’re looking for a healthier option. The menus change by location and day, but the elote salad and Thai noodle bowl are our favorites.


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