Restaurants

Love the layover: at play in Portland, Oregon

PDX_KeepPortlandWeird

It’s always a bit strange for me to spend time in Portland, Oregon.

It’s the first city I lived in when I moved out west and it’s the city now portrayed in a fun and fractured way in the IFC show Portlandia and in Portlandia: A Guide for Visitors, a book that claims to describe “all that this magical, dreamy city has to offer.”

This visit I was a guest of Travel Portland – and most definitely a tourist.

I stayed one night in the Hotel deLuxe, which offers a Pilgrimage to Portlandia package, and two nights at the Heathman Hotel, which won my heart by sending someone to my room within five minutes of my arrival with a copy of my Oregon Curiosities book for me to sign so it could be added to the on-site library filled with books by authors – many of them really, really famous – who have stayed at the hotel.

Most of the weekend was spent racing around the city – on foot and on public transportation – visiting hot spots such as Powell’s Books, the Peculiarium and the Lan Su Chinese Garden, and trying to find all the venues offering the free treats that come with the Portland Passport visitors receive when they book a room through the Travel Portland site before March 31st.

PDX Voodoo

The somewhat Porlandia-ish list of treats includes a doughnut from Voodoo Doughnut (where the far-out offerings include a doughnut covered in Fruit Loops and one covered in bubble gum dust and decorated with a wrapped piece of gum), a tour of Widmer Brothers Brewing (free anyway, but passport holders get a free full-sized souvenir glass), a scoop of ice cream at Salt & Straw (sorbet at 10:30 in the morning? Why not?) and five other items, some of which were inspired by the ‘what-to-do-in-Portland-in-the-winter‘ tips gathered from Portland insiders.

The most puzzling place on the passport is the 10-piece meatball plate: a reward for visitors who make the trek out to IKEA.

“Pacific Northwesterners love IKEA, especially when it’s tax-free,” is the way Courtney Ries, consumer marketing manager for Travel Portland explained it. “And since we can’t give everyone a bookshelf or a new kitchen, we thought it would be something fun for the people that make IKEA a must-visit place when they come to town – or for those that have a special hankering for meatballs.”

Fair enough. But IKEA is just one stop on the MAX light rail line before my favorite place in the city – Portland International Airport – and there are plenty of fun and unique shops and restaurants there – along with art and entertainment. And, while I arrived in town on the train, it might be fun for visitors coming to town by plane to get their last passport stamp – and tasty treat – as they head home.

 

Beer bottle wall at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport

How many bottles of beer are on the wall at the new St. Louis Brewmasters Tap Room in Terminal 2 (Concourse E) at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport?

 

No one is saying just yet, but you can count them for yourself while waiting for a flight and drinking beers from local, regional and national breweries such as a Anheuser Busch, Schlafly and O’Fallon.

The menu seems intriguing as well: it includes Pale Ale pulled pork sandwiches and, for dessert, cinnamon waffles with warm Nutella and vanilla ice cream.

After you drink your beer and count the bottles, don’t forget to check out all the art at STL, which include art glass screens , an exhibit about chess (through October 26th) from the World Chess Hall of Fame that invites travelers to sit down to play and the 8-foot by 51-foot mural “Black Americans in Flight” that pays tribute to African-American achievements in aviation from 1917 through the late 1980s.

(Photos courtesy STL airport)

Where to eat when you’re stuck at the airport

There are a plenty of things to do when you’re stuck at the airport: wait, walk, talk, shop, work, nap, get a flu shot, check out other people, see some art, drink and, of course, eat.

But how will you choose where to dine at the airport?

You can line up behind scores of other travelers at McDonald’s or some other chain outlet. But why do that when you can nibble on something truly tasty and local?

Here are a few resources – and resource people – who can help steer you in the right direction.

Over at Portfolio.com, Joe Brancatelli has published his excellent, updated, two part guide offering tips on “Where to Eat Before You Fly.”

Part one lists his picks for places to eat in and near airports in Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago/O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit/Metro, Houston/Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York/Kennedy, New York/LaGuardia, New York/Newark, Philadelphia and Seattle.

Part two focuses on dining options in and around smaller airports, including Austin, Boston, Chicago/Midway, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Honolulu, Memphis, Nashville, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Portland, Maine, Portland, Oregon, Raleigh/Durham, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Francisco Bay Area (3 airports), St. Louis, Tampa, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore (3 airports). See the full list here.

As someone who also spends a lot of time in these same airports and who researches the local options for the airport guides I put together for USATODAY.com, I can tell you that Brancatelli has got the airport dining thing down.

Another resource: Eater.com, a national restaurant and dining blog. Ron Holden, a Seattle-area food writer who blogs at Cornichon.org, sent me a link to Eater.com’s listing for where to eat at my hometown Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and I see that there are also listings for close to two dozen other airports.

And, for dessert, here’s a link to a Food & Wine article posted on msnbc.com’s Ovherhead Bin today describing America’s best new (and some not so new) airport restaurants.

And, if you don’t have time to sit down and enjoy a great airport meal, don’t forget you can always stop into one of the growing number of airport shops selling locally-made, snacks and gourmet treats to go.

Moon Pies at Nashville International Airport. Sold individually and by the box in many flavors.

 

 

Hungry yet? This should get you started.

Have your own tips on where to eat when you’re stuck at the airport? Please share them here.

Making the most of America’s busiest airports – part 3

Here’s part 3 of my recent Bing Travel slide show about how to make the best of America’s busiest airports. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.



San Francisco International

In the winter, delays can mount at San Francisco International Airport because of rain, wind and, yes, fog. That will leave you plenty of time to enjoy airport amenities that include free Wi-Fi, an aquarium, fun and educational kids’ play areas, spa services at four XpresSpa locations, and a museum program that presents up to 20 exhibitions around the airport at any one time.

Defeat the delay: Most airport eateries are branches of well-loved local restaurants, cafés and bars; the best concentration is in the pre-security area of the International Terminal.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International
All three terminals at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport offer free Wi-Fi, a branch of the popular Paradise Bakery and plenty of permanent and changing museum exhibitions.

Defeat the delay:
Take the free 10-minute airport shuttle bus to the Metro light-rail stop. From there you can head into town or walk across the street to the Pueblo Grande Museum.

Charlotte-Douglas, North Carolina
Charlotte-Douglas International Airport was the first airport in the country to provide rocking chairs in the terminal, an amenity we’re thankful that many other airports have adopted. Additional stress-reduction services at the North Carolina airport include free-Wi-Fi, piano concerts in the atrium and the Terminal Getaway Spa, where the menu includes massages, manicures, pedicures and reflexology and oxygen treatments.

Defeat the delay: The Queen’s Courtyard, in front of the CLT terminal, has a 15-foot statue of Queen Charlotte and a 40-foot reflecting pool.

Miami International
The 12th-busiest U.S. airport for total passengers, Miami International Airport is finishing up a major expansion and overhaul. Spend a delay getting a massage or a spray-on tan at the Jetsetter Spa, visiting the art galleries and public art installations, recharging with Cuban coffee or visiting one of 20 new restaurants.

Defeat the delay:
The on-site Miami International Airport Hotel has a sushi bar in the lobby and a fine-dining restaurant offering panoramic views of airport runways and the Miami skyline.

Orlando International
Once they discover the art installations, the 3,000-gallon aquarium, the entertaining water fountain and the theme-park style character statues, kids — and many adults — will find themselves wishing for long delays at Florida’s Orlando International Airport.

Defeat the delay: Grab some freeze-dried ice cream from one of the Kennedy Space Center shops and spend a delay playing video games at the King of Kong arcade.

Make the best of America’s busiest airports – part 2

Here’s part 2 of the recent slide show I put together for Bing Travel highlighting some of the best amenities at the country’s busiest airports. (Part 1, which includes the airports in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas/Fort Worth can be found here.)

No. 5: Denver International Airport
Some travelers are still smarting from Christmas 2006, when a blizzard closed Denver International Airport for 22 hours, stranding more than 3,000 passengers. The airport’s snow-removal skills have vastly improved, but weather-related delays can still happen. Wait those out with free Wi-Fi or a self-guided tour of the art collection (brochures are available at any information booth).

Defeat the delay:
If any planes are moving, watch them on the active taxiway that runs beneath the glass and steel pedestrian bridge linking the A gates to the main terminal. (That bridge also leads to security checkpoint lines reliably shorter than those in the main terminal.)

No. 6: John F. Kennedy International Airport

When winter weather hits, all of the always-busy New York-area airports — LaGuardia Airport, Newark Liberty International and John F. Kennedy International — quickly become zoos. At JFK, seven separate terminals mean delayed travelers must make do with services at hand. That’s not a problem in JetBlue’s amenity-rich T5, which offers free Wi-Fi throughout the terminal and more than 40 shops and restaurants, including Deep Blue Sushi — all after you go through security. Elsewhere, it’s a post-security challenge. Your best bet is Terminal 4, which has the most pre-security options, including public art by Alexander Calder and a retail hall with shops and restaurants, such as the Palm Bar and Grill.

Defeat the delay: When planes are grounded, the AirTrain from JFK to the New York City subways usually keeps running. The trip to the city might take an hour, but will cost less than $10 and can be its own adventure.

No. 7: George Bush Intercontinental Airport
At Houston’s Bush Intercontinental, delayed passengers can view space-related exhibits on loan from NASA and shop for their own space-themed souvenirs at a branch of NASA’s Space Trader store. There’s also a revolving steakhouse restaurant, CK’s, at the Houston Airport Marriott located in the center of the terminal complex, and an interterminal train below the terminals designed in 1981 by the Walt Disney Co.

Defeat the delay:
It may be an airport, but you can still get a taste of Texas. Three Stelzig Ranch shops offer boots, hats and other Texas-style accessories, while Texas Trail Boss Jerky sells beef, pork, turkey and bison jerky.

No. 8: Las Vegas McCarran International Airport
In addition to free Wi-Fi and complimentary recharge work stations, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas offers delayed travelers entertainment in the form of the Howard Cannon Aviation Museum, art exhibits, an aviation-themed kid’s play area, an interactive Dance Heads video booth and bars serving oxygen cocktails.

Defeat the delay: McCarran also has approximately 1,200 slot machines. And, as the saying goes, you can’t win if you don’t play.

Part 3 tomorrow…