Even 19th-century prisoners got bread and water. These days, many airport travelers would envy them – water is the price of gold once you clear the security line, and the bread is mostly soggy sandwiches wrapped in plastic.
Ah, but things have been looking up in the flight world – including here at Charlotte Douglas. Yes, you still have plenty of grab-and-go kiosks, but if you have a bit of time and money, there are true culinary experiences to be had:
What it is: Fine dining to casual pizza-and-sandwich bar to a market with local brands such as Queen City Pimento Cheese and local beers by the can
Where is it: The old Chili’s Too space on the main concourse
You’ll want to try: The Old School Caesar salad, with a surprisingly light and tasty dressing that involves roasting the anchovies, capers and garlic. The BBQ Shrimp & Grits has fat shrimp (although only five of them) on a generous pile of creamy grits, topped with a tart, buttery Tabasco vinagrette
Prices: You pay for the pleasure, of course. It’s still in the airport, and that 10-ounce tub of pimento cheese will set you back $8 to $9 – the same as some of the single cans of local beer. The Caesar is $9.99 and the Shrimp & Grits is $18.99.
What it is: Wine bar with a French menu
Where it is: Tucked into the main concourse behind the sushi bar
You’ll want to try: There are usually a couple of local wines on the list – Shelton and Biltmore Reserve on my visit. The charcuterie platter includes capicola, proscuitto, salami Calabrese and speck, along with a mustardy-sweet mostardo, crispy little pickles, olives and baguette slices.
Even better: Go for the Scottish salmon sandwich on pecan-raisin bread. It sounds strange, but the herbed cream cheese, creme fraiche and feta pull it together beautifully.
Prices: Wine runs from $7 to $37. The salmon sandwich is $17; the platter $14-$20.
First in Flight, aka Hissho Sushi
What it is: Sit-down sushi
Where it is: Center of main concourse
You’ll want to try: If you want to linger, sip a glass of wine and order a bowl of warm edamame. The Outer Banks Roll is filled with a rainbow arrangement of salmon, tuna, yellowtail and avocado. The rolls can be clumsy but they taste fresh.
Prices: $5.50 for the edamame, $14 for the Outer Banks roll.
What it is: Fast-casual dining that’s French-inspired with fresh sandwiches like turkey, brie and apple, slipper-shaped pizzas, and salads that look bright and fresh
Where it is: It’s a hike unless you have the luck to leave from E Concourse near Gate 27 (is that the Rock Hill skyline?)
You’ll want to try: The pastry case rivals one you’d find at Charles de Gaulle in Paris. A sizable berry tart with cream cheese filling, whole berries and big slices of strawberry is $3.50. Take it on the plane and be the envy of your seatmates.
Got my fix of Brioche Doree at the Charlotte airport, and so you could definitely say I’m in my happy place right now pic.twitter.com/SyBWM3YwBu
— Kerry Mallett (@kerryamallett) February 21, 2015
Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar
What it is: Every airport needs a sports bar, and this hits the marks – multiple TVs, loud music and lots of guys with ball caps. Yes, this is the same Bad Daddy chain that’s throughout Charlotte.
Where it is: Terminal C.
You’ll want to try: The burgers are definitely better than average, including the popular Sam I Am, topped with an egg and pesto. If you need more virtue, though, go with the Cantina 1511, a black bean burger topped with green chiles, cheddar and Monterey Jack, avocado and chipotle ranch.
A photo posted by @jackswartz on
Kathleen Purvis is food editor for the Charlotte Observer.