Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Food Desert That Is Newark Airport

In an attempt to have local restaurants at Terminal C in Newark, they have recently opened up a Grand Central Station Oyster Bar. There are a few other places like Gallagher's Steakhouse and Caliente Cab Company, but somehow no matter what local place opens up here they instantly become as generic and corporate as the chains (Macdonald's, Ben and Jerry's, Starbucks, etc).

I thought perhaps this is a function of airports, but then I remembered Portland's Airport and then today I got off at SFO to a sea of local-feeling restaurants.  Maybe it's just the volume of New York City airports that makes their food outlets so lacking in warmth or personality.  The Oyster Bar people made an attempt (they even put in faux Grand Central terra cotta ceilings tiles), yet somehow it feels more like a postmodern cafeteria then a place you'd actually want to eat.  I did end up eating there, however.

I had the Blue Lumps Crab hash; it wasn't really hash, it was roasted potatoes with poached eggs and crab meat sprinkled about, all floating in a watery hollandaise sauce.
It was actually not bad and the coffee was good as was the service.  Certainly given the options I was glad to see the Oyster Bar.  Of course it goes without saying it wasn't cheap. 
Gallager's fares a little better decor-wise; all the wood and gingham table cloths add a much needed warmth and the glass cased refrigerator at the front of the restaurant filled with drying cow carcass does indeed add a note of authenticity. I'm not a steak house kind of guy, so eating breakfast (of all meals) there wasn't an option.  

What I really wanted was a Balthasar type place.  Actually I think a Balthasar's, which is still a big corporate restaurant, but one done so well that it's French bistro theme park decor would actually be unique in an airport environment, especially if they recreated it with the same panache they did at their Soho flagship.

Neil and I ate here the last time we travelled together.  The idea of Japanese before a flight seemed like a treat.  It wasn't.
Steak Escape as a name for an airport restaurant is really funny.

Vino Volo is my favorite place to hang out at terminal C.  They have a selection of small bites and lots of well chosen wines by the glass or the bottle, but no breakfast.  They have also stayed small which has allowed them to keep a warmer, more casual, less corporate feel.

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