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.
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.
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.