Traveling to Taiwan: What’s to Eat in this Airport?
January 3, 2012 § 3 Comments
The flight to Taiwan and beyond started with a rousing breakfast at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport. Now, by rousing, I really mean rowdy in that it was the day before Thanksgiving and this place was pretty packed not only with people, but with pretty junky breakfast options. The next stop was all the way in Los Angeles, but I was pretty aware that no flight was going to provide any real food service despite being stranded for 4 hours during what should be breakfast or lunch in both time zones. So what are your options especially when all the places you enjoy so close to your home are closed since it’s still so early when you leave? Oh yeah, it’s airport food time…concourse A style.
At some point, you just surrender to the fact that you’re going to be overpaying for something you don’t really like, so we figured we’d go sit down. There was an upstairs Heineken Bar and Grill that looked to be just out of the reach of chaos, but it was not. This was all bar in that smoke cloud sort of way with little evidence of grill although perhaps a touch of microwave. I see now that their Yelp rating is 1.5 stars, and that is probably for good reason. The non-smoking section was a handful of filthy non-bussed tables about two inches away from the cloud of smoke that was the smoking section. The leftover food on the plates looked crusty, processed, and equally abysmal too. No thank you. We ran out of there.
There was one of those sandwich stands with $9 pre-packaged soggy sandwiches with a bit of a line that was allegedly passable, and a Dunkin’ Donuts bagel was on my radar, but they had an outrageous flight-missing line. Gross. Somehow, we managed to duck into a place called Brioche Doree which was pretty much hidden behind an escalator and obscured by a bookstore. This little pastry/sandwich shop was additionally not crowded and appeared a bit more interesting that the rest of the options for sure. At least these $9 sandwiches here looked appealing with crusty artisan bread and options such as tomato, mozzerella, and basil. I tried a turkey, green apple, and brie on crusty baguette, and it was pretty tasty especially with the lingering imagery from the other airport food options. What sold it was the bread was actually yummy and was toasted just enough to sell it. The blueberry cream cheese pastry I tried was pretty nice as well all things considered. I snagged a roast beef and tomato with cheddar on baguette for the plane which was good, but not quite as good as the brie and apple. The meat wasn’t the best (although certainly not bad, just not remarkable or memorable) and the tomatoes were that almost-crisp but at least not mealy pink variety that you get stuck with at an establishment that feels they must serve tomatoes on their non-changing menu no matter what. But you know, the bread sold it and I was happy to have something to eat on the plane other than one of the Delta breakfast sandwiches that I believe they ran out of during the flight. I commend the ATL Brioche Doree given the competition. They could have easily missed the point here, and somehow they didn’t. I do see with some quick internet searching that the ATL version is rated significantly higher than other airports that have popped up, so I guess they’re doing something right at this one.
The Delta flight was uneventful outside of surly service, being charged twice for the surprisingly passable one wine I ordered which despite pretending to be taken care of, wasn’t, and the usual one snack per person fare of either 8 salted peanuts, 6 mini pretzels, or 2 legitimately good Biscoff cookies. And please, be careful which flight attendant you ask for more because they’ll loudly remind you that they aren’t supposed to give you more than one.
Finally, we arrived in LAX. I understand more and more why people hate LAX. It’s a pain to get to if you live in the city, and it’s a nightmare to navigate if you’re there on a layover. It felt like nearly everything was under construction and looped around endlessly. A personal favorite sight was a small crowd lingering near the empty information booth. Brilliant. Additionally brilliant was asking directions to our next gate and having the attendant suggest that our flight to Taiwan would be through Thai Airways then proceed to give us really convoluted directions to get to an entirely different building that had to be navigated on foot. After finally checking in, I was pleased to whittle away my free hour in their not particularly large or exciting international building food court. While my traveling buddy saddled up to the Daily Grill to sit down and have overpriced skunky beer and grilled fish tacos with some pretty good sit down service, I eventually wandered off to eat a Pink’s hot dog which I was actually a little bit excited to see in the airport of all places.
I lived in Los Angeles for quite a few months, and due to a visitor in town with a craving, I got around to trying the infamous Pink’s on a good day at a time where I only ended up having to wait about 15 minutes instead of the usual crazy queues. I think that was actually a turning point for me with hot dogs. They weren’t on my radar at all, and while it was easy to get distracted by the ridiculous list of ingredients and crazy celebrity and movie names, what was really good was the way the hot dog itself was prepared. They seem to boil them enough that the wonderful snap on the bite is pretty memorable even if the flavors of the hot dog itself in no way added up to the best I’ve ever had (HD1 & Papaya King dominate in flavor). So this was a throwback to the one time I made it to Pink’s, and it was a happy revisit of that memory. The topping combinations and crazy names were drastically reduced for the airport, and I don’t even remember which one I got other than I know I was clearly swayed by the promise of sour cream, tomatoes, and onions. I also recall the price was completely reasonable for airport fare–around $5, I believe and I even paid an additional quarter or two for a much larger hot dog. My only complaint was the bun. It was your standard hot dog bun that you could buy at any grocery store. That’s just how it goes with those things most of the time, though, so it’s forgivable…and by forgivable I though there was too much of it and chucked some bits, but there you go.
And that was my last bite of the US before settling into my flight on China Air for 14+ hours and watching the food options and variety shift so dramatically…