I noticed something strange at the airport on my recent trip to New York City. (Oh, glad you asked. It was wonderful. Beautiful sunny fall weather and none of the dreariness we’ve seen in Houston of late.)
But as I often do when flying, if I have a few minutes to spare, I seek the Golden Arches. A rare dive into McDonald’s — the only fast food that counts — is so comforting when faced with hours on a plane. Well, on this journey, I didn’t find them. Neither at IAH nor Newark!
Instead, United Airlines in partnership with OTG (which operates more than 300 restaurants and retail concepts in 10 airports across North America) is serving us the future of dining.
It’s easy to see. Just walk to your gate. Bars and cafes have been set up along the way where you take a seat and order via iPad. Want a burger and a Coke? Just tap a few images, swipe your credit card (or pay with miles), and it’s done. As of this writing, food is served, and drinks refilled, by actual humans.
OK, maybe it’s not that revolutionary. You can do this at Chili’s too. But the whole concept on an airport scale looks so futuristic. It’s 2018 as imagined in 1970. The food offerings are just as on trend. I had avocado toast — can’t get more modern than that! It was wonderful, topped with radishes and microgreens.
All this extends to the other dining establishments in the terminal. According to OTG, “With dining venues conceptualized by celebrated chefs, passengers get a taste of the region from locally sourced menus that change with the seasons. Stunning spaces created by world-renowned architects and designers make travelers feel welcome, relaxed, and connected to their surroundings like never before.”
Once I got to the Big Apple, I stepped back into the present. My theme for this trip (don’t laugh) was “Old School New York.”
Between walks through fall foliage-drenched Central Park and a couple of Broadway shows, I visited Paul & Jimmy’s, an Italian tradition since 1950. There, red sauce cuisine is elevated to an art. Fried calamari with their famous marinara, pasta with just a touch of cream and shallots…it was dreamy.
Even dreamier was another night’s visit to The Old Homestead Steakhouse. New York’s oldest steakhouse was established in 1868. Service is full-on old school and I was captivated by a boozy lobster bisque, a perfectly done ribeye and an ice-cold martini with blue cheese-stuffed olives.
Serafina is a must-try Upper East Side institution. One of their specialties is Pasta al Limoncello that I order each time I visit, but even their cheese pizza is amazing in its flavor and simplicity.
And you can’t miss brunch at Sarabeth’s — they practically invented it. Fresh baked muffins paired with Sarabeth’s jams and preserves set the stage for perhaps the most perfect Eggs Benedict I’ve ever had.
So, the next time you fly, embrace the future. And when you get to your destination, salute its history!
Paul & Jimmy’s
123 East 18th Street
Old Homestead Steakhouse
56 9th Avenue
33 East 61st Street
381 Park Avenue South