Noted food critic Alan Richman once wrote, "The grim state of airport dining is incomprehensible." Granted, some of it leaves a bad taste in your mouth, but as road warriors - grabbing meals in terminals from Midland to Miami - you've surely uncovered some of the diamonds in the rough. If you haven't, check out our short lists of inspired airport eateries. - J.B.

Local Flavor

A welcome trend in airport dining is to treat travelers to a taste of regional specialties. Also, a growing number of outposts of neighborhood dining institutions can be found at airports. For example, Perry's, a San Francisco staple for over 35 years, is introducing its classic American cuisine to a whole new set of fans at its year-old location in San Francisco International's Terminal 1. At Seattle-Tacoma, there's an entire food court, called Pacific Marketplace, which focuses on regional fare and features offshoots of homegrown favorites like Ivar's Fish Bar (celebrated for its clam chowder) and Alki Bakery Express (which draws raves for its cinnamon rolls).

The Short List

Albuquerque: Gardunos Chile Packing Company and Cantina

Austin: Salt Lick and Matt's Famous El Rancho

Boston: Legal Sea Foods Express

Chicago: Harry Caray's

Dallas-Fort Worth: Reata Grill

Memphis: Jim Neely's Interstate Bar-B-Que

Miami: Café Versailles

New Orleans: Café Beignet

Phoenix: Flo's Shanghai Café

San Francisco: Perry's, Lori's Diner, and San Francisco Soup Company

Seattle-Tacoma: Pacific Marketplace and 13 Coins

Under the Toque

It's not only what's cooking at airports these days but also who's cooking, as some of the world's top chefs take their talents to the concourse. One of the first to do this was Wolfgang Puck, whose small kiosk at the Columbus airport was so successful, it spawned a full-fledged restaurant.

The Short List

Boston: Ozone-Bos (Todd English served as a consultant) and Jasper White's Summer Shack Express

Columbus: Wolfgang Puck Express

Orange County: Oasis Grill & Sky Lounge (conceived by David Wilhelm)

San Francisco: Yankee Pier (Bradley Ogden is part owner)

Seattle-Tacoma: Dish D'Lish (from Food TV's Kathy Casey)

Lean and Mean

With society's emphasis on health these days, it's only natural that airport eateries would take heed. Minneapolis-St. Paul is among those now offering calorie-conscious and heart-healthy options. At its French Meadow Bakery & Cafe in Concourse F, everything is all natural, from the organic greens to the yeast-free breads. Granted, an entire guilt-free menu may be rare, but at least one or two wholesome choices are showing up on more and more menus in airport dining establishments.

The Short List

Chicago: Eat a Leaf Salad Creations

Miami: Casa Bacardi and Sushi-to-Go

Minneapolis–St. Paul: Lake Line Pub and French Meadow Bakery & Cafe

Newark: Maui Tacos and GreenLeaf’s Grille

San Francisco: Raving Wraps, Il Fornaio Caffe Del Mondo, North Beach Trattoria, and Ebisu