With the holidays comes one of the most dreaded aspects of the season: travel. When stale pretzels and a watered-down Diet Coke won't do, cozy up in one of these Texas airport hot spots for some first-class bites (and a lot of drinks) that will take the edge off until you can make it home to the real comfort food.
SAT (San Antonio International Airport)
The Frutería | Terminal A
Arguably the most well-received of Chef Johnny Hernandez's airport dining establishments and the original Southtown favorite, The Frutería is wedged between A gates and offers healthy alternatives and some holiday spirit in the form of actual spirits. Smoothies and agua frescas pair well with fresh fruit parfaits, while cocktails, like the vetted Los Pepinos vodka margarita, provide the perfect complement to a plate of chiles rellenos—it's almost enough to make you forget about last year's failed fruitcake debacle.
Rosario's Mexican Cafe y Cantina | Terminal B
Located next to gate B6, Rosario's provides dine-in and take-out options that offer local flair and all the benefits of the full menu served at the Northside and Southtown locations, but with the added benefit of breakfast tacos. Enjoy tacos norteños, enchiladas or ceviche with a signature margarita or fresh Bloody Mary in the afternoon. It's the perfect place to get your last-minute Tex-Mex fix before boarding.
Vino Volo | Terminal A
If you make it through security with time to spare, head to this hopping wine boutique, which, in addition to its signature wine tastings or "flights," offers morning mimosas, delicious pre-flight bites (try the chickpea and chorizo chili) and a selection of Texas wines.
"The unique thing about Texas is that most of the wine produced here is consumed here," said Richard Hamilton, general manager, on what makes the San Antonio spot different from Vino Volo's 30 other locations across the country. "The real treat is introducing travelers to something they may not have tasted before, to the great wines that Texas—as the fifth largest wine-producing state in the country—has to offer."
For the holidays, Vino Volo boasts themed tastings. The $15 "Thanksgiving Table" offers a range of ingredients, including lychee, red currant and tobacco leaf that are best when paired with classic Thanksgiving fixin's. Other upcoming flights include "Christmas Cabernets" and an array of Champagnes to ring in the New Year, titled "Celebration Sparklers." But the best part of the Vino Volo experience is that you can take it with you.
AUS (Austin-Bergstrom International Airport)
The Salt Lick | West Terminal
It should come as no surprise to the seasoned barbecue connoisseur that this airport outpost has received almost as much praise as its iconic brick-and-mortar counterparts. Located in the main dining area near Gate 12, The Salt Lick offers plates and sandwiches piled high with brisket, turkey and sausage. According to the Wall Street Journal, the shack sold more than 55 tons of brisket to meat-loving people on the move last year. The only drawback: The meat is originally cooked at the Driftwood location and later re-heated.
Honorable Mention: Amy's Ice Creams for their high-flying antics and homemade flavors like Mexican vanilla, butter pecan and hatch chile.
IAH (George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston)
Cat Cora's Kitchen | Terminal E
Cat Cora, of Iron Chef fame, chose Terminal E for her second eco-friendly airport dining destination back in 2011, and has been serving up tapas and cocktails with locally sourced ingredients ever since. Menu items like lobster mac 'n' cheese, homemade potato chips with blue cheese dip and lamb meatballs elevate airport dining. However, since many of the dishes and ingredients are made from scratch, it's best for those long layovers.
DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport)
Cereality Cereal Bar & Cafe | Terminal C
Featured in People and Time magazines, as well as on the Food Network and CNN, this cereal joint milks its theme for all it's worth with pajama-clad "Cereologists" serving up hot and cold bowls of cereal to breakfast lovers near Gate 6. Choose from more than 30 brands of cereal and toppings or take care of last-minute holiday shopping with the purchase of a customizable "My Cereal. My Way Box." We have a feeling it will be the most interesting gift under the tree.