The Best Restaurants at LAX

Photo:greenheat/Flickr/Creative Commons License 

Citizens of Los Angeles: Awaken to a glorious new dawn. No longer must you spend your precious pre-flight time trying to throw some haphazard meal together with leftovers from your fridge. You can stop starting every airport pick-up of a visiting friend with a heartfelt apology about their first culinary experience getting off the flight. And you can quit expanding your search parameters on HotWire to include Orange County and IE airports, just because they have things you can actually eat down there.

For now, at long last, we have worthwhile food options at LAX!

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So says the latest survey by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which ranks LAX fourth -- only behind Chicago, Detroit and Denver -- for having the healthiest food options in American airports. (Last year, LAX ranked an embarrassing 10th place.) But what the survey doesn't tell us is just where the best places to eat in the various terminals are. Which is where I come in.

(Before we get started, here's a great big caveat when discussing airport food: It's expensive, generally always a rip-off. A $5 sandwich outside of LAX is going to cost you about $9 inside. It's not fair, but that's the situation.)

Tom Bradley International Terminal
The sparkly, newly refurbished wing of LAX -- it just opened to the public in September, but construction won't be completely finished until 2015 -- is the gem of the airport in every way. Massive duty-free shopping areas, enormous multi-media displays, and home to the best food options. Unfortunately, you need an international boarding pass to take advantage. But if you are traveling abroad via this terminal, it's safe to say whatever you want can be found here. Between Sushi Boy, ink.sack and the yet-to-open Border Grill and Luckyfish, there's something for everyone. But, for me personally, it's the new Umami Burger outlet that gets my attention.

Terminal 1
Besides the omnipresent McDonald's and Starbucks, there's a Gordon Biersch Brewery and a California Pizza Kitchen, both of which are fine options. But Camacho's Cantina offers up burritos the size of small dogs. Which, maybe on second thought, isn't the smartest thing to be eating before sitting in close proximity to strangers for the next few hours?

Terminal 2
While the Nate N' Al's Deli in LAX doesn't have the same expansive menu as their historic Beverly Hills version, you can still order most of their classic sandwiches (always stacked nice and high) and specialty omelets.

Terminal 3
Frankly, there's not a whole lot of options in Terminal 3. Besides Gladstone's 4 Fish Restaurant, there's a stand with items from the La Brea Bakery, a Starbucks, and a Burger King. So, the airport version of the Malibu institution has to do. Their classic clam chowder is good.

Terminal 4
You've seen Homeboy Industries at every farmers' market in a 60-mile radius. You know their stone-breaker to bread-maker backstory by heart. And now, if you're in Terminal 4, you can chow down on their freshly baked goods, sandwiches and wraps at the Homeboy Cafe.

Terminal 5
Before the opening of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, Terminal 5's Lemonade was one of the few places in LAX universally beloved by foodies. And it still is. They have plenty for those looking to be health-conscious (chicken breast sandwiches, kale salads, egg white skillets) or just want a quick delight for the taste buds (specially-flavored lemonades).

Terminal 6
An odd terminal in that there's nothing too fast food, and nothing too fancy. Just a lot of mid-range options. There's two sports bars and a miniature version of Ruby's Diner if you want to go the traditional route. But the better option is the oddly-named Monet's, a California Deli, especially for their breakfast burrito or chicken apple sandwich.

Terminal 7
If you want healthy, there's the La Brea Bakery. But if you have time for a sit-down meal, B Grill by BOA Steakhouse has a wide range of breakfast options and burgers. If you're like me and your pre-flight mindset is composed of brooding terror and constant realization this one could be your last, why not go out in style with their filet mignon?

Terminal 8
I can't, in good conscience, pretend that I've been inside Terminal 8. I have not. See, Terminal 8 is only for United Airlines passengers, and for whatever reason, throughout my long history of air travel, I have yet to book a flight with them. But if I did have the ability to eat in this terminal, I'd make a bee-line to the Marmalade Cafe, with their comforting breakfast options of short stacks of pancakes and chorizo scrambles. Maybe that fact alone is worth giving United a try?

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