You decided to listen to your significant other, who warned you not to be late to the airport, and now you find yourself way too early for your flight. You’ve successfully beat the traffic on the I-405, but now you’ve got to deal with hours-long wait in the terminal with nothing to do, and no good food options in sight. Sounds like your typical trip out of the airport? Not quite – at least, not if you’re flying out of the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
For the past several years, LAX has been undergoing a massive multi-billion dollar development program. In September 2013, this resulted in the public opening of the newly renovated Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), and with it, brought in an amazing array of dining and shopping options. And if you happen to be flying out of domestic terminals, the good people at LAX have told us that a boarding pass for any terminal will allow you to get you through the TSA checkpoint at the TBIT. With the help of the LAX PR representative, Katherine Alvarado, and the Executive Chef of HMSHost, Rocco Pascale, we – along with fellow blogger, Amy Nguyen @ammish (Instagram/Blog), and photographer, Ariel Ip – had a chance to explore the side of LAX not many people are familiar with. Without further ado, let us start our food adventure.
Terminal 1 (Pre-TSA)
1st Stop - Dunkin’ Donuts Express
The first place we headed to after meeting up with Katherine was Dunkin’ Donuts Express, located right outside the terminal 1 baggage claims area. We had previously been familiarized with the coffee & donut chain from when we lived in Chicago, but this was the first time we got the chance to visit a store in Southern California. This particular location opened in May 2015, and is one of only 13 Dunkin’ Donuts stores that have opened in Southern California since 2013. Conveniently located outside the TSA Checkpoint, this is a great place to get your coffee fix or munch on a Boston Kreme donut before or after your flight.
Recommended: Medium Coffee $2.35 | Boston Kreme Donut $1.17
Terminal 1 (Post-TSA)
2nd Stop - Treat Me Sweet
Before heading to the Tom Bradley International Terminal, we decided to brave an extra 30 minute TSA checkpoint to check out a cute, confectionary shop inside Terminal 1. We didn’t spend too much time inside this terminal, but it was clear from the start that even Terminal 1 had undergone major redevelopment, resulting in the opening of new restaurants and stores such as: Rock & Brews, Be Relax, Brookstone and Treat Me Sweet. Treat Me Sweet boasts a warm and welcoming décor where travelers can pick and choose all sorts of candies (including See’s Candy) for themselves to enjoy on the plane or to gift to loved ones.
Recommended: See’s Candy $25/lb
Tom Bradley International Terminal (Post-TSA)
3rd Stop - Chaya
Our first stop inside the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) was Chaya Sushi. As you would at most sushi restaurants, you have the choice of seating at a bar or a table. We only got to try their rolls, but we were told that they serve sashimi and nigiri as well. Seems like a perfect choice of restaurant for a quick bite that won’t keep you bloated on your flight.
Recommended: Alaskan Roll $19.75
4th Stop - ink.sack
The original ink.sack is a West Hollywood sandwich shop started by Chef Michael Voltaggio, winner of the sixth season of Top Chef. Just like the original ink.sack, the one inside LAX serves all kinds of delicious sandwiches, ranging from Club sandwich and Banh Mi sandwich, to Cold Fried Chicken sandwich. The only problem is trying to figure out which one to eat! If you have a big appetite and don’t want to suffer through paltry airline meals, this is a great place to pick up a hearty sandwich, most for less than $6.99.
Recommended: Pork Bahn Mi sandwich $6.99
5th Stop - 800 Degrees Pizza
Back in 2012 when 800 Degrees Pizza first opened its doors in Westwood, we drove out there nearly every chance we got. There was just something about being able to personalize your own neopolitan pizza and seeing it baked within minutes that brought us back to the restaurant again and again. 800 Degrees Pizza has since then expanded to many more locations, and during this LAX trip, we found out that one of these locations reside within the LAX TBIT. We realize that we may look a little pretentious using a fork and knife to eat a pizza in the above photo, but this is supposedly the traditional way to enjoy a pizza in Naples, Italy.
Recommended: Margherita Pizza with Sausage & Peppers $12.50
6th Stop - Umami Burger
While I was feeling mighty full by this point, I wasn’t going to stop myself from biting into a juicy burger from Umami Burger. Umami Burger’s founder, Adam Fleischman, most definitely brings burger standards to a whole new level. I had a chance to enjoy my favorite item from their menu, which is the Manly Burger. The Manly Burger comes with house beer-cheddar cheese, bacon lardons, smoked-salt onion strings, Umami ketchup and mustard spread. As kids nowadays would say, the Manly Burger is “on fleek.” (For full disclosure, I don’t know if I’m using that phrase correctly). If you have a big appetite, I do recommend ordering a side of their signature Truffle Fries. Oh, and don’t forget to wash it all down with a cup of cold beer.
Recommended: Manly Burger $14.95 | Truffle Fries $7.65
7th Stop – Petrossian
In addition to the luxury shopping options that you will find inside the TBIT – such as Coach, BVULGARI, Hugo Boss and Porsche Design – you will also be able to enjoy some of the finest fish and caviars at the Petrossian. We got to try their Smoked Salmon Quinoa Salad, Burrata & Roasted Tomato with Sparkling Wine, Smoked Trout Platter, and Blinis, which are miniature pancakes topped with cream fraiche and high quality caviar, pike roe, and salmon roe. Their dishes are somewhat on the pricier side, but you do get what you pay for. They also have a travel package to take onto your flight. Just try not get other travelers too jealous.
Recommended: Blinis $21
8th Stop - III Forks Prime Steakhouse
Looking for a nice place for a family meal or a business meeting at an Airport? Look no further than the III Forks Prime Steakhouse, a full-service restaurant located on the 2nd floor of TBIT. For the appetizer, we started with the Ahi Tuna (Tartare). The combination of sushi-quality ahi tuna steak, avocado and chips was absolutely scrumptious. For the main entrée, we got to try their USDA Prime Boneless Rib Eye and a glass of Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Because of airport security issue, the restaurant was only able to provide us with faux-metal/plastic knife. Still, we were able to slice into the steak without any problem, proving just how good the steak is.
Recommended: Ahi Tuna $17.95 | 16oz USDA Prime Boneless Rib Eye $54.50 | Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $40/glass or $180/bottle
Terminal 4 (Post-TSA)
9th Stop – Border Grills (AKA Food Truck Stop inside LAX)
Inside Terminal 4, we found an interesting dining concept that we thought a lot of travelers would enjoy. Located smack dab by the American Airlines boarding gates was a full-size food truck, where travelers could order food and drink as if they were standing on a sidewalk in the streets of LA. Katherine told us that they rotated in a different food truck every six months. On this particular day, we were greeted by the Mexican food truck, Border Grills, and had a chance to enjoy Mexican BLT, Sweet Potato Black Bean Taco, Yucatan Pork Taco and Skirt Steak Taco.
Recommended: Mexican BLT $9.50 | Sweet Potato Black Bean Taco $3.5
10th Stop – BLD
For our 10th and final stop to end our LAX food trip, we stopped by BLD (stands for breakfast, lunch and dinner). Here, we were able to enjoy a Fried Egg Sandwich, which consisted of bacon, gruyere cheese, aioli and runny eggs, all packed between toasted sourdough bread. As a food blogger, it was much satisfying to complete our day with a yolk porn-worthy photo.
Recommended: Fried Egg Sandwich $13 | Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes $12
Exploring the various restaurant options at the newly renovated LAX was an extremely rewarding experience. We got a chance to taste excellent food from many restaurants which we did not expect to find in an airport. The next time either of us decide to fly out of LAX, we’ll be sure to check out the different food options at TBIT.
Finally, we want to thank everyone who helped us explore LAX. Katherine Alvarado for tirelessly guided us around the different terminals and restaurants. Executive Chef of HMSHost, Rocco Pascale, for allowing us to sample menu items from the various restaurants that he manages. Amy Nguyen for joining us on this adventure and walking over 10,000 steps wearing heels. And last but not least, the photographer, Ariel Ip, for taking such amazing pictures for our blog readers.