Not so long ago, airport food was judged by its speed of production. All the better to shift passengers quickly to their awaiting sky-chariots, we suspect. The coffee was thick enough for the spoon to stand in unaided and the fast food consisted of a sadly squashed bun and slender cut of meat. An enthusiast of the culinary arts could starve in this vacuum of good taste, shivering with hunger pains as a teenager walks past munching on his burger, fries, and soda pop. Fortunately, new levels of eating refinement are available at your preferred departure point. The plastic-wrapped airport sandwich is dead, hooray! Here are some luxury spots to find the best airport food, including restaurants that transcend the ordinary:

Heathrow, London, England

Gordon Ramsay Plane Food

England has worked long and hard to combat a poor reputation when it comes food quality (fish and chips for dinner again?!). It’s only in the last decade that the veil of poor restaurant marketing has fallen away and surprisingly, the airport offers some salvation. Heathrow’s Terminal 5 is shoring up the land of Robin Hood and Arthurian legend with culinary products that go far beyond bangers and mash and pub pies. Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food delivers a tasty à la carte menu and dining considerations that incorporate the tastes of all time zones. Worthy mentions also go to The Caviar Oyster Bar in Terminal 3 and Carluccio’s, again in Terminal 5.

Munich Airport, Germany

Photo attribution:Flickr/Creative Commons/calflier001/Via/

Photo attribution:Flickr/Creative Commons/calflier001/Via/

Auf wiedersehen, my love. But wait…before you leave, you simply must taste the cuisine in Munich Airport, which was Skytrak’s winner for Best Airport Dining in 2013. The luxury traveler is more than catered to by the famous Airbräu Brauhaus, a welcoming restaurant offering tired passengers delights such as Viennese schnitzel and breaded pork cutlet. And since Munich is the ambassador for Bavarian living, it won’t surprise you that there’s a renowned beer garden and brewery here. Watch out for those giant steins; their contents will go to your weary head, which might not be such a good thing if you’re on a stopover.

Barcelona-El Prat Airport, Spain

This part of Spain is the nexus of Spanish and Catalan cuisine and Barcelona’s airport is no different. Portagaig in Terminal 1, owned by chef Carles Gaig, blends gastronomic treats from both parts of the country. This is an airport restaurant that holds a Michelin star, meaning the place has the authority to sell tires. But seriously, no, the Michelin star is Europe’s award for highest achievement in gourmet cooking. Many chefs spend their careers voraciously trying to capture such a lofty status symbol. Minimalist in appearance but heavily accomplished in menu options, Portagaig sends slow-braised beef and Catalan crème brûlée to your table while you watch aircraft land and takeoff.

O’Hare International Airport, Chicago, USA

Photo attribution: Flickr/Creative Commons/Food Group/Via/

Photo attribution: Flickr/Creative Commons/Food Group/Via/

Windy City may be closer to Canada than Mexico, but don’t let that discourage you from making Tortas Frontera your last stop before takeoff at O’Hare. Located at Terminal 3, this is airport food that can never be accused of tasting like airport food. Sample a house margarita and the flavor of Mexico in the shape of Rick Baylees’ griddle-baked sandwiches accompanied by some yummy guacamole. Sure, your seatmate on the plane might complain about the smell of cheese wafting from your skin, but it will be well worth it to have a taste of Tortas Frontera.

Fast food restaurants are being ripped from airport plazas to be replaced by restaurants that show cities in their best light. Stop at a revamped airport terminal or concourse today for your appetizing and nutritional meal before leaping into the great blue sky.