MSP Airport: The best eats

Don't put our fare in the flyover category

ike's food and cocktails
The Mall, across from Checkpoint 1;
612.355.4642
Ike's on Summit, F Concourse, near Gate 7

The original Ike's brought a nostalgic vibe to downtown Minneapolis, and the two airport Ike's are similarly crammed full of Marilyn Monroe snapshots and other retro-bilia. Though the pub serves everything from blue plate specials to pink squirrels, it's best known for its burgers: hand-pattied Angus beef, carefully seasoned, and tucked onto a sweet, challah-like bun that's been griddled on the edges. (For the price, they'd better be good—add a few toppings and your burger could hit more than $15.)

Ike's has a few other notable perks: all-day breakfast options for those arriving from far-off time zones, turkey dinners for stranded travelers forced to miss their Thanksgiving meal, and complementary warm chocolate chip cookies for everyone.

The only drawback to Surdyk's Flights' delicious fruit and cheese platters: You'll need a boarding pass
Sara Rice
The only drawback to Surdyk's Flights' delicious fruit and cheese platters: You'll need a boarding pass

Also, compared to the other bars where people stare at their cell phone screens or jabber on Bluetooth headsets, Ike's fosters a bit more camaraderie. When I was there, my waitress agreed to let a customer treat her to dinner next time he came to town.

french meadow bakery & Cafe
The Mall, across from Checkpoint 1;
612.355.4695
French Meadow grab-and-go, F Concourse, near Gate 3

When the French Meadow Bakery opened back in 1985, it was one of the Twin Cities' original purveyors of organic fare. And even though the Lyndale Avenue café now serves lunch and dinner, at its heart it may always be a breakfast spot. French Meadow's two airport outposts turn out hot morning meals (made-to-order omelets and hemp toast!) and offer fresh, self-serve baked goods all day. Contrary to most of their stale, grab-and-go brethren, the lemon poppy seed muffins are springy and light, with a delicate crumb; the white chocolate macadamia nut cookies will stay chewy and moist until you've finally made it to Miami or Dubai.

The cafeteria side of the Meadow's mall location offers salads and soups—the broth-based chicken wild rice is a lighter alternative to the creamy original—along with the sunniest seats and best view of the tarmac. The dining area adds wine, beer, and light entrées—arepas, grilled tempeh, pastas, and more—including several vegetarian options. The French Meadow concept has been successful enough that it's recently expanded to John F. Kennedy airport in New York and Logan International in Boston.

o'gara's bar & grill
Concourse F, near Gate 12;
612.355.4694

This St. Paul blue-collar pub has hunkered down on the corner of Selby and Snelling since the early 1940s. The airport version has less character than the original, though, with fewer regulars and just a few beer signs to signify its Irish connection.

Beer drinking—Smithwicks's, Guinness, Black and Tans—is O'Gara's main attraction, but if you need some sustenance to pair with your pint, the house-cured corned beef is your best bet. The paper-thin meat is a little light on the seasoning but improved by a douse of Thousand Island dressing. The sandwich is also thankfully light on the salt for those who don't want to spend the whole flight rehydrating—and making multiple trips to the restroom.

surdyk's flights
The Mall, near Checkpoint 2;
612.727.2323

At Surdyk's Flights, waitresses don the pencil skirts, neck scarves, and jaunty pillbox caps that flight attendants wore back when travelers could pop a bottle of champagne in-flight, smoke a cigarette, or dance in the aisles. But the mod design and well-curated foodstuffs make the wine bar and retail shop feel decidedly contemporary. Along one wall, Flights has a narrow row of one-seat wooden booths with snappy striped upholstery. The walls are covered in white subway tile with televisions inset, though it's a shame not to sit on one of the barstools and watch food be prepared in the central kitchen. (There's also a large, patio-like seating area out in the mall.)

Surdyk's Flights is an offshoot of the three-generation family-run liquor shop on East Hennepin in Minneapolis, and it's managed by the fourth generation's Taylor Surdyk. In contrast to most other airport vendors, Surdyk's is supplying its own food and staffing, versus contracting with an on-site caterer.

The deli at Surdyk's NE trades in premium ingredients, and at Flights these first-rate foods double as decor: the kitchen counter is lined with bowls of olives, figs, strawberries, peppers, and cornichons next to a cherry-red meat slicer. Shelves are stacked with prettily packaged cans of San Marzano tomatoes, jars of McClures pickles, and bottles of blood orange vinegar.

A large wine display along one wall offers bottles that range from less than $10 to more than $200—at prices comparable to those at the Northeast shop. (Bottles may be carried onto the plane but can't be opened in-flight or anywhere on airport property.) Gifty foodstuffs include such local favorites as eco-minded Tiny Footprint coffee beans, and both Rogue and B.T. McElrath chocolates. The refrigerated grab-and-go items are a notch more upscale and interesting than typical airport offerings. Where else in the airport will you find Neuske liver pâté, chicken banh mi sandwiches, and Nicoise salads alongside bottles of sparkling sake and kombucha?

In addition to serving wine by the glass or in its titular flights, the bar has a lighthearted cocktail list, including the MSP Overshot and the Concealed Weapon, which, surprisingly, TSA hasn't made them take off the menu. For those who may never ride in an airplane's front cabin, the First Glass feels just as classy, with its bubbly blend of prosecco and elderflower liqueur that causes a hibiscus flower in the bottom of the glass to billow like sea anemone. (The flower tastes chewy and sweet, a little like a Fruit Roll-Up.)

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