By Joe Brancatelli
December 22, 2010 -- Most business travelers despise "dwell time." And why shouldn't we? Dwell time is an industry euphemism that describes all of the hours we spend waiting at an airport because we cleared security too quickly or were trapped by a delayed flight.

But dwell at airports we do, and that means we must eat. The good news on that front is that airport operators are going out of their corporate way to improve their dining options. There are more notable places than ever before at the nation's major airports and hub cities—and more good places to eat right near the airports too.

On the way to improving the airport dining experience, however, airport pooh-bahs have learned some interesting lessons. Breakfast is a more popular sit-down meal for travelers (and especially families) than any restaurant consultant expected. Yet even with this knowledge, major airports are still short of good places to chow down comfortably in the morning hours.

And those big-deal, big-ticket, fine-dining joints that have sprouted up at terminals around the country? They are rushing to add faster, more casual menu items because travelers prefer simple foods to full-course feasts.

"We may have overestimated our ability to convince travelers to sit down to have a multi-course meal just an hour or so before a flight," an airport executive admits. "Finger foods like burgers, sandwiches, and wraps still outsell steaks and more complicated entrees. People want better food, not fancier food, and we may have confused the two."

One thing to keep in mind as you head out on your next trip: often the best dining options will be just outside an airport. Find yourself with a long layover? Break free of the terminal and take a cab. Or stop on your way to the airport and fortify before going through the travel routine.

With all that in mind, here's my updated 2010 list of the best dining options at and around the nation's big airport cities.

Sprawling Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is blessed with several outlets of Paschal's, a local bastion of traditional Southern cuisine. If you can handle the fusion, One Flew South merges southern flavors, sushi and other international fare. Located on Concourse E, it's probably the snappiest bar in the airport too. If you want to wander outside the airport bubble, two places in College Park, about four miles away, will do. The Brake Pad does cheap and comfortable pub grub in a stylishly converted gas station. There's an outdoor patio too. More elegant and with a more varied menu, The Feed Store used to be, well, a feed store. It's adjacent to the MARTA rail system's College Park station, just one stop (and about five minutes) from the airport.

At Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, there's a busy branch of Salt Lick, the beloved barbecue joint in Driftwood, Texas. Try the chopped brisket sandwich; it's sinful on a soft roll with Salt Lick's tangy sour-sweet sauce. Then wander over to Amy's Ice Creams, the Austin legend. It always has seven "standard" and a revolving list of as many as 300 specialty flavors. There's a blizzard of mix-ins and crush-ins too. Both are located in the West Concourse Food Court. Four miles from Bergstrom is the Catfish Parlour. Don't let the chaos in the dining room throw you. The catfish is terrific with the "parlour fixins" of hush puppies, pinto beans, vinegary cole slaw and jalapeño-spiked tartar sauce.

The Greene Turtle Sports Bar and Grille has more than two dozen locations in the Mid-Atlantic region and has an outlet in Concourse D of Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The chain's turtle wraps are famous, if not particularly healthy. For those interested in another Maryland specialty, head for Obrycki's between Gates B-9 and B-11. It's the scaled-down airport version of one of Baltimore's legendary crab houses. If you must have your crab off the airport, try G&M Restaurant in Linthicum Heights, about five Interstate miles from the airport gates. Focus on the justly famous crab cakes and ignore the rest of the menu.

What would a visit to Boston be without a stop at Legal Sea Foods, the omnipresent chain of high-quality fish houses. If you miss one in town, Logan Airport has two classic Legal outlets (Terminals B and C) and a specially configured restaurant called Legal Test Kitchen (Terminal A), which can serve up a meal in less than 30 minutes. Want to indulge in pizza, Boston's other obsession? Santarpio's is less than two miles away and remains the gold standard of Boston pies. But beware: Santarpio's isn't as consistent as it used to be and the waits can be off-putting for time-pressed business travelers.

Charlotte Douglas International is one of the most pleasant airports in the country. It even has a leafy and relaxing central Atrium. But food? Not so much. You'll probably do best at Brookwood Farms BBQ in the Central Atrium; it's a branch of the big commercial processor about 100 miles away in Siler City. The Carolina Beer Company near Gate D7 is the best place to imbibe. It dispenses a seasonal rotation of local brews under the Carolina Blonde and Cottonwood Ale brands. Less than eight miles from the airport, however, the South Boulevard branch of the slick Villa Antonio has a fanatic following for both lunch and dinner. It makes a great pork sandwich—even if it is Italian style (the loin meat is topped with mozzarella, sautéed mushrooms, onions, and citrus aioli) in the middle of barbecue country.

The big news at O'Hare Airport is the imminent arrival of Rick Bayless, Chicagoland's Mexican food master. He's due to open a pair of airport outlets. In the meantime, I'm fine with Burrito Beach, an admired local Mexican chain with a kiosk in the food court between Concourses H and K in Terminal 3. The Beach's black-bean-and-red-rice burrito appeals to my inner vegetarian. The Berghoff is a magic name in Chicagoland and some vestiges of the German-Austrian landmark have reopened on West Adams Street. But the branch at Terminal One in is probably best for a beer and to say you've been. For long layovers and a sit-down meal, walk into the past by passing through the tunnel that connects Terminal 2 to the O'Hare Hilton hotel. There you'll find the last Gaslight Club, which was Hugh Hefner's model for the Playboy Club. No longer members-only, the Gaslight nevertheless retains its otherworldly Victorian/speakeasy vibe and its scantily clad servers from distant lands. Drinks are good and the menu is serviceable. If you want out of the airport and crave a stuffed-crust pizza, the Rosemont branch of Giordano's is about four miles away. Or you could opt for Chicago's traditional deep-dish style at the Park Ridge branch of Lou Malnati's seven miles away.

If you use Midway, Chicago's smaller, in-town airport, grab a frankfurter, bratwurst or polish sausage at Gold Coast Dogs, a Chicago institution. (There are also several branches at O'Hare Airport.) And how could you not at least hoist one at Harry Caray's, a bar that claims to be a steakhouse. Both are in the so-called Midway Triangle. In Terminal A, there's a less-than-stellar branch of Manny's Deli, a treasured Chicago dispenser of potato pancakes and corned beef. You might do better with a drink at the attached Halsted Street Tap. If you can get out of the airport, the nearest Giordano's pizza is on South Cicero, one of the streets bordering the airport. The nearest Lou Malnati's, on West Ogden, is about five miles out.

I'm not certain I understand Cincinnati's love affair with chili, especially since the regional variations usually omit chilies and chili powder and end up as an accompaniment for spaghetti, shredded cheese, hot dogs or fries. But you can find an outpost of Gold Star, one of the city's ubiquitous chili chains, at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport. It's in the Concourse B food mall in Terminal 3. If you need more substantial fare, a branch of the Montgomery Inn is seven Interstate miles away. The specialty there is pork loin ribs and a savory barbecue sauce that is also slathered on the house pork chops, chicken and duck.

Cleveland Hopkins Airport seems to be in a constant state of flux, but the most recent renovation has brought a branch of Obrycki's, the Maryland crab cake legend. It opened in May in Terminal D and the crab cakes, crab soup and the hot crab dip are what to eat. If you're looking for local, though, look in Parma Heights, about four miles from Hopkins. That's where the Whip Coffee Shop (known locally as "The Whip") has been the go-to joint for 70 years. Breakfasts are best, but don't pass on the stuffed cabbage if it's on the specials menu. Locals like the City Chicken, which most of us recognize as a kebab. (The Whip is at 6406 Pearl Road in Parma Heights; 440-885-9849.)

Dallas/Fort Worth
Irish pub may not be what leaps to mind when you're thinking food and drink at Dallas/Fort Worth International. But even blasé business travelers rave about Tigin in Terminal D. The All-Day Irish breakfast is surprisingly authentic and complete. Bangers and mash also work nicely with a draft pint of Harp, Smithwick's or Guinness. If Dallas means BBQ to you, try the Texas-style 'cue at Cousin's in either Terminal B or D. And blasphemous as it sounds in Texas, I love the pulled pork at Dickey's Barbecue Pit, which has branches in Terminals A, C and E. Since I once clocked the drive from the car-rental lot to the outer gate of DFW at nine miles, it might not be wise to venture off the airport any further than the lavish Grand Hyatt DFW, which is connected to Terminal D. It has a snappy bar (M Lounge), a surprisingly good all-day restaurant (Grand Met) and iTaste, which offers 30-minute tasting courses of wine, cheese or chocolate.

At Denver International Airport there are Lefty's bars and restaurants in various configurations in all three passenger concourses. If you pass a Lefty's that is selling the portobello mushroom sandwich, grab one. For a hopping good time, hit the New Belgium Hub on Concourse B. It's the airport branch of Colorado's justifiably famous New Belgium Brewing Company. Fat Tire Amber Ale is the signature pint, but there's always something new and interesting on tap. Denver Airport is so isolated that nearby dining options are extremely limited. The best of the bunch is the Blue Bay Asian Café, about seven miles away. Nothing on the pan-Asian menu is superlative, but the dumpling and Thai dishes are quite good. The prices are low and the portions are large.

Detroit is down, but Detroit/Metro Airport still hums because it is a key hub for Delta Air Lines. And Detroit travelers have the nation's best assortment of healthy on-the-fly fare. Try the well-executed Middle Eastern dishes at the Mediterranean Grill near Gate A54 in the McNamara Terminal. There's also a satisfying sushi bar and Japanese kitchen at Sora near A35. On the less healthy side, you'll find National Coney Island kiosks throughout the McNamara and North terminals. I grew up near the real Coney Island, so National Coney's dogs are foreign to me. The pile-toppings-on-a-steamed-frank style is properly called a "Michigan dog." Want out of the airport? Dema is a sleek dining room and cocktail lounge inside the Westin hotel adjacent to the McNamara complex. It has excellent omelets at breakfast; wood-fired appetizers and pizzas for dinner; good burgers (vegetable, beef, or turkey); and an impressive roster of wines by the glass.

Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood
What happens when a food-obsessed kid from Brooklyn gets a taste of la vida loca? If he's Allen Susser, he goes to Aventura, Florida and creates Chef Allen's, a heady mixture of Latin flavors, fresh Florida ingredients and New York sensibilities that he calls New World Cuisine. Several outlets of Chef Allen's 2 Go recently opened at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International. The kiosks offer Susser's unique twist on salads, sandwiches and sauces—and everything is packaged to fly away. If you want an off-airport alternative, talk to Anthony Bruno. His original place, Anthony's Runway 84, has been turning out gutsy Southern Italian dishes since the mid-1980s. Just a meatball's throw away is a branch of his Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza chain. The thin, crispy pies are the thing, of course, but many flyers swear by the coal-oven roasted chicken wings served with caramelized onions. Both of the restaurants are a few minutes from the terminals on Federal Highway/U.S. 1.

Branches of the Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen gladden the hearts of fish fans in seven states. The biggest and best locations seem to be in Texas and that includes the outpost in Terminal E of Bush Intercontinental Airport. Fresh oysters at an airport—what a concept! Meanwhile, a lot of flyers think that Chez Nous, seven fast-driving miles from Intercontinental, is the best restaurant near an airport anywhere in the world. But this is a lot of restaurant for a between-flights jaunt, so you're better to build in a dinner stop before a departure.

Dining options at Honolulu International Airport are poor. Try Gordon Biersch, the national brewpub chain with an outlet near Gate 28. My frequent-flying wife, who was raised in Hawaii, says the teriyaki chicken, served with rice and grilled asparagus, makes a decent pre-flight meal. But the better beer is at the Kona Brewing Company in the Central Lobby. All five of the microbrewer's ales and beers are worthy. But skip the atrocious food. In the interisland terminal, which caters to flyers headed to or from the Neighbor Islands, Stinger Ray's is the default choice. Prices are astronomical, but the Kalua pulled pork sandwich is a tangy take on the BBQ classic. Less than a mile from the runways, however, is Mitch's Fish Market & Sushi Bar, a haven for seafood-obsessed Hawaiians. Try the toro (the costly, ultra-rich belly of the tuna) or the pricey, but genuine, abalone. Always call ahead because the place is a shoebox. A few miles further away is Sam Choy's, a rambling old warehouse of a place with an on-site brewery, bountiful breakfasts, and serviceable lunch and dinners.

Los Angeles
The still-futuristic-looking "Theme Building" at Los Angeles International has a new restaurant. But Encounter is too future-according-to-the-original-Star-Trek for me. I always seem to end up at the Wolfgang Puck Express stands inside Terminals 2 and 7. I'm still a sucker for the Chinois chicken salad. And if you're a fan of Pink's, you'll certainly want to know that a branch of the Hollywood hot-dog legend has opened in the Bradley International Terminal. (A note to LAX flyers: about a dozen new restaurants are due to open next year as part of a major overhaul of the airport's food service.) Meanwhile, I know business travelers who schedule a special stop at the In-n-Out Burger just a mile from LAX. Like all outposts of this cult chain, the Sepulveda Boulevard branch has no freezers, heat lamps or microwaves and only sells fresh burgers and fries and shakes made with ice cream. But I'm partial to Mariposas at the Hacienda Hotel, about two miles from the airport. Mariposas is a 24-hour diner, and a dive diner at that. But it offers a killer breakfast, several terrific Mexican dishes, and a nice California club sandwich.

It shouldn't surprise you that Memphis International has several excellent barbecue spots, each with passionate supporters. Fans of Interstate Barbecue (in the Terminal B Rotunda and at Gate B-14) claim it serves "the world's best chopped beef sandwich" and a "travel pack that will make you a hero at home." Others favor Corky's Ribs and BBQ, which they tout as "Memphis' finest." Branches of Corky's are located in Terminal A near Gate A23 and Terminal C near Gate 3.

Miami International is big and sprawling and, it seems, constantly under construction. But you are safe at La Carreta in the North Terminal near Gate D37. This 24-hour branch of the Miami mini-chain makes a great Cuban sandwich. About four miles from the airport on Coral Gables' restaurant row, you'll find Francesco, a Peruvian place that offers little in the way of décor but plenty of flavor in the ceviches and tiraditos. Surprisingly good pastas too.

Minneapolis/St. Paul
Minneapolis never seems to lose its reputation as a friendly town and Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport has a similar vibe. The best dining is Ike's Food and Cocktails on The Mall. It's also the airport's most relaxed cocktail lounge. A more pub-like experience can be found at Ike's on Summit on Concourse F. Both places are offshoots of Ike's, a downtown Minneapolis icon. Eight miles from the airport, an unsustainable haute cuisine palace called Levain has morphed into a charming, friendly French bistro called Café Levain. Dinner only, however.

At Nashville International, the best dining options involve dueling barbecue joints or a "meat and three" meal. If you're into the 'cue, there's a branch of the local Whitt's chain near Gate 6 on Concourse C. Whitt's delights visitors because it offers a choice of pork, beef, turkey or ribs prepped and served in the traditional style. Neely's is more modern, with more avant garde menu items, and the cachet that comes when your owners (Pat and Gina Neely) host a show on the Food Network. Neely's has locations on Concourses C (near Gate 14) and B (near Gate 2). If you don't do 'cue, however, try Swett's, a Nashville institution for more than 50 years. It specializes in Southern soul food served cafeteria style. You choose your protein and add three sides from a menu that always includes okra, turnip greens, yams and other choices. Swett's devotees swear by the pies and cobblers too. The airport branch is also near Gate 6 on Concourse C.

New York/Kennedy
The multiterminal Kennedy Airport is still tricky to navigate unless you've mastered the train system and get the timing right. In Delta Air Lines' Terminal 2, Todd English operates a bar and a steakhouse, both called Bonfire. In Terminal 4, you'll find the first airport branch of the Palm steakhouse chain, which started in midtown Manhattan. JetBlue Airways' much-discussed Terminal 5 food project is impressive for its diversity, less impressive for quality. But Deep Blue Sushi is good. And travelers rave about the branch of the Vino Volo wine bar at American Airlines' Terminal 8. Only a traffic sadist risks an off-airport run. If you're one of those, try Lucky Boy, a beloved local Greek dive in nearby Lawrence, New York. It has great food, surprising desserts and dirt-cheap prices. And my friend Mister Meatball and many other smart travelers insist that Don Peppe, a nearly mythic Italian place, is more than worth any extra traffic. The can't-miss dish? Linguine with white clam sauce. "You will cry" with joy, says Mr. Meatball, who grew up around JFK. Cash only, by the way. (Don Peppe is at 13558 Lefferts Boulevard in Jamaica; 718-845-7587.)

New York/LaGuardia
LaGuardia Airport is just like New York: fast, crowded, annoying and sometimes hard to swallow. But the omnipresent Todd English has branches of his Boston-based Figs at the Central Food Court and between Gates D4 and D5. (A note to New York flyers: A massive upmarket upgrading of dining options at Delta's terminal at LGA is due for completion next year.) If you dare to dine and dash, which is not a good idea, try Trattoria L'incontro. It's a sweet little mother-and-son restaurant in Astoria, about ten minutes away by cab. Good pizza and several interesting dishes from the Abruzzo region.

New York/Newark
Joe Baum, who created the Four Seasons and Windows on the World restaurants, got his start in the 1950s with the Newarker, an airport restaurant so good that people used to go to the airport just to eat. Newark Liberty Airport has nothing like that today, of course. Still, I'll happily settle for a garlicky hot dog and chunky fries from the Nathan's Famous kiosk in Continental Airlines' Terminal C1 Food Court. And you'll find a surprisingly satisfying branch of Gallagher's Steakhouse at the entrance of the C3 Concourse. About 10 minutes from Newark International is Casa Vasca, which deftly melds Basque, Spanish, and Portuguese cuisines. Locals prefer munching in the bar; it offers daily specials off a blackboard.

If you're using Oakland International, the Bay Area's secondary airport, your best dining and drinking option is Vino Volo, the airport-based chain of wine bars. It's in Terminal 2 near Gate 25. Also in Terminal 2 is an outpost of Andalé Mexican, a Bay Area staple. And if you want a hoot, take your sense of humor one block from the airport's front gates to Dewey Bargiacchi's Francesco's. The 40-year-old joint is an odd agglomeration of old-school diner, family-style Italian-American restaurant, and brown-liquor meet-and-greet hangout. The food is simple, portions are gigantic, prices are low—and there are black-and-white photos of the old days at Oakland Airport on the wall.

It's been hard going at Pittsburgh International in the years since US Airways downsized and finally de-hubbed the airport. The once-bustling Airmall, the blueprint for many future airport shop-and-dine operations, is a shadow of its former self. The best of what's left is Currito, the regional burrito chain that specializes in stuffing all sorts of Mediterranean and Asian concoctions inside a tortilla. It's in the Center Core of the Airmall. If you prefer a sit-down option, walk to the slick Olive Press inside the adjacent Hyatt Regency hotel. The décor is modern and the cuisine modern Italian. Prices are on the high side, at least by Pittsburgh standards. If you need to escape the airport, the best option is Ya Fei, about six miles away in the Robinson Town Centre. The Asian "fusion" place offers surprisingly good sushi and quite good renditions of classic Chinese dishes. There's a nice wine list too. But you may not find the forest of shopping malls in the neighborhood any more charming than the airport itself.

When you're waiting at Philadelphia International, have a drink at Cibo's, a cozy bistro with outlets in Terminals A-West and B. There are three dozen wines available by the glass. But hold your appetite for another local favorite: Chickie's and Pete's, the local seafood chain-cum-sports bars that has opened branches in Terminals A-West, C and E. Or join the other fish freaks who rejoiced at this spring's opening of the PHL branch of Legal Sea Foods. The 75-seat restaurant is located in the Terminal B/C Connector. For off-the-airport excitement, try Bomb Bomb BBQ Grill and Italian Restaurant, a place that could only exist in South Philly. The very traditional Southern Italian menu (tomato sauce is called gravy here) somehow co-exists with a roster of award-winning baby-back ribs and chicken dishes. It's eight miles from Philadelphia International. A few blocks away, nestled under Interstate 95, is Tony Luke's, a power name in Philly sandwiches. The cheesesteak is a classic, of course, but many locals prefer Luke's Italian roast pork sandwiches, one of which is topped with rapini (broccoli rabe) and melted provolone.

At Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport, I can never resist the fresh, tasty, and inventive burritos from Blue Burrito Grille. The small Arizona chain has outlets in Terminals 3 and 4. (There are Blue Burritos at the Las Vegas and Salt Lake City airports too.) Paradise Bakery and Café, a respected, mostly Western chain, has locations in Terminals 2, 3 and 4. Off the airport, the good news is that the great Pizzeria Bianco is less than five miles away. But before you dream of a between-flights feast of the iconic Rosa pizza (red onion, parmigiano reggiano, rosemary and pistachios), consider the bad news: The dinner-only place takes no reservations for small groups and the lines are insanely long. Worst of all, owner Chris Bianco has stepped away from his oven. A more practical alternative for time-pressed business travelers is Comedor Guadalajara, a beloved family-owned Mexican restaurant that's just a few minutes drive from Sky Harbor. It's authentic, reasonably priced and open for lunch and dinner.

Portland, Oregon
A chain of upscale restaurants in the Pacific Northwest, Stanford's, has opened a branch in Portland International Airport's Oregon Market. It's quite comfortable, but the familiar food isn't memorable. Food's not the thing at these places, either, but you'll find innovative microbrews at the Rogue Ales Public House and the Laurelwood Brewing Company. The Rogue is on Concourse D near Gate 7. The Laurelwood outlets are on Concourse A near Gate 5 and Concourse E between Gates 2 and 3. And just 10 minutes from the airport, you'll find the Glendoveer location of the RingSide, an elegant, family-owned steakhouse that offers prime cuts, quality seafood and killer onion rings.

The 42nd Street Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill has been Raleigh's go-to joint for fish for almost 80 years. You can get oysters baked four ways, fried in two styles, steamed, in a stew, and even in the Caesar Salad. Or shucked to order, of course. Now there's a look-alike branch (all black-and-white tile and neon signs) at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in Terminal 2 near Gate C-1. If you prefer to dine off the airport, head to nearby Morrisville, which is nestled between the end of runways and Interstate 40. There you'll find the Capital City Chophouse. It treads familiar ground: brawny steaks and chops, big salads and a muscular wine list served in a polished, clubby dining room. What makes it notable is the high quality of everything on the menu.

Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City International is consistently one of the nation's most-timely airports, so don't bank on lavish between-flights repasts. Grab a fresh, juicy burrito at the Blue Burrito Grille (Terminal One, Concourse B) or a terrific beer at the airport branch of Park City's Wasatch Brew Pub (Terminal Two, Concourse D). If you insist on an off-airport meal, the Red Iguana serves up Southwestern cuisine as well as excellent regional Mexican specialties. It's one of Utah's best and best-known restaurants and it's only six miles away.

San Diego
With all of the construction at San Diego International, you'll probably need the buzz from one of the nicely crafted microbrews at the Karl Strauss Brewing Company. It has locations in both Terminal 1 and 2. If that won't do, try Hexagone, a charming Modern French dining room just two miles from the runway.

San Francisco
No airport has as many food partisans as San Francisco International. Some swear by the chowders and fish at the airport branch of Yankee Pier, located in Terminal 3 near Gate 72. The airport branch of Ebisu, a much-loved local mini-chain of sushi bars, is located in the International Terminal. And Andalé Mexican is as omnipresent at SFO (with locations in Terminals 1 and 3 and the International Terminal) as it is in the Bay Area itself. Looking for sustenance off the airport? You'll find a branch of the legendary In-N-Out burger chain just two miles away in Millbrae.

The unquestioned dining star of Seattle-Tacoma Airport is Dish D'Lish, the takeout food concept of Seattle superstar chef Kathy Casey. The menu is varied, tasty, and fresh. Every airport should be so lucky. There are branches in the Central Terminal and the Main Ticketing areas. Also in the Central Terminal is Anthony's, a branch of Washington's much-loved seafood chain. I find the food at the airport location uninspired and the large space institutional. Others disagree, however. Want to escape the terminals? Go no further than International Boulevard, the busy thoroughfare at the airport's front entrance. 13 Coins on International operates 24/7. The downtown original is a Seattle legend and the SeaTac branch follows the formula: a 1950s diner meets late-night Rat Pack hangout with copious drinks and a bewilderingly large menu. Breakfast items (served anytime) are best. A few steps away is Sharp's, a burly "roasthouse" with two dozen beers (mostly local microbrews) on tap and an endless array of roasted proteins on the menu.

St. Louis
It's been rough going for Lambert International since American Airlines purchased St. Louis-based TWA in 2000 and "de-hubbed" the airport a few years ago. A renovation has spruced the place up, but dining options remain limited. Your best choices are the Wolfgang Puck Express near Gate C8 or Brioche Doree, the French salad, sandwich and pastry chain with outposts near Gate A4 and the upper level of Terminal 1. The good news? Across Interstate 70 from the airport is Lombardo's, a comfortable dining room from one of the city's best-known restaurant families. (Yes, they have meat-filled "toasted" ravioli, the St. Louis specialty that is actually deep fried.) About a mile further away is Las Palmas, the flagship of a small chain of local Mexican joints. There is familiar Tex-Mex fare and a few dishes from Veracruz too. (Las Palmas is at 4030 Woodson Road; 314-427-7177.)

Tampa International Airport is always at or near the top of airports that business travelers admire. The place just seems sane and flows logically. But the on-airport dining options are less admired. So many jaded flyers still head over to The View at CK's, the revolving restaurant atop the airport's Marriott Hotel. The 360-degree views of Tampa Bay are breathtaking. The food is, um, what you'd expect from a revolving rooftop joint. Keep it simple. If you want great food with your great view, however, then it's the bayfront Oystercatchers in the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay hotel. Superlative seafood and polished service will make you forget that you're in a hotel just off the outer perimeter of an airport.

Washington/Reagan National
Travelers who believe the only true road foods are burgers, fries and hot dogs find their holy grail at National Airport at Five Guys. The burgers are hand-formed and the meat is never frozen. Its hot dogs are 100 percent kosher and the fries are cooked in peanut oil. The fast-growing, family-owned chain got its start in Northern Virginia, so it's no surprise there's a branch on the airport's North Pier. And Ranch 1 still grills a formidable chicken sandwich at its stand at North Terminal C. If you want to eat before you fly, find the unprepossessing Kebab Palace, about a mile from the airport. There are terrific kebabs and curries at dirt-cheap prices and the place never seems to close.

Washington/Dulles Airport
Five Guys has also set up shop in Concourse A (near Gate A3) and Concourse B (near Gate 71) of Dulles International. If you want more refined fare, a branch of Vino Volo, the wine bar, is located on Concourse C near Gate C3. Just 6.5 miles from Dulles is Thai Luang, a comfortable, family-owned place. The familiar curries, stir fries and noodle are reliable and authentically flavored. The Crispy Duck is a local favorite.
ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.

THE FINE PRINT This column is Copyright © 2010 American City Business Journals. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2010 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.