Attention: the future of airport food is here. And the best part is, it's exactly like food in the real world, down to the prices and all.
I discovered it on a casual travel day a few weeks after the Long Beach Airport's new $45 million concourse began hosting passengers in early December. Hearing about its sleek modern design, fire-pit patios and half-dozen local concessionaires, I purposely arrived early enough for my afternoon flight to experience the amenities and grab an unconventional Long Beach lunch.
The new concourse's two terminal wings are filled with food options familiar to any area resident. Coffee is from Polly's, a roaster on Second Street. in Belmont Shore. Wine is provided by 4th St. Vine; burgers are from McKenna's on the Fly, an on-the-go version of local mainstay McKenna's on the Bay. And there is an entire contemporary-looking food court (complete with digital menu boards) called the Long Beach Marché serving up fresh-made sushi as well as grub from Taco Beach, George's Greek Cafe and Sweet Jill's Bakery.
I settled in at the "iPad bar," an island adjacent to the Marché stocked with mounted iPads programmed to only display a custom app that allows travelers to order food and have it delivered to them while they wait with their bags. Overwhelmed by the multitude of meal options and half-expecting this whole forward-thinking new concourse to be too good to be true, I ordered through the iPad the two things least often seen on airport menus -- lamb chops and a Rainbow Roll.
Both dishes were presented to me unlike any other airport food I've ever seen. The sushi roll (made fresh by the airport's in-house sushi chef who stands at her own Marché station) came on a ceramic plate sprinkled with sesame seeds and lined with hand-designed wasabi leaves while the lamb chops (made according to George's Greek Cafe's fabulous recipe) were placed juicy and tender into a biodegradable to-go container alongside some lemon wedges for tangy additions.
Luckily, the food was as good as it looked. The roll--crafted fresh, filled with sticky white rice and topped with sushi grade salmon and tuna--was, for the money, the best sushi I've had in the city. And the lamb chops, though smaller than I remembered them being at either of George's Long Beach locations (to be fair, it could have been the ungainly size of the box it came in), were expertly cooked. Yes, I'm still talking about airport food!
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For less than the price I would have paid at George's Greek Cafe or Octopus on Pine Avenue, I received an eclectic restaurant quality lunch on the usually interminable side of TSA security. By maintaining the quick-and-dirty cafeteria style setup of most on-the-go dining experiences and combining it with the from-scratch ethos of the local owners whose food is included, LGB's Marché is a successful experiment in changing perceptions of not only what airport food can be, but how you receive it as well.
The upscale-without-being-pretentious atmosphere that permeates the new concourse alone is enough to make me want to fly out of my local airstrip more often--you know, besides the fact it's already the best airport in Southern California. The lure of Sweet Jill's hand-made cinnamon rolls and buttered Rossmore Bakery burger buns will only ensure I come early and eat often.
The Marché is located inside the new concourse at the Long Beach Airport, 4235 Douglas Drive, Long Beach, (562) 496-2752