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12 Best Airport Bars to Drink Away a Layover

by Hal Amen Dec 8, 2010

1. Laurelwood Public House and Brewery, PDX

Some of my favorite microbrews hail from Portland. I’ve never had the opportunity of ordering a pint of Laurelwood, but in such a competitive brewing environment, I have no doubts they know their stuff.

Their primary brewpub location is in northeast Portland (check out the current tap list), but for the purposes of this article we’re concerned with their twin outlets at PDX, Concourses A and E.

Says one reviewer on (cool resource, though perhaps not well-used enough to be super useful):

Phenomenal Northwest Microbrew’s as you wait for your flight. Couple of TV’s to watch, nice staff (it’s Portland of course), and a great location if you are flying Alaska or Horizon. Get to the airport early to allow yourself enough time to sample a couple of their beers.

Another notes that “… they don’t get all upset when you start pounding pints like a sailor..”

2. Deep Blue Sushi, JFK

People who pass through JFK often (I don’t) are probably familiar with the hype around Jet Blue’s Terminal 5. “Chic” is the word tossed around most frequently. However you want to describe it, it’s not your standard sterile concourse.

One of the coolest spots there is Deep Blue, as sushi bar wrapped in curves of blue neon. Obviously sushi’s on the menu, but they’ve also made a name for themselves with a line of “Asian-inspired” cocktails. highlights the “Ginfusion (gin, ginger, cilantro, lime juice)” and the “Shochu Berry Tea (shochu, green tea, cranberry juice, lemon juice).”

3. Le Grand Comptoir, IAH

An upscale wine bar in an airport is still bizarre enough to be hip, in my opinion.

Le Grand Comptoir has been around for about a year and a half and is still getting good reviews – maybe influenced a bit by comparisons with what else is available in Houston’s Terminal 3.

The décor is dark wood and black tile, they’ve got a climate-controlled wine cellar, and the wine list includes full bottles, half bottles, and by the glass. Food is also served (but perhaps you should stick to the wine).

4. Wasatch Brew Pub, SLC

Mormons or no, the greater Salt Lake region has a pretty bitching microbrew scene. One of its oldest players is Wasatch. Maybe you’ve heard of their Polygamy Porter — “Why have just one?”

Find Wasatch in Concourse D. Or, hop over to Concourse C and check their one-time rival and current business partner, Squatters Pub Brewery.

5. Woodford Reserve Bar & Grill, SDF

Beer, wine, cocktails…fuck it — if you really get hard up flying, you might want to sit back and suck on some oak-aged bourbon. If so, Woodford Reserve at Louisville, KY Regional is the place.

You’ll find it on the upper level of the main terminal, before security. Keep in mind that the food has gotten god-awful ratings on Yelp. The whiskey works better on an empty stomach anyway.

6. One Flew South, ATL

Sushi? In Atlanta? At the airport? Whack.

But again, the focus is on the booze, and One Flew South seems to take that part (okay, and the food too — menu looks sweet) very seriously. I mean, unlike most other places on this list, they’ve got a dedicated website.

Once more, from, the signatures include:

the refreshing Quetzalcoatl (Partida Blanco Tequila, lime juice, agave syrup, smoked sea salt, Cointreau) and the very drinkable Pisco Fix (pisco, lemon juice, pineapple syrup, egg whites)

7. Vino Volo, IAD

Yeah, this is a chain, with branches in 10 U.S. hubs and more on the way. But they were one of the first to pioneer the airport wine bar concept, and their mixture of style and approachability have earned them consistently positive feedback.

The Dulles location of Vino Volo was the first, opened 2005.

Like the others, it’s as much about retail as consumption, so it’s also good as an out-of-the-box option for last-minute airport souvenir shopping.

8. New Belgium Hub Bar & Grill, DEN

Some people swear by New Belgium. I’ve never been too wowed by their brews, but I enjoy the bike obsession. Here in Austin, they just put on Tour de Fat, their pro-bicycle (and of course pro-beer) annual festival.

And that theme carries over to the décor of the New Belgium Hub Bar & Grill at Denver International Airport (Concourse B), much of which is constructed from recycled bike parts.

9. Encounter, LAX

The first time I connected through LAX, I wondered what the hell that arched flying-saucer-ish structure in the middle of the terminals was. Turns out it’s the home of Encounter, a restaurant and bar with a pretty cheesy “UFO” thing going on.

People love it though. It actually serves Angelinos who aren’t flying — they come to the airport specifically for this place. The 360-degree view doesn’t hurt. Radioactive-colored cocktails are the specialty.

Bonus: Airport Brew Guide

I’ll be honest — beer is what does it for me, in the terminal or otherwise. Which is why I’ve already printed out and walletted this incredible airport beer guide (pdf).

On it, you’ll see which microbrews you can expect to find on tap at 21 major U.S. airports. Clutch.


10. Airbräu, MUC

Leave it to Munich to have what’s probably the sweetest bar on this list. The home of the Hofbräuhaus brings it with Airbräu, “the world’s first airport microbrewery.”

It’s located in the large open space between terminals and features an open-air beer garden that operates during the summer months.

No need to leave the airport to start the Oktoberfest festivities.

11. Frescobaldi Wine Bar, FCO

And then there’s Rome, with this upscale wine bar and restaurant. You can find it in three separate locations (Terminals 1, 2, and 3).

They’ve also got a non-airport branch at Harrods in London. That should say something about the level of class (and price) they’re going for.

12. Jet’s Bar, BZE

I had to include Jet’s in this list after reading an endearing review on

Highlights include the fact that it’s the only bar in the Belize City International Airport, the decked-out décor, and the full-on proprietor, Mr. Jet.

Apparently, he’ll arrange for your departure gate to call him when your flight starts to board, so you can fit as many drinks (i.e., rum punches) as possible into your layover.

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