For years, if your stomach was rumbling at the mall, an airport or a baseball stadium, the pickings tended to be slim, if not grim. Now that the foodie craze has gone fully mainstream, even these destinations are welcoming celebrity chefs and fancy dishes that transcend the old mall food court.
Not long ago, fast food and mediocre, overpriced snacks were once all that a customer could expect at these three kinds of venues. But not anymore.
Mall cuisine is starting to expand well beyond the realm of Cinnabon and TGI Friday’s. The Los Angeles Times recently traced the trend of malls “courting elite foodie favorites” and opening upscale eateries an easy stroll away from department stores and clothing boutiques. This fall, the newest location for the Fig & Olive, a fine-dining venue based in Manhattan, where the average diner’s tab easily tops $50, is at Fashion Island, a mall — a very nice one, but still a mall — in Newport Beach, Calif. The new restaurant will feature an executive chef trained at a three-star Michelin restaurant in France and “a menu of refined elegance with classic flavors and the highest quality of ingredients inspired by the Riviera and coastal regions of the Mediterranean.”
And what about the location? Fig & Olive founder Laurent Halasz says there’s no reason shopping centers need to be associated only with cheap fast food. “The stigma of opening in a mall is going away,” he told the L.A. Times. “There’s been a huge change.”
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Meanwhile, the Moorestown Mall, in southern New Jersey near Philadelphia, has plans in the works to welcome two restaurants owned by celebrity chefs: Iron Chef and James Beard winner Jose Garces (owner of Distrito in Philadelphia) and Marc Vetri, an award-winning chef who runs several highly respected restaurants in Philadelphia.
Celebrity chef Bobby Flay has also been opening new restaurants at malls and other suburban locations, but the menu is more what you’d expect for feeding the masses: the concept is called Bobby’s Burger Palace, and burgers and other sandwiches generally run $8 or less.
It makes sense that airports would try to push their dining options to become more upscale and interesting: travelers tend to be wealthy and game for trying new things. Last year, CNN rounded up a list of the world’s best airport restaurants that included Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food at London’s Heathrow Airport and venues opened at airport terminals in Geneva and Hong Kong by Michelin-award-winning chefs.
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Certain terminals within major airports have become magnets for foodie selections. For instance, Terminal 2 at San Francisco’s SFO airport launched a huge sustainable-food program in 2011 that includes a 5,000-sq.-ft. gourmet-food area and restaurants and cocktail bars tied to star chefs seen on the Food Network. A Bloomberg Businessweek restaurant reviewer recently went on a foodie tasting tour inside JFK’s Terminal 4 in New York City, which features not one but two Danny Meyer restaurant brands, Blue Smoke and Shake Shack.
Once strictly the domain of Cracker Jacks, hot dogs and flat beer, pro-baseball stadiums around the U.S. now routinely roll out fancier (and pricier) food and drink every spring. Take Denver’s Coors Field. Toward the start of the current season, the Denver Post reported that the ballpark could boast of nearly 100 food outlets inside the turnstiles, with menus that include stone-fired pizzas, empanadas smothered with green chili, and berry kabobs topped with white chocolate. There’s even an on-site brewery.
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For foodie options at ball games elsewhere in the country, check out Men’s Journal’s compilation of the best food at all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums, featuring $16 Dungeness-crab sandwiches in San Francisco, ReyGloria’s green corn and beef tamales in Phoenix, and more.