Farm-to-Airport Dining Arrives at Newark’s Terminal C
Open kitchens! Wood-burning grills! Hand-pulled pasta! Such culinary concepts are usually reserved for swanky new city restaurants; yet, they’ve been incorporated into the food service upgrades at United Airlines’ Terminal C at Newark Liberty International Airport. The $120 million OTG revamp of the food venues is a collaboration that includes well-regarded chef consultants, internationally-respected architects & design firms, such as David Rockwell and David Mexico Design Group; an internal OTG Technology team; and a staff that curates the artwork, soundtrack and some unique products.
About 350,000 ticketed travelers, daily, plus airport staff populate the mini-city within the terminal. Many notice that the usual long, restaurant-and-shop-lined corridors are interrupted by welcoming “Dining Oases,” which replace the moving walkways with bars--including Proof Whiskey Bar and CAPS Beer Garden - and casual restos - Wanderlust Burger Bar and Happy Clam (a Jersey Shore-style seafood shack), to name a quartet.
The physical layout also opens to a free-flowing configuration at the Global Bazaars, with their stand-alone restaurants, healthful, value-conscious buffet booths, ethnic foods and grab-and-go fruit and water stands. Retail products--including reading options, gifts and travel needs--are on display on adjacent shelves or underneath food counters. Plus, there are self-service payment options. Technology transforms each venue at 11 a.m. when every restaurant in the Global Bazaar changes its décor, backdrop, and menu from a breakfast destination to appetizing all-day eateries.
Currently, 3,000 iPads at power stations (with outlets and USB ports) are available at chairs, tables and counters at restaurants and welcoming gate lounges; they provide personalized Boarding Pass Scan, Flight Trackers, and games plus items for sale: travel gear, magazines, and food and beverages (even fine wines) from terminal restaurants. The iPads offer a choice of 20 languages with payment options in award miles or credit cards, with an automatic 20 percent discount for United Mileage Plus credit card users. A classically trained, uniformed waitstaff delivers the purchased items to seats, even at the gate lounges, and provides restaurant-style service. (When the final build-out is completed, there will be 6,000 iPads and 10,000 power stations.)
And, there’s a synchronicity among the various venues. One case in point is the hand-pulled pasta prepared in one central location and then distributed throughout the terminal, including as ramen for the noodle bar or rigatoni for Abruzzo, a sleek Italian-American restaurant newly-opened under the guidance of well-regarded chef Mario Carbone. Another is the desserts. Famed Manhattan chocolatier Jacques Torres was involved in the concept for Mélange Bakery Café and oversaw the development of the 24-hour production bakery, which provides confiserie and patisserie served at the café, its adjacent take-out counter, and other restaurants, including Saison where made-at-Mélange macarons are among the sweets served.
Healthy, organic, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options abound in markets, food stalls, and in specialty restaurants, such as Thyme - where Amanda Cohen, of New York’s Dirt Candy and pioneer of the “vegetable-forward” movement celebrates fresh and organic produce within a tiny, brick-walled eatery. Market-fresh is also the hallmark at Daily, which accounts for its name. At the first farm-to-airport eatery menu items change each day, according to availability at local farmer’s markets. One constant menu item is the 10-ounce short rib and brisket burger made on the wood-fired grill using beef from noted purveyor Pat LaFrieda.
Bars are also themed and unusually well-stocked. Among the world-class wines at Oeno Wine Bar - a wine-and-dine venue developed with chef Kevin Pemoulie, formerly of Jersey City’s now-closed Thirty Acres - there are 64 by-the-glass pours dispensed through custom-crafted pouring units from WineEmotion. At Tequila - a bar with 200, what else?, tequila choices - the curvilinear seating meanders, like a swim-up bar at a luxury resort.
Happily, the distressingly horrible fried fare, cardboard pizzas, and the fruitless (literally and figuratively, in this case) search to find healthy options at airports are gone for good. Now that OTG has showcased extensive, standard-raising improvements at Newark’s Terminal C, travelers can look forward to better culinarian experiences at other airport terminals. Which is perfectly timed for those inevitable holiday delays at the airports.
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