I know this is going to be hard to believe, but eating at the airport now? It’s damn sexy, if you ask me.
It used to be that dining at the airport was something you did only because you were trapped - that was all that was available. And it was never any good. You ate the food because you were hungry, not beacuse it was delectable.
But you might just want to get to the airport early from now on. And not just because of the lineups at check in, but so you can discover all the amazing dining options thanks to world famous OTG and all of their restaurants.
OTG is the second largest privately held airport food and beverage operator in the US. With over 200 restaurant and retail locations in 10 airports across North America, to identify these restaurants, all you need to do is look for the iPads. Don’t worry - there are 2,500 of them here, so you can’t miss them.
But it can be a little confusing if it's your first time here in the last while. No longer do you see separate restaurants, but a long expanse of what looks like one airport lounge with open air, free-flowing restaurants in the middle. Ahh, that’s better…
These same iPads that you can browse through stunning photo-illustrated menus, available in 20 languages and order your meal, are available for you to use to browse the web or check your email or finish off that report that's due in the morning. You can charge your devices, all in a comfortable seat, with the option of ordering a drink, snacks or a full meal (servers are also on hand to take your order). Check your flight, play a game or shop. It’s all at your disposal. Finally, the customer is truly first.
Terminal 1 is home to six restaurants - Vinifera that serves over 85 wines and more than twenty beers selected by Master Sommelier John Szabo, Fetta Panini Bar developed by Chef Mark McEwan, Marathi from Hemant Bhagwani, Heirloom Bakery, CIBO Express, and Apropos cocktail bars) - and five in Terminal 3 (Chef Rocco Agostino brings rustic Italian via his trattoria Corso; Nobel Burger Bar, conceived by Chef Mark McEwan); Acer (where Canada’s own Guy Rubino serves up a sushi menu), as well as second outposts for Heirloom Bakery and Vinifera. You can eat at the restaurant or in the lounge seating areas, or take it to go, allowing you to eat in a variety of ways, all with modern conveniences at your side. Go ahead and indulge in your craving for a burger, Indian or pizza – OTG’s got it all.
There are smaller kiosks if you're looking for something prepackaged to take with you. Everything from fresh juices to violet pastilles from France, will help make your flight - or wait - more enjoyable.
Fresh ingredients (forget frozen pizza dough, these are made fresh daily) and seasonal menus mean you don't have to compromise a thing by eating at the airport now.
What is so impressive is that you can get fresh made from scratch food, with local products when available, and such a wide selection of dishes such as a Classic Margherita Pizza, Potato Gnocchi with Braised Beef Cheeks and Mushroom Ragu, or a decadent One Burger with hand-cut French Fries by Mark McEwan. You can truly eat according to your dietary specifications and/or preferences at any of the eight restaurants including organic, vegan, Kosher, Halal, all-natural, no-sugar, gluten-free, heart healthy and other options.
And prices are what you pay when you're grabbing lunch at the office or heading out for a bite to eat for dinner. But here you are getting fresh products made with high-quality ingredients.
Also, the food comes out fast - it has to if you're going to catch your flight. At Fetta, food is delivered to you within 15 minutes of you ordering.
But what is most awe-insporing is that one person is in charge of all it. Executive Chef Winlai Wong looks after all the ordering and processing of OTG Toronto locations in both Terminal 1 + 3. If that's not impressive enough, she opened 12 restaurants last year alone - under boss OTG Head Concept Chef, Michael Coury - and has to adhere to strict airport restrictions (forget about bringing a grapefruit in here or being able to order Ontario tomatoes).
I'll have a full piece on Chef Wong in March, but in the meantime, when you're traveling this season, look to the iPad for where to get a good meal. Whether you're in the mood for a Marinated Chicken Panini, Black Tiger Shrimp Vindaloo, or fresh sushi, OTG has got you covered.
Our world-class city finally gets world-class dining, thanks to OTG, and the term "airport restaurant" suddenly takes on a whole new meaning. Fine dining fare in a comfortable, airy setting with an iPad at your side? That's downright sexy.
Check out our Facebook page for photos from Terminal 1.