A Squared: The Best of Travel Food

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Best of Travel Food

As you may have gathered, I travel pretty frequently. Sometimes it's for personal trips, other times for business, but one thing remains true no matter why you're traveling: It is really hard to eat well when you're on the road. And I'm not talking about just being in other cities-- because in those scenarios, it's hard to narrow down the food options-- but more about during the travel process. You know: In airports, on car rides, in random locations by yourself... it can be a challenge!

I'm not at all a fast food girl (except for that one time that we went to In-N-Out Burger at 1 AM in LA), so that really limits my options when traveling. I'm assuming most of you reading this are food lovers too, so you may feel the same! So again, I have done the hard work for you and have scoped out a few notable options for you to keep in mind the next time you're on the road!

Cat Cora
I discovered Cat Cora with my mom and sister when we had a few hours to kill on our way home from San Francisco. Celebrity chef Cat Cora has opened a few airport outposts of this restaurant in Houston, Salt Lake City, in addition to the aforementioned location at SFO. The menu is in keeping with Cat Cora's cooking values: upscale versions of classic comfort food, Greek and Mediterranean-inspired flavors, and an emphasis on locally sourced or organic ingredients. With a few hours to waste at the airport, sitting here and sipping on cocktails (because we were all wined out after a few days in Napa) and having a good meal was the perfect way to prepare for a long night on the red eye.

We shared a few things like the grilled artichokes served with a tangy aioli. The flavors were fresh and tasty, though we found it a bit challenging to eat.

And we also shared some of the perfectly crisp sweet potato fries-- a great snack to share (or enjoy on your own) no matter how much time you have to wait at the airport.

The menu at Cat Cora is mostly small plates, so it's great for sharing or for trying a few different things. I ordered the lobster mac and cheese (which got a lot of buzz online) and it was delicious-- rich and creamy cheese sauce, generous pieces of lobster, and a crunchy topping. The serving was pretty petite, which was nice since it was a pretty rich dish.

To go along with the mac and cheese, I also opted for something on the healthier side and ordered the beet salad. It was another small plate, but with the perfect amount of roasted golden and red beets, red onion, arugula, and a few goat cheese toasts to round it out. I felt satisfied and not sick, which is rare for an airport meal-- and ideal for boarding an overnight flight back home!
To sum it up: the food at Cat Cora isn't just good for airport food-- it's really good, in general. 

Blaze Pizza
Blaze Pizza is a chain that's been popping up all over the US (including one location about a mile away from my home in Chicago), but I was never so happy to find one as I was on a recent business trip to Indianapolis. As I mentioned before, I'm not a huge fast food fan. I'm also not a big fan of dining out alone (I've tried and it tough), so this leaves limited options for business travel dining. Add to that the fact that by the time I got checked into my hotel it was dusk, it was raining, and I had two Powerpoints to complete... mapping a Blaze Pizza and finding it was a 6-minute drive from my hotel was the best part of that entire evening!

If you're not familiar with Blaze Pizza, you will be soon. They have dozens of locations around the country with several more set to open in the coming months. Three have popped up in Chicago over the past year or so. Their appeal is simple: a huge selection of quality ingredients that you can select to customize your own pizza, which is created and then fired on demand. And it's ready to eat in 180 seconds, so it's a great option for good quality tasty food (and pizza, at that!) in a hurry. Think Chipotle for pizza.

I was really impressed with the variety of fresh ingredients available at Blaze Pizza. As a foodie looking for something relatively healthy, this was a nice surprise. I opted for a pie on Blaze's Signature Pizza menu: the Art Lover. This pizza is topped with artichokes, mozzarella, ricotta, chopped garlic, and red sauce dollops. I opted to further customize it (with the help of Blaze Carmel's adorable and friendly staff) with the addition of fresh spinach and some roasted red peppers too.

Each Blaze Pizza has a great crispy crust, is packaged up in ecofriendly packaging, and is the perfect size for one person with maybe a slice or two left over. And I got to have a fresh custom pizza to eat in my yoga pants in my hotel room-- exactly what I wanted that night!

Tortas Frontera
And then there's my old travel standby: Tortas Frontera. I have said it before and I will say it again: This is the only airport food that I actually look forward to eating. That's a big statement to make, but it is true. I will actually plan my meals on travel days around eating at Tortas. It's also one of the main reasons I would want to arrive at O'Hare with time to spare. The food is good and the lines are long... Guess the secret is out!

Tortas Frontera has a few locations in terminals throughout ORD as well as a (new to me) location in the Chicago Loop too.

I don't even know what to recommend here because I have tried several menu items and the food is always consistently delicious-- made fresh with locally produced and grown (some of them grown onsite) ingredients.

For lunch and dinner, Tortas is obviously known for its tortas-- Tasty toasted Mexican sandwiches. I'm also a huge fan of their tacqueria salad and the guacamole bar can't be missed-- top your guacamole with anything from bacon to peppers to crumbled cheese... Or all of it!

And breakfast is equally yummy there. There are a few delicious breakfast tortas available with toppings like scrambled eggs, melty cheese, crispy bacon, spicy peppers. And on the lighter side, a Greek yogurt bar with toppings like fresh granola, fruit compote, and honey.

If you're traveling through ORD, I can't recommend this option enough. Nothing else holds a candle to it-- and again, it's delicious. Not just delicious for airport dining.

A Squared


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