Where am I Again?

There’s been a lot of talk about the sagging quality of US airports recently. Tired hallways with crowded gates and food options not much better than kiosk-level have made many terminals ones to avoid. Among the most hated has been New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Long known for it’s dull spaces and lack of shopping, food or usable amenities, it was a place you’d hope to get in and out of quickly.

Not much has changed in the airports Central terminal. Packed newsstands, donut huts and awkward gate areas service some of the bigger airlines and a few discount carriers. But when flying Delta (and American Airlines Shuttle flights) you’ll likely end up in flight-friendlier terminals C and D. Here, you’ll find a more robust set of dining experiences, pre-flight shopping options and simple modern amenities like outlets for charging your phone.

Food Market at New York LaGuardia Airport.360° Photo: Shopping for specialty items inside the LaGuardia Airport Food Hall in Terminal C.

More Than you Came For.

OTG Management is the company behind the recent transformation at Delta’s LGA terminals and those of a number of other US airports (EWR, PHL and MSP to name a few). Here at LaGuardia, they’ve deployed more than 20 dining and shopping options across 2 terminals. The company’s collaboration with New York design firm ICRAVE has resulted in re-imagined spaces that help create “beautiful and free-flowing spaces”. The quote is straight from their press kit, but it’s hard to argue knowing what existed here before.

In market-inspired central areas like the one we found inside terminal C at LGA, you’ll find quick eats and a host of specialty products. OTG curates flight-worthy goods that might delight passengers in a way traditional newsstands and terminal stores may not. From m&m-like candies made from all natural ingredients to chips made from bug parts, there’s something fun to try each time you pass through.

LaGuardia Food options can be unique.

A sampling of unique goodies from the LaGuardia Grab and go food area. (from left) Purified Rain Water, BobbySues Nuts, Little Secrets chocolate m&m-like candies, Chirps Chips.

My Unreasonably Long Lunch Break.

On a recent slow day at my midtown NYC office, I was able to break away from to experience one of the new LaGuardia Airport food options with Eric Brinker, Vice President of Experience for OTG. While I had seen the improvements at terminals C + D in passing, this was one of the first times I’ve gotten to take a good look around.

Lunch was at Cotto, inside Terminal C. Nestled into a bright corner near gate 30, the Michael White curated menu offers a mix of unique and traditional Italian fare. I was in a fish kind of mood so Crispy Salmon felt about right after sampling a seasonal soup. I’d never claim to be a food critic but can say with some confidence that this was one of the classiest dishes I’ve eaten at LaGuardia (if not any NYC airport).

LaGuardia Airport Food takes a turn for the better at Cotto in terminal C.

Cotto, part of the Delta Experience at LGA offers a full and unique dining experience in terminal C. [Image: OTG]

Improving the dining experience in airport spaces is one of OTG’s more ambitious achievements. The company has teamed with several master chefs to help build the menus of their exclusive dining options. For a guy who only knows chef names by whatever is on The Food Network at any given moment, I was impressed that Andrew Zimmern is on the list for projects at both New York and Minneapolis airports. The Food Network host makes his home in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area but is from New York, so is a good fit for both. Other star-chef helpers at LGA are Maera founder Michael White and TV-famous chef Aaron Sanchez.

WiBar Wine Bar at LaGuardia Airport.

Before, during or after your LaGaurdia Airport Food adventure, stop at WiBar in Terminal D. [Image: Modhop]

Any Change is Good Here.

It’s hard not to be a fan of anything that improves the airport experience. OTG’s revamp has clearly made the terminals they’ve touched at LGA far less dull and more tolerable for pre-flight eats. You may have to readjust your tastes a bit though. While the company does work with some traditional vendors, most are unique creations. If you’re used to Burger King, you’ll just have to recalibrate your palate for “Custom Burger”.

ABC: Always. Be. Charged.

Most of these new spaces are tech-age friendly. iPads are placed throughout sit-down food areas and a number of other spaces (some at gates) for ordering food or specialty items. You can even play games while you wait to board. Need power? Outlets are easy to find for you to plug in your own gear.

Good LaGuardia Airport Food and way more.

While we wait for a more consistent experience across all terminals at LaGuardia, we like these enhancements. Upgrades to food and shopping inside Delta’s C + D terminals make this a happier place to wait for a flight. From fancy salmon dishes to un-boring grab and go items you’re likely to be happy with the selection of eats. If there’s one wish, it’s that more locally-famous names find their way to terminals. Count me as the first vote for a Katz’s Deli Reuben sandwich kiosk.

We look forward to looking deeper into more of OTG’s improvements here and at other airports. Evolved options inside concourses and terminals at Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP), Philadelphia (PHL), Newark (EWR) and a number of others are worth a fresh look. In the meantime, we’re leaning toward the Delta Terminals for flights out of LaGuardia.

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