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Where To Eat At George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

The best dining options before (or after) your flight

The holiday travel season is right around the corner, which means that it’s time for a fresh update of Eater Houston’s guide to George Bush Intercontinental Airport. This massive airport sees more than 40 million travelers each and every year, all of which are hungry for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack before or after their flights. Fortunately, IAH offers a bevy of excellent dining options, ranging from quick-service spots for a sandwich to full-scale eateries with plenty of booze.

Over the past year or so, the airport’s dining scene has seen a major revamp, and it’s now home to restaurants from some of the city’s best chefs, including James Beard Award winners Chris Shepherd and Hugo Ortega. IAH’s newest restaurants can be found in the recently revamped Terminal C North, but there’s plenty to eat no matter where you’re departing (or arriving) from. Whether in search of a spot to unwind with a glass of wine during a flight delay or fancy, upscale fare, consult this terminal-by-terminal guide to George Bush Intercontinental Airport’s best dining options.

Ember in Terminal C North
Ellie Sharp/EHOU

Chicken & Waffles at The Breakfast Klub
The Breakfast Klub/Facebook

Terminal A

Best bet for a morning meal: The Breakfast Klub
A favorite of Beyonce and pretty much every Houstonian, The Breakfast Klub is an essential choice for breakfast in Houston. Fried chicken, served by itself or with waffles and grits is always a good choice, as are the breakfast sandwiches and omelettes packed with fillings of your choice. [gate A1]

Best bet for booze and comfort food: Hubcap Grill & Beer Yard
There’s no better way to prepare for a flight than downing a big greasy burger and plenty of beer, and this Houston favorite is the perfect spot to do just that. Park your luggage and enjoy bacon-topped patties served on locally-baked buns and killer hand-cut fries. [gate A26]

The rest:

  • Blaze Pizza — [gate A7]
  • Cadillac Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar — [gate A17]
  • Chick-Fil-A — [gate A17]
  • Flights Lounge & Grill — The airport hotel’s “signature” restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. [pre-security, Houston Airport Marriott]
  • Jack In The Box — [gate A7]
  • Liquid Provisions — Cocktail, beer and wine bar with gastropub fare like charcuterie and mac & cheese. [gate A17]
  • Mockingbird Distillery & Smokehouse — An expansion of the Austin, Texas distillery where Tito’s vodka is made, plus barbecue. [gate A15]
  • Panda Express — [gate A17]
  • Starbucks — [Terminal A check-in, gate A7, and gate A17]
  • Subway— [Terminal A check-in]
  • The Breakfast Klub Express — Grab and go breakfast options served all day long. [gate A17]
  • Wendy’s — [gate A17]
  • Which Wich — [gate A7]
Fruteria at Terminal B

Terminal B

Best bet for filling up on seafood: 3rd Bar Eating House
An offshoot of Houston chef Bryan Caswell’s popular seafood spot Reef, 3rd Bar Eating House is an excellent option for fresh Gulf oysters, fried shrimp po’ boys, and Tex-Mex inspired seafood dishes. If you’re not feeling fish, order a trio of sliders with different proteins or a crisp Cobb salad. [gate B1]

Best bet for quick, casual Tex-Mex: El Real
Also a Bryan Caswell restaurant, El Real offers hearty plates like Texas-style Fritos chili pie, quesadillas, and tamales smothered in chile con carne. Kick off your meal with gooey queso flamado, served with your choice of chorizo or fajita-style beef. [Terminal B food court]

The rest:

  • American Craft Tavern — Quick spot for grab and go snacks and salads, plus beer on tap and cocktails. [gate B83]
  • Barcuterie — Sandwiches, salads, charcuterie & cheese boards, salads, and craft beer. [gate B21]
  • Bullritos — DIY tacos, burritos, and bowls, plus margaritas. [gate B1]
  • Cafe Adobe — [gate B88]
  • Chik-fil-A — [Terminal B food court]
  • CIBO Express Gourmet Market — quick gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options [gate B1]
  • Flights Lounge & Grill — [pre-security, Houston Airport Marriott]
  • Freshii — Salads, wraps, bowls, burritos, frozen yogurt, and juices. [Terminal B food court]
  • Hard Rock Cafe — [gate B85]
  • Jason’s Deli — [gate B1]
  • Panda Express — [gate B1]
  • Peet’s Coffee & Tea— [Terminal B check-in and gate B85]
  • Ray’s BBQ Shack — East Texas-style barbecue smoked over hickory wood, plus classic sides, desserts, and fried seafood baskets. [Terminal B food court]
  • Smashburger — [Terminal B food court]
  • Starbucks — [gate B1]
  • Tagliare — Thin crust or Sicilian-style pizza by the slice. [gate B1]
  • The Fruteria — This quick eatery from Chef Johnny Hernandez features freshly pressed juices and tortas by day, fruit-infused tequilas and tapas by night. [gate B11]
  • Whataburger — Texas’ favorite fast-food burger joint. [gate B1]

Chef Ryan Pera at Pala
Ellie Sharp/EHOU

Terminal C

Best bets from celebrated Houston chefs:

Pala — Chef Ryan Pera serves up oven-fired pizzas with both creative (brussels sprouts) and classic (pepperoni) toppings. Be sure to save room for dessert — the chocolate hazelnut torte is a super sweet way to start your trip. [gate C5]

Ember — Like at his restaurants UB Preserv, Georgia James, and One Fifth, James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd shows his love for all things Houston at his recently-debuted restaurant in Terminal C North. Hand-cut steaks, Gulf seafood dishes, and starters like smoked chicken wings offer a decidedly quality alternative to generally lackluster airport fare. [gate C12]

Olio — Houston restaurateur Monica Pope’s new Italian eatery serves up gourmet panini, polenta fries, and smashed carrot bruschetta, along with plenty of wine and cocktails to make even the bumpiest of flights more bearable. If you’re stopping by for breakfast, the baked eggs (aka shakshouka) are an excellent way to kick off the day. [gate C14]

The best bet for casual cajun fare: Bam Bam
An ode to all things Houston, with Vietnamese-Cajun crawfish (when in season), po’ boys, and the bar’s signature oyster nachos. [gate C5]

The rest:

  • Agave Taqueria — [gate C33]
  • Black Hat Whiskey Room — Classic pub fare and plenty of whiskey. [gate C33]
  • Brewster’s Beer Garden — Sandwiches and, of course, beer. [gate C43]
  • Camden Food Co. — Build your own salads and sandwiches, plus soups, healthy snacks, and locally roasted coffee. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options are on offer. [gate C24]
  • CIBO Express Gourmet Market — [gate C10, gate C33, and gate C34]
  • CIBO Express Gourmet Market/World Bean — [gate C1 and C15]
  • Einstein Bros. Bagels — [gate C42]
  • Flights Lounge & Grill — [pre-security Houston Airport Marriott]
  • Freshens — [gate C43]
  • El Premio Tex-Mex Bar & Grill — An offshoot of Houston Tex-Mex favorite El Tiempo that serves fajitas, queso, and fresh tortillas. [gate C34]
  • H Burger Bar — A New Orleans and Houston-inspired burger joint from chef Antoine Ware. [gate C33]
  • La Salsa — Burritos, tacos, and enchiladas, plus strong margaritas and beer. [gate C42]
  • Landry’s Seafood — Gulf Coast-inspired seafood dishes. [gate C42]
  • Pick Up Stix — Fast-casual Asian fare [gate C12]
  • Pink’s Pizza — Local pie joint with pizza by the slice and a full bar. [gate C42]
  • Potbelly Sandwich Shop — [gate C12]
  • Starbucks — [gate C1, gate C10, and gate C33]
  • Stax — Sandwiches and healthy dishes. [gate C43]
  • Subway — [gate C23]
  • Southern Belle — Fried chicken and breakfast favorites [gate C44]
  • Vida Taqueria — Tex-Mex eatery with tacos, enchiladas, queso, and guac, plus tequila-based cocktails and plenty of beer. [gate C6]
  • Wendy’s — [gate C12 and gate C42]
Hugo’s Cocina/Facebook

Terminal D

Best bet for food from a nationally renowned chef: Hugo’s Cocina
James Beard Award winner for Best Chef - Southwest, Hugo Ortega is one of Space City’s most notable chefs. His regional Mexican cuisine is arguably the best in the city, and if you didn’t make it to one of Ortega’s restaurants outside of the airport, Hugo’s Cocina is a must. [gate D6]

The rest:

  • Ciao Gourmet Market — Snacks, sandwiches, and a selection of fancy chocolates. [gate D8]
  • Peet’s Coffee & Tea [gate D6]
  • Red Mango — frozen yogurt and yogurt-based smoothies. [gate D6]
  • Starbucks [pre-security, Terminal D check-in]
  • Tony’s Wine Cellar & Bistro — Longtime Houston restaurateur Tony Vallone’s casual Italian spot serves pasta dishes and wines by the glass. [gate D9]
Pamela Loudon

Terminal E

Best bet for barbecue: Q
Houston pitmaster Greg Gatlin is in charge of the smokers at this airport barbecue joint. Find succulent brisket, excellent sides, and so much more.

Best bet for a quick lunch: Cat Cora’s Kitchen
The Iron Chef’s airport concept features plenty of her Greek and Southern influence. Choose from lamb meatballs, tapas, steak, lobster mac & cheese and more before takeoff. [gates E10 and 11]

The rest:

  • Auntie Anne’s Pretzels — [gate E12]
  • Beerhive — [gate E1 and E24]
  • Cinnabon — [gate E12]
  • Custom Burgers — a self-explanatory burger joint with vegan and vegetarian options. [gate E2]
  • Doubler Beer & Whiskey Garden — Sandwiches, burgers, and shared plates. [gate E5]
  • Dunkin’ Donuts — [gate E11]
  • Einstein Bros. Bagels — [gate E1]
  • Gavi — [gate E14]
  • Houston Wheelhouse — Tex-Mex classics like nachos, fajitas, and quesadillas. [gate E19]
  • Nature’s Kitchen Fresh Cafe — Salads, sandwiches, and plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans. [gate E24]
  • Nestle Toll House Cafe — [gate E12]
  • Panda Express — [gate E1]
  • Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen — Houston-based chain with Cajun seafood dishes and a full bar. [gate E3]
  • Pappasito’s Cantina — Quick-service Tex-Mex spot. [gate E1]
  • Ruby’s Diner — Classic diner fare with booze, milkshakes, and breakfast options. [Terminal E security checkpoint]
  • Starbucks — [gate E2 and gate E24]
  • Subway — [gate E1]
  • Tagliare — Thin crust and Sicilian-style pizza by the slice, plus breakfast options. [gate E1]
  • Tanglewood Grille — Steaks, burgers, seafood, and fare that’s purportedly farm-to-table. [gate E23]
  • The Market by Villa — Snacks, sandwiches, and wraps. [gate E1]
  • Wendy’s — [gate E24]
  • World Nectar — Freshly pressed juices and smoothies made with organic fruit and veggies. [gate E1]
  • Yogen Fruz — frozen yogurt [gate E1]
  • Yume — Japanese fare, including sushi and ramen. [gate E11]
  • Zori Bistro — Asian fusion eatery with dishes like bulgogi beef salad, sesame chicken, and fried rice, plus beer. [gate E24]

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