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Houston’s Hobby Airport Is Undergoing Major Changes

Though many Houstonians will miss Pappas’ restaurants in Hobby, the airport is making way for new outposts of Houston restaurants like Pink’s Pizza, Killen’s Barbecue, Spindletap Brewery, Common Bond Cafe, Fat Cat Creamery, and more

Employees work behind the counter at Pink’s Pizza in Hobby Airport in Houston.
Pink’s Pizza is just one of the many restaurants slated for Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport.
Houston Airports

Last week, after two decades in business together, Houston’s Hobby Airport said its final goodbyes to its main concessionaire Pappas’ Restaurants, closing its outposts of Pappasito’s Cantina, Pappas Bar-B-Q, and Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen. Now, with two new contracts, the airport is gearing up for more restaurants, including outposts of popular Houston area food and drink establishments like Killen’s Barbecue, Fat Cat Creamery, Common Bond Cafe, Pink’s Pizza, Spindletap Brewery, and more.

The new contracts are slated to bring 20 dining and retail establishments by late 2024, and some are already on their way, according to a release. While five chain dining establishments, including Chick-Fil-A, Buffalo Wild Wings, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Wendy’s, and Starbucks, are still open, the airport has introduced eight temporary dining options to tie over passengers during the major dining transition.

Travelers walk through Houston’s Hobby Airport as construction workers monitor the area.
Houston’s Hobby Airport is bringing more restaurants into the fold, which will in turn bring in more revenue for the city.
Houston Airports

Outposts of Houston-based Pink’s Pizza and Hubcap Bar & Grill, plus locations of Gastrohub Bistro & Bar, Streat and Streat Bar, Pick Up Stix, and Latrelle’s Mexican Kitchen are now open, and nearly 20 more restaurants are on their way.

Here are the restaurants slated to open over the next year:

Fall 2023

  • Fat Cat Creamery — With locations in the Heights and Garden Oaks, this Houston-based ice cream shop is known for its small-batch scoops, with flavors ranging from Mexican vanilla and the coffee and cream — made with beans from Houston’s own Amaya roasters.
  • The Spot and The Spot Bar — Galveston’s iconic multi-venue restaurant and local drinking haunt will take root in Hobby, with two locations — a restaurant and a separate bar that offer a selection of its fried seafood and festive drinks.
  • Velvet Taco — The Dallas import, which has infiltrated the Houston area with multiple locations, will offer its “kick-ass” tacos and margaritas for those traveling through Hobby.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts

Spring/Summer 2024

  • The Rustic
  • Jersey Mike’s
  • Pei Wei
  • Chick-Fil-A (new location)
  • Starbucks (two new locations)
  • Throughgood Bistro

Fall/Winter 2024

  • Common Bond Cafe — No need to stop at a location of this Houston favorite en route to the airport. Now, you can grab your coffee and baked goods there.
  • Killen’s Barbecue — Smoky, tender meats are a guaranteed menu feature at the airport outpost of chef Ronnie Killen’s barbecue joint.
  • Spindletap Brewery — The Northeast Houston brewery is slated to offer up its signature selection of brews, including its hazy IPAs.
  • Yard House

Winter 2024

  • Dish Society — With six locations in the area, this Houston-based chain will likely offer some of its breakfast, brunch, and lunch favorites to busy travelers.
  • Pink’s Pizza — This local pizza joint, which has eight locations — including an outpost in Houston’s George Bush International Airport — will open a second location, promising ample cheesy slices in Hobby’s airport come next winter.
  • Longhorn Steakhouse
  • Wendy’s — The national burger chain will get an updated location.

The overhaul to Hobby Airport’s dining options is major considering that aside from the beloved Pappas restaurants, dining options were scarce or largely chains devoid of Houston flavor. The decision to introduce new establishments was sparked after Houston City Council approved a 10-year concession contract amounting to $470 million with Areas USA, which houses brands from Aunt Annie’s pretzels to Wendy’s to Tony Roma, according to a Houston Chronicle report. The council approved another 10-year contract with LaTrelle’s Management in January, which replaced Hobby’s former location of Pappas’ Burger in Terminal A with a temporary location of HubCap Grill, which will later be replaced by the Rustic.

Travelers walk past Hobby Airport’s new location of Hubcap Grill.
Hubcap Grill will replace the former Pappas Burger location in Hobby Airport as it prepares for its permanent establishment, which will be the Rustic.
Houston Airports

As a result, Pappas Restaurants lost its contract with the airport in March but fought the decision during the procurement process. The restaurant group launched a social media campaign in February with the hashtag #SaveOurPappas, posted signs at its Hobby restaurants bringing attention to the vote, and even hired lobbyists, requesting diners to sign a petition that ultimately gathered some 50,000 signatures.

But the final decision is in, and it could simply boil down to money, a CultureMap Houston report says. The change is projected to bring in over $10 million in revenue for Houston-area airports.