With summer comes travel. A flight this week was the perfect excuse to write about what to eat at Baltimore’s favorite (and only) international airport.
Whether you’re taking off from your hometown or stopping in Charm City en route to someplace else, you can find plenty of eateries at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport that offer a bite of Maryland.
But where to start? Some of the most sought-after dining options are located in concourses A and B; my flight was leaving from concourse D. I ended up going through security three times in the quest of a great pre-takeoff meal.
I initially thought maybe I’d maybe be able to avoid the security debacle since BWI offers a service called GateWaiter that lets you place pickup orders for a small service fee and, according to the airport’s website, allows delivery to your gate. But that luxurious latter prospect wasn’t an option on the busy Monday morning I was ordering. An employee at one restaurant told me their establishment briefly delivered food during the height of COVID, but lacks the staffing to do it anymore. As the crowds return to the airport, it’s hard to imagine the logistics of making gate-side delivery work. Maybe something for the robotic age.
Still, it was worth spending some quality time with TSA to grab breakfast in concourse A at Miss Shirley’s, a spinoff of the popular Baltimore brunch spot featured on heavy rotation in various Food Network shows. Sitting at the bar, where a friendly bartender made me feel at home, I started off with a virgin bloody mary, which comes with an Old Bay-rimmed glass and festive okra and olive garnish.
For my main course, I skipped the signature pancakes and went with the “Get Your Grits On,” served with a choice of shrimp or salmon. The platter came out with three fried green tomatoes (which the menu notes have been called the best in Maryland by Southern Living). They’re topped with bacon grits, smoky, well-seasoned shrimp and a creamy sauce. The combination of flavors and textures — the crusty-on-the-outside, firm-on-the-inside tomatoes with the soft grits and bacon — was far and away better than your standard airport fare.
Wondering where to find the beef? That would be Flying Dog Tap House, located in the food court between concourses A and B. It’s currently the brand’s only restaurant, as the tasting room attached to the Frederick brewery closed during the pandemic and has yet to reopen.
Beef from Maryland’s own Roseda Black Angus Farm isn’t just on the menu — it’s in the restaurant’s tagline, a demonstration of the beef-forward menu that includes numerous burgers and beef tips. But you can also check out non-beef items, such as crab cakes “like grandma used to make,” served with a side of mashed potatoes and Old Bay aioli. And of course, there is a selection of Flying Dog brews to go with it.
The tap house also serves breakfast from 5 to 9:30 a.m., with options like a breakfast burrito or fried egg with beef tips.
After returning to the D concourse for my flight, I found two of Maryland’s most famous names, including a small branch of Phillips Seafood. A bartender told me they weren’t serving food when I stopped by around noon, but a dine-in menu featured reasonably priced items like a $25.99 crab cake platter served with waffle fries and coleslaw.
Nearby, The Greene Turtle offered the dim lighting, convivial atmosphere and TV screens of the Ocean City-founded sports bar, with a straightforward menu of Maryland bar fare. Check out the jumbo lump crab cake or “legendary tenders.” Wash it down with a “spiked boardwalk,” lemonade or iced tea mixed with your choice of booze. (No refills on those, cautions the menu, after what I can only imagine were one too many Kristen Wiig in “Bridesmaids” situations.)
The chain — which is also set to open soon in Canton and Towson — also added an “On the Fly” stand this year on the lower level of the airport, where you can pick up food and beverages to go.
One place I’m not so sure about is R&R Seafood, which has two restaurants in the airport. The eatery has cleverly resurrected the crab cake of Obrycki’s, a beloved but long-gone Fells Point restaurant known for its crab dishes. But when I tasted it before a flight in the winter, it was sorely lacking in flavor. I’d check out the version at The Greene Turtle or Flying Dog before heading back for seconds.
If you’re pressed for time, you can grab a slice of the always-reliable Ledo Pizza, a College Park favorite, at Concourse B just before security.
The America gift shop in concourse D sells some local goodies, too, including chocolate-covered pretzels from Hampden’s own Charm City Chocolate, Mouth Party caramels and bags of Fisher’s popcorn (including the Old Bay caramel version). They are all great gifts for anyone at your final destination — or yourself.
And there is more yet to come. A much-needed expansion of the airport, the region’s busiest, will bring with it new restaurants and other dining options. I’d love to see BWI add one of Baltimore’s many local coffee roasters, terrific bagel shops, or perhaps an ice cream stand like Charmery or Taharka Brothers.
What do you want to see at the airport?