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Air Fare

New restaurants land at the airport

By Frank Sabatini Jr. / Photos by Brevin Blach

Bankers Hill Bar and Restaurant’s Ruby Red Grapefruit and Roasted Beet Salad.

Gone are the days when flying in coach class came with the dignity of a warm meal and an occasional mini bottle of free liquor. Now, however — and no thanks to the airlines — passengers traversing San Diego International Airport can refuel at 45 new restaurants before, during or after their flights.

The sweeping concessionaire program arrives on the heels of a $1 billion Green Build expansion at Lindbergh Field’s Terminal 2, where 30 of the restaurants, many of them homegrown, will be strewn among dozens of new retail shops in and around the terminal’s glossy, freshly built Sunset Cove area.

“Our goal is to let passengers passing through any of the terminals know about the iconic restaurants in San Diego,” says Nyle Marmion, program manager for the airport’s concession development program. “We’re encouraging them to bring the same feel and designs they have on the streets into the airport.”

The program, which also lends engine power to local beer and wine bars, is due for completion in March. Say “goodbye” to Big Macs (yes, McDonald’s is going away) and “hello” to cuisine that originates from the city’s bona fide chefs.

Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant
(Opening in late September, Terminal 2)Thai Chicken Wrap from Pacifica Del Mar’s Breeze Café.
It’s likely that no other airport restaurant in the world dishes up plates of nostalgia quite like the zesty deviled eggs chef Carl Schroeder features as an appetizer at his Bankers Hill hotspot. Co-owner Terryl Gavre promises their new outpost will also feature Schroeder’s famous house-made lemon potato chips, beet salad and “substantial fare that translates to a fast, high-quality product.” The restaurant’s signature deconstructed design will change to “industrial-modern” at the airport, and will feature a full cocktail bar to boot.

Pacifica Del Mar
(Opening in November, Terminal 1)
A concessionaire from one of the airport’s outreach teams figured nothing would quell the frustration of a flight delay better than Pacifica Del Mar’s sugar spice king salmon. The restaurant’s owner, Kipp Downing, says the rep ate at Pacifica’s adjoining Breeze Café three days a week and urged him to come on board. In keeping with the original venue’s seaside theme, the airport location will greet guests with ocean-blue colors, a bar and a menu highlighting the cinnamon-cocoa-spiked salmon as well as crab Louie salads, sandwiches and wraps.

“Because this is a mini form of running a full-scale restaurant, it will take us a few months to see what sells and to figure out what works well for grab-and-go,” Downing says.

SaffronSaffron’s Tomm Yum Noodle Soup.
(Opened in August, Terminal 2)
The titillating photos of Thai cuisine gracing Saffron’s India Street digs compel airport visitors to schlep their luggage inside this second location. Founder Su-Mei Yu felt it was time to give travelers healthy alternatives and glutenfree dining options. “Our food has wonderful fragrances and it will make people on the planes jealous,” she says, referring in part to her acclaimed salad rolls, curries and pad Thai noodles that appear on the abbreviated menu. As part of her agreement with the concessionaire, Yu relinquished management rights, but insists she isn’t worried. “I have friends and spies to make sure the food is right,” she says.

100 Wines
(Opening in March, Terminal 2)
Arriving with time to spare before takeoff will soon afford an opportunity to test which wines pair best with sausage-artichoke fettuccine and fig-bacon pizza with smoked gouda.

“Those are only a few of the items that will be on our airport menu,” says owner David Cohn, who plans to capture the same Old World charm at the airport that his design team implemented at 100 Wines Hillcrest. Unlike at his street location, which serves only dinner and Sunday brunch, the airport kitchen will also dish out breakfast and lunch, while catering to kiddie travelers, too. “The previous food offerings at the airport were pretty pedestrian,” Cohn says. “I’d rather have visitors get a taste of what San Diego has to offer.”100 Wines’ Spicy Sausage and Artichoke Fettuccine with sauteed shrimp and oven-roasted tomatoes.

Stone Brewing Company
(Opened in August, Terminal 2)
The only folks who shouldn’t be sampling craft beer in Stone’s sleek, new outlet are pilots. As multiple taps pump the company’s latest and greatest suds, the bill of fare has come to include hop-friendly sausage plates and duck tacos like those served at the brewery’s World Bistro and Gardens in nearby Liberty Station. The organics that appear in other dishes originate mostly from local plots, including Stone Farms in Escondido. With its beer distribution now in 37 states, not to mention countless San Diego bars, Stone is providing the traveling masses a drinking sanctuary that feels like home.

Emerald Express
The Kearny Mesa restaurant brings the unexpected addition of fresh dim sum to Terminal 1 in November, along with transportable duck filets, honey-walnut shrimp and other Cantonese specialties.

Phil’s BBQ
Follow your nose through Terminal 2 and you’ll encounter the charry ribs, chicken and saucy-faced customers that have made this San Diego barbecue house the envy of all others.

Stone Brewing Co.’s Levitation BBQ Duck Tacos.Garden by Tender Greens
The recent arrival of farm-to-fork salads and organic proteins cooked on a Brazilian grill in the Commuter Terminal means that you can put away your Trail Mix for the long run. California wines, craft beers and cocktails are also available.

Tommy V’s Pizzeria
Coming soon to Terminal 2 are thin-crust pies made in front of your eyes. This North County favorite offers a plethora of sassy toppings you won’t find at Sbarro.

Craft Brews on 30th Street
Since mid-summer, Terminal 1 visitors have been exposed to a glimpse of 30th Street’s teeming pub scene, thanks to a replica of the North Park street sign hanging above a dozen taps showcasing local brewers. Burgers and pork sliders add to the pre-flight merriment.

Jack in the Box
No touchdown in San Diego feels complete unless you’ve wolfed down a pair of deep-fried tacos encasing that mulchy mixture of beef and soy, or a burger smeared with tangy secret sauce. The locally based fast-food chain replaces McDonald’s in Terminal 1.


  1. Laurela Balangue

    September 17, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Phil’s BBQ of course!

  2. Geoff

    September 17, 2013 at 9:09 am

    Phil’s BBQ

  3. Nick

    September 17, 2013 at 9:13 am

    phil’s bbq.. and i hope the line isnt as long as it usually is!

  4. Joanna

    September 17, 2013 at 9:15 am

    Stone brewing! Cause I need a good brew to get through my flying jitters. Also that shrimp looks delicious!

  5. Christie P

    September 17, 2013 at 9:18 am

    100 Wines!

  6. Kelley Lynn

    September 17, 2013 at 9:18 am

    The restaurant I am sure to try upon visiting our airport is definitely going to be Craft Brews on 30th Street. This North Park replica is sure to show anyone visiting San Diego a taste of the home grown brews we are all about. I’m sure they won’t disappoint, hopefully featuring brews from our most favorite hometown breweries, including Stone. This is definitely going to be my first stop along this new restaurant line. Craft Beer not crap beer, you stay classy San Diego. 😉 #homesweethome

  7. Deb Higgins

    September 17, 2013 at 9:21 am


  8. Jon G

    September 17, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Phil’s BBQ

  9. Evan Mignogna

    September 17, 2013 at 9:33 am

    I’d have to say Garden by Tender Greens. Simple, wholesome, quality for good value. When I’m traveling, I can notice the differences between when I eat a carb/fat fast food bomb, and when I have the opportunity to eat wholesome (very rare in the frenetic airport scene) – both in attitude and physical comfort – during a long day of travel.

  10. Kyle Turner

    September 17, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Man, that post with Bite of Boston really got my taste buds going! If I have to choose one of the restaurants above, I’d select Stone. Only because I haven’t had the chance to dine there yet. . . and every time I’ve gone, the wait has been too long (seriously, like once I went and they said they weren’t even accepting anyone on the wait list anymore). It’s gotta be good if people like it that much! Maybe the line will be shorter in the airport! HAHAHA! Great article, Frank!

  11. Brittany Mulch

    September 17, 2013 at 9:37 am

    They all look so good! But I am going to go with Phil’s BBQ – mainly b/c the wait probably won’t be as long as their location at Sports Arena

  12. Kelly Clark

    September 17, 2013 at 9:39 am

    Garden by Tender Greens! Finally healthy airport food! Or Phil’s for a little less healthy food…

  13. Erin S

    September 17, 2013 at 9:43 am

    I’m really excited to have some new options in Terminal 1. Quiznos and UNOs was getting really old. I think I’m most excited about Craft Brews on 30th Street!

  14. Kim Benz

    September 17, 2013 at 9:45 am

    My favorite will be Qdoba Mexican Grill!

  15. Cathy Winnie

    September 17, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Love BBQ so it’s got to be Phil’s.

  16. Eric Marenburg

    September 17, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Most excited about Tender Greens, that place is fantastic…but not listed here is Dunkin Donuts which is probably a few years away…I cannot wait to have some DD before my flights!!

  17. Jeremy

    September 17, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Craft Brews on 30th Street. Count me in.

  18. Natalia

    September 17, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Phil’s Bbq

  19. Steven H

    September 17, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Stone brewing, with runners up being saffron and craft brews on 30 th Street

  20. CJ

    September 17, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Saffron is coming to the airport?? W00T!! My favorite place in San Diego .. can’t wait!

  21. Kate

    September 17, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Garden by Tender Greens!! Can’t wait to have fresh & healthy food at the airport:)

  22. Michelle M

    September 17, 2013 at 10:25 am

    They’re ALL fabulous! I can’t wait for Bite of Boston though. Ugh. I’m going to gain at least twenty pounds. #lovemyfood #fatgirlproblems

  23. Tina Baumann

    September 17, 2013 at 10:42 am

    Stone Brewing Company

  24. Nick W

    September 17, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Saffron looks perfect to get full off of before a trip~

  25. Donald Zelaya

    September 17, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Stone Brewery Company!!! Hands down the best choice good brews and food!

  26. Jessica C

    September 17, 2013 at 10:51 am

    I’d have to say Garden by Tender Greens! I am always annoyed by the lack of healthy options in airports especially when I’m typically about to go pig out on vacation somewhere. I love Tender Greens anyways; it’s so delish!

  27. Jessica

    September 17, 2013 at 11:06 am

    100 Wines and Stone get my vote!

  28. christina

    September 17, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Stone…Love Duck Tacos

  29. Debbie Terry

    September 17, 2013 at 11:25 am

    i would try Saffron first then Pacifica Del Mar and then Stone Brewing.
    Phil’s Barbecue is dead to me as he supports Carl DeMaio and I believe everytime you are spending money you are making a political decision.

  30. Kelli Brown

    September 17, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    100 Wines! Great food!

  31. An Luong

    September 17, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    I want to say Phil’s BBQ or Stone Brewing. How exciting!

  32. Daniel Hernandez

    September 17, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Phil’s BBQ!

  33. Nicole Gelley

    September 17, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Oo probably Phil’s BBQ because I’ve never been there

  34. Tracy L

    September 17, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    Saffron! Need more Asian places that aren’t greasy fast food!

  35. Eugene K

    September 17, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Stone Brewery! Yum.

  36. Allison G

    September 17, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Saffron – what could be better than shrimp pad thai??

  37. Fabienne P

    September 17, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Craft Brews on 30th Street!, awesome food and local craft beers!!

  38. Danette

    September 17, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    100 Wines please!

  39. Aaron

    September 17, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Phil’s BBQ!!

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