THE DISH: Whiling away the time at airport restaurants - PHOTOS - Daily Nation
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THE DISH: Of airport restaurants and managing expectations

Saturday September 15 2018

A vegetarian pasta dish from Atatürk International Airport's Business Lounge in Istanbul, Turkey.

A vegetarian pasta dish from Atatürk International Airport's Business Lounge in Istanbul, Turkey. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA 

By ABIGAIL ARUNGA
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For some reason, in the past year, I have been prone to a number of very long stays in airports – starting from my trip to Greece last year, all the way to my trip now in the US.

I don't have anything against long layovers – au contraire, I appreciate the time I can spend wandering around, looking at restaurants, casually strolling to my waiting gate instead of running to connect to another flight in an airport I usually haven't been in, or haven't been to in a while.

I can easily do a seven-hour layover, passing away time on my phone, working, reading a book...the possibilities for a writer with an active imagination are endless. Once, because my phone was dying and I was completely desperate (for an adapter, not for company), I made friends with a guy sitting in a cafe who also appeared to be waiting for his flight, and we talked for four hours – and I charged my phone. Oh joy! Because, it was a 14-hour layover. We thank God.

The simple burger I had at Ticketdaze, in Ataturk Airport, Turkey. It was delicious. And yes, the bread is black.

The simple burger I had at Ticketdaze, in Ataturk Airport, Turkey. It was delicious. And yes, the bread is black. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

I'm getting ahead of myself in this story. Perhaps I should lead with – while I can say I enjoy almost everything about flying (I am incapable of having any sort of affection for airplane toilets), what you see in airport restaurants are half the fun.

I'll start with our own Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). While the coffee stand that used to be where the new International Arrivals parking lot is now was quite enjoyable once you got over the overpricing, I quite enjoy the Java (I know, words I rarely say?) outside, when you can find a seat, because clearly a lot of people have the same idea as I usually do.

A sweet treat from the dessert buffet in the Business Lounge at Atatürk International Airport, Istanbul, Turkey.

A sweet treat from the dessert buffet in the Business Lounge at Atatürk International Airport, Istanbul, Turkey. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

The one inside though? It's a completely different story. Service is sluggish, and the general area is just unkempt, unmopped and hectic.

I discovered this during my trip in August, when getting a takeaway milkshake took 20 minutes as four waiters stood around the register, waiting. I don't know if it wasn't their shift, or their responsibility, but the unfortunate thing is, we'll probably keep going to Java until something else, hopefully better, opens up.

The substandard fare I got on the ground floor at Ataturk Airport in Turkey.

The substandard fare I got on the ground floor at Ataturk Airport in Turkey. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

WHAT STANDS OUT

Then there's Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, which quite honestly is one of the most unfriendly airports I have ever been too – partially because it can be quite confusing. The restaurants on the lower ground floor suck at a basic level, but when you go upstairs (what an analogy for elitism in architecture, much like Dubai's malls), there's a nice range of wallet-friendly restaurants to choose from.

The delicious Five Guys burger in Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, Atlanta.

The delicious Five Guys burger in Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, Atlanta. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

What I like best about them? The Wi-Fi, even though it is for an hour (if you're not willing to buy it), and the fact that you can sit at a restaurant for as long as you want, because most people are waiting on a plane anyway – which is how I met my adapter buddy. Since we were making conversation, I decided to have a drink and a burger, and thankfully, whiled away my time.

And then there is my most recent visit, the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta. I had some time to wait over there, so I went by Sweet Georgia's Juke Joint – which was all right to begin with, but all the food looked too heavy and filling, and I wasn't quite ready to have the full Southern experience – so I went over to Five Guys, which is what is on my list (I have a list. All foodies do. Of places they must visit. It's sometimes divided by cuisine, continent, or curiosity.)

The one and only thing I had at the Juke Joint restaurant, at the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta.

The one and only thing I had at the Juke Joint restaurant, at the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, because I felt bad for taking up space, and, I needed Wi-Fi... PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

And I'm pleased to say, I wasn't disappointed. It wasn't too big, which is a plague a lot of food in America suffers from, and it was flavourful. Delicious.

The messy deliciousness of the Five Guys burger, in Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, Atlanta.

The messy deliciousness of the Five Guys burger, in Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, Atlanta. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

With ALL the toppings that define a great burger for me – the essentials of ketchup, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce and onions, and with the additions of what I will not get into because it was a large, messy, satisfying burger. And I got the kiddie one, and it was still good! We may have to discuss one day what makes a good burger. Next post?

Of course, if you're travelling business class, airport restaurant discussions are pointless for you...

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Wondering where to get the 411 on what's happening in Nairobi's foodie scene? There's a lot of places you could go, but here's where we want you to be – getting the dish on the dish. Get it? We knew you would.

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