Just minutes from downtown Phoenix, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is filled with local restaurants. With a few exceptions, the restaurants lining the Senators John McCain and Barry Goldwater terminals are local favorites, like Barrio Café, partnered with James Beard award-winning chef Silvana Salcido Esparza. In fact, Phoenix Airport food is quite noteworthy.
Phoenix has become a foodie center in its own right, with nationally and regionally recognized chefs opening dining establishments across Phoenix, Scottsdale and the Valley of the Sun.
“We wanted to give travelers a taste of Phoenix,” says Jon Argentine as we walked from the rapidly moving TSA lines into the A Concourse. “Food here is a long way from the no-name places normally found at an airport.”
Jon is the Director of Food and Beverage Operations for HMSHost at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, known to locals as “Sky Harbor” and to the world as PHX. HMS splits food operations with SSP America across the concourses at the two terminals.
“We partner with local chefs to bring authentic menu offerings to travelers,” he says. “These are the same meals you’d find if you went to the restaurants in town.”
As we wandered past a long boarding line at American for a flight to Dallas-Fort Worth, Argentine pointed out that the options are balanced between the two terminals.
Some local flavors are available before you go through security, a rarity at most airports.
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PHX Celebrates Mexican Heritage
Arizona has a significant Latino heritage, so choosing a Mexican food option is challenging.
Local eateries like Barrio Café, Los Taquitos, Blanco Tacos & Tequila are all featured on the concourses. Blue Mesa Tacos is on the main public concourse, accessible without going through security in Terminal 4. The offerings are a lot more than just tacos and burritos.
Local favorites Chelsea’s Kitchen and Wildflower Bread Company are also in that same pre-TSA neighborhood.
When we were in Terminal 3, Jon pointed out that many restaurants offer three ways to order food. The coolers have restaurant-menu grab-and-go options and a self-checkout so travelers racing to catch a flight can avoid lines. And the restaurants provide tableside service for travelers who have more time.
“Even tableside service has options,” Argentine says. “You can scan the QR code on the table, order from the menu and pay. Your food is brought to the table, but when you’re finished, you can get up and leave.”
Some restaurants, like Zinc Bistro, offer a dining option or a separate grab-and-go in Terminal 4.
Eating Your Way Through Terminal 4
In Barry Goldwater Terminal 4, early morning fliers queue at Matt’s Big Breakfast, a local favorite for fresh, tasty breakfast. When I have an early flight, I skip breakfast at home and make a beeline to the A gates for breakfast at Matt’s, an SSP offering.
Terminal 4’s eight concourses are accessible without passing through security a second time. Thanks to a recent remodel, the airport makes it possible to move between the international, American and Southwest gates to pick the perfect place to eat.
And places there are.
“I think travelers are surprised that we have so many options,” Argentine says as we walked down the A concourse towards Gates A1 to A14.
Phoenix Airport Food: Local Favorites
Top Phoenix Airport food includes three local favorites from Fox Restaurant Concepts along the east windows. At lunchtime on a recent April day, Blanco Tacos & Tequila, Zinburger and Olive & Ivy all had lines of hungry diners waiting for a seat.
Two local Phoenix brewers tap kegs on Terminal 4’s A and B concourses. Four Peaks Brewing is across from Gate A21, and OHSO is near Gate B6.
Travelers needing to refuel with coffee have local and national choices. There’s a Dunkin’ Donuts pre-security in Terminal 4 near the International Arrivals gate.
After security, there are locals Refuge and Sip Coffee & Beer (hopefully not at the same time), plus the national standards, Peet’s Coffee and Starbucks. Plus, Matt’s Big Breakfast, Panera Bread and La Madeline are all known for good coffee and pastry. Then there’s Tammie Coe, famous for her incredible shaped cakes and pastries.
Here’s the complete list of restaurants in Terminal 4, including national chain restaurants. The * indicates favorite Phoenix Airport food eateries.
- Barrio Café *
- Bizzy – Burger Merchants
- Blanco Tacos & Tequila *
- Blue Mesa Tacos
- Cartel Coffee Lab *
- Chelsea’s Kitchen *
- Cheuvront Restaurant & Wine Bar
- Cowboy Ciao *
- Delux Burger *
- Dilly’s Deli
- Focaccia Fiorentina
- Four Peaks Brewing Company *
- Fresh Market On The Go – Temporary Kiosk
- Humble Pie *
- La Grande Orange *
- La Madeleine
- Los Taquitos *
- Matt’s Big Breakfast *
- Mission Grab-n-Go
- OHSO *
- Olive & Ivy *
- Panda Express
- Panera Bread
- Peet’s Coffee & Tea
- PHX FLT Club
- Pita Jungle *
- Sip Coffee & Beer *
- Sir Veza’s Taco Garage
- Sweet Republic *
- Tammie Coe Cakes To Go *
- The Refuge *
- Wildflower Bread Company *
- Zinburger *
- Zinc Brasserie *
Eating Your Way Through Terminal 3
During the pandemic, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport rebuilt Terminal 3 and named it the John McCain terminal. As part of the upgrade, a new collection of Phoenix Airport food options were incorporated into the renovation.
Terminal 3 is smaller than Terminal 4, but some argue it has better food options, particularly among locals.
“We’re really proud of Terminal 3,” says Argentine. “We have both San Tan Brewing and PHX Beer Company for those looking for locally-brewed beers.”
San Tan’s giant letters loom over everything from its spot overlooking the tarmac across from Shake Shack. With nearly all its beers on tap, the brew house offers a canning machine to custom package a 32-ounce can of beer for travelers who don’t want to worry about moving about the airport with glass.
For morning flights, Scramble serves on the concourse by Gate E2, or there’s Panera Bread across from Gate F6.
For those wanting an adult beverage in an upscale setting, Phoenix culinary icon Mark Tarbell has The Tavern at the entrance to the F concourse.
Here’s the complete list. The * marks local favorites.
- Ajo Al’s *
- Humble Tortas & Tacos *
- Panera Bread
- Peet’s Coffee
- PHX Beer Company *
- SanTan Brewing Company *
- Scramble *
- Shake Shack
- The Roadie
- The Tavern *
Phoenix Sky Harbor is about 15 minutes from downtown Phoenix and Tempe via light rail and about 20 minutes from Old Town Scottsdale.