“Live, Love, Eat”
Located at the world’s busiest airport (sorry Atlanta, try again), Wolfgang Puck provides weary travelers with the best casual fare you’re going to find at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. If you’re like me and you’re tired of cramped airport bars and yearn for a good beer to loosen you up for your flight, and some decent nosh so that you don’t have to rely on Bistro Bags or the world’s smallest and tasteless airline meals offered by all US airlines (when they decide to even served nowadays), Wolfgang Puck’s Airport Café is the place for you.
Wolfgang Puck has two Airport Express cafés locations at O’Hare. The first is located in the United Terminal (Terminal 1), at Gate 6 of the B Concourse. The second is located between the two concourses and to the left of security in the American Airlines Terminal (Terminal 2). Both locations are virtually the same in featuring a bar that curves around the east end of the room with a break for the entrance to the kitchen, a slate bar top and high-backed, wooden chairs. Here, well dressed bartenders pour from a decent yet limited selection of beers – but, hey, it’s an airport! You’re not going to get a Quencher’s, Hopleaf or Map Room selection anywhere here. You can also have a seat in either location at a series of low-slung wooden tables, both inside the café and extending out into the walkway, as you gaze at the multi-colored terrazzo tile that abounds on columns and elsewhere around the room.
Wherever you sit, order an appetizer while you peruse the fine selection of wood-fired pizzas, foccacia sandwiches, rosemary chicken, and a variety of pasta and salad dishes. My recommendation: start off with the tortilla soup and move on to the four cheese pizza as your entrée. I once had breakfast with a colleague at Wolfgang Puck’s in Terminal 3 and, as I plowed into an order of eggs, sausage, toast, and coffee, all he could only manage was a piece of toast (without butter or jam) and a glass of water. This was a result of a night out at the Alumni Club in Schaumberg. Unfortunately, his hangover woes continued and cut short what could have been a serious night of debauchery in Tampa’s infamous Ybor City. Regardless, whatever you order, it’s all pricey so put it on the corporate card, chief. While you ponder your travel budget overruns, just remember that you’re heading on an adventure or going home, just like all the other travelers around you. In a hurry? Have no fear: regular dishes can be available in less than seven minutes along with a “grab and go” showcase that serves ready-made items in less than two minutes.
Overall, Wolfgang Puck’s Airport Express is far better than the nameless, soulless airport bars where the air of fatigue, loneliness and lechery can be crushing. It’s definitely better than the Chicago Tap Room in the terminal three rotunda, but less entertaining than the old-school Chicago bartender there that bitched out some Green Bay Packers fans and a large group of elderly British for not tipping after ordering a dozen gin and tonics. Wolfgang Puck’s has played an important role in elevating the entire restaurant and bar scene at O’Hare by helping to lure other notable Chicago restaurants since it opened in 1999. Once an abysmal selection, one can now find the Berghoff Café, Billy Goat Tavern and Chili’s (Terminal 1), and Gino’s East Pizzeria, Butch’s Grill, and O’Brien’s Restaurant & Bar (Terminal 3) thanks to Host Marriott Services who recently picked up the contract at O’Hare. In addition to the two Wolfgang Puck O’Hare locations, you can find Wolfgang Puck’s Grand Café in Evanston, and Puck’s at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. For more information, check out Wolfgang Puck’s website. Bon voyage!