Air travel can be hard on one’s body, mind, and soul. Check-in lines, TSA searches, overly anxious people waiting to board an airplane, cramped overpriced seats, and of course disappointing food. In fact if there’s one thing I detest most about air travel it would be the food.
Whether it’s on the ground or in the air, seldom is there anything redeeming about the overpriced nutrients available for purchase. Boxed, fast, frozen, processed, lacking creativity, and/or flavor, air travel food tends to range from boring to unnatural. Even those airport establishments graced with the names of world famous chefs typically fail to deliver dishes comparable to those found at “no-name” joints located off-premises. Most people are inclined to give airport food a pass simply due to the time crunch that travelers are operating under and the expediency needed to complete their orders.
For some of us though, no matter what the traveling situation is, consuming food of substance and character still has a place on our palates and in our stomachs.
I count myself as one such individual and have become particularly skittish about trusting the contents or flavor of any air travel related food…maybe with the exception of those damned bagged pretzels.
So when I was confronted with a multiple hour layover in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, I reached out to my all-knowing foodie friend in the ATL, Laura from Sprint 2 the Table, for a respectable food recommendation that would satisfy my gluttonous heart. Laura’s can’t miss: One Flew South Restaurant and Sushi Bar.
Located in Terminal E of Hartsfield-Jackson, One Flew South displays a classy but not pretentious exterior. This combined with glimpses of an upscale restaurant environment (at least for an airport) seems to turn away casual travelers who are looking for the shenanigans of a sports bar or the in-&-out service and food of a typical airport joint. Don’t be fooled, the restaurant welcomes everyone of from Burberry wearing yuppies to the casually dressed, flip-flop wearing California beach bum (i.e. yours truly).
Once inside, patrons encounter the unique juxtaposition of mid-century modern furnishings in a rustic setting. Wood beams provide a sense of permanence in such a transient spot while the forest photo mural running the length of the restaurant provides a calming effect on the weariest of travelers. Standard dining, high-top, sushi bar, and regular bar seating is available to accommodate each traveler’s desires. For the sports enthusiasts, a large flat screen television at the main bar has you covered as does head bartender and master mixologist Tiffanie Barriere.
The menu is anything but typical for airport fare, fusing modern creativity with touches of Asian and Southern flare. The main menu will walk you from Mussels & Bok Choy to Thyme Roasted Pork Belly w/ Black-Eyed Pea & Arugula Salad. The sushi side of the menu doesn’t disappoint with offerings of nigiri, hand rolls, and a simplistic sampling of standard and original rolls (i.e. the Bagel Roll).
If libations are the name of your game, one cannot be anything but happy with One Flew South’s balanced selection of mainstream, craft, and imported beers, a solid wine inventory (over half of which is available by the glass), and proper cocktails.
An extended layover meant this glutton had a strong sampling from each of One Flew South’s menus and the following are my selections/thoughts:
Featured Layover Foods:
Bagel Roll (Smoked salmon, Greek yogurt, English cucumber, Citrus)
Forgo corrupting this roll with soy sauce or wasabi, as nothing should stand in your way of tasting this ingenious bagel and lox inspired roll. First bath each bite in the Greek yogurt to achieve the full effect. Then sink your teeth/palate into a deceptively exciting dish. The rice functions as your bagel’s starch, yogurt mysteriously and accurately the cream cheese, all freshened up/balanced by the cucumber. Overall, the smoked salmon could have a more prominent place at the table, but it’s the yogurt which completes this roll’s awesomeness.
Survey says…A must try, but let’s double up on the smoked salmon.
Shrimp and Collard Greens Grits* (Butternut Squash, Andouille sausage, Tomato, Crispy Corn, Redeye Gravy)
A delicate dish that is creamy and clean with a sausage broth flavor. The Andouille is lightly herbaceous with a rosemary focused. Carrots add a positive sweetening agent and the parsley rounds the flavors out. The grits are adequate, but where are the collard greens?
Survey says…Completely editable, but more greens please.
*Now offered simply as “Shrimp and Grits” with butternut squash, mustard greens, mushrooms, Andouille sausage, tomatoes, crispy corn, and redeye gravy
Pulled Duck Sandwich (Duck Confit, Fig & Toasted Peanut Relish, Scallions, Slaw)
Served on a Kaiser roll, the sandwich is a flavor-layered experience starting with a Dijon mustard spread that includes hints of curry, cumin, and a touch of horseradish for heat. The well-prepared duck is complimented by the spread and the sautéed figs resulting in one engaging sammie. The only drawbacks are the peanuts which detract from the flavor harmony, and the large quantity of duck filling…hard to complain about, but sadly true.
Survey says…Already excellent, but perfection is achieved minus the peanuts and a smidgen less duck for balance.
Featured Layover Libation:
Pretty Brown Eyes (Eagle Rare Bourbon, Benedictine, Lemon, Ben Marco Malbec Float)
Red wine and bourbon together at last? You bet. Pretty Brown Eyes is a little funky on the front of the palate, but ebbs into a balanced mid-section of bourbon and pleasantly sweet, orange citrus fruit. Rounded out and weighted by the Malbec, the cocktail finishes with a tingling tart upswing.
Survey says…Is there a to-go cup for travelers?
Overall, One Flew South is by far one of the most impressive airport food experiences I’ve encountered. It provides travelers with a reason to book their flights via Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, and more importantly an excuse to accept those airline bribes to take a later flight.
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