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Beware the Hungry Road Warrior

April 16, 2013
Road warriors know certain truths. First, if you are trying to stretch the travel budget never, ever stay at the conference hotel. There is always a better deal, often right across the street. Second, clear Homeland Security early. Itís better to wait on the other side of the wall.

If flying out of San Francisco, you might want to get in line the night before the flight. It is without a doubt the worst of the major airports when it comes to clearing security.

That brings us to food. No real road warrior would pay United Airlines $7.99 for a microwaved cheese burger or $7.49 for a snack box of stuff you wouldnít buy if you were on the ground. Real road warriors know where and when to eat. The food at airports is overpriced in all cases but you can get a decent meal if you know where to look.

A favorite place is in Houston at the George H.W. Bush Intercontinental Airport. In Terminal C youíll find an area called Real Food. Itís cafeteria style. Thereís everything from barbecue to salads to meatloaf to chicken and deli. It is airport pricing, but the portions are respectable. If Iím going to or through Houston, I wait to eat there.

My home airport is Newark Liberty International. The food there is early American shopping mall food court. For the trendoids, thereís a Crumbs Bake Shop if you want to spend $3.95 on a cupcake or $4.25 on a cannoli. There is a Gallagherís Steakhouse in Terminal C. Itís nothing like its namesake in New York City and the food has been uneven in multiple tries. But, itís probably the best of what Newark has to offer.

You would think that the food at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans would be mighty tasty. Youíd be wrong. Itís got to be in the top five worst airports for food. Likewise, youíd think there would be decent food at Ronald Reagan International Airport with all of the important folks going through there. Youíd be wrong again, although a Five Guys hamburger joint just opened.

Whenever one of those celebrity chefs opens a chain of eateries in airports you can expect to be disappointed, like I was at Cat Coraís Kitchen at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. That isnít the case in Chicago at OíHare International Airport where Rick Bayless has opened Tortas Frontera. Thereís a guacamole bar, soups, salads and breakfast sandwiches. The main attraction is the tortas, griddle-baked Mexican sandwiches with a variety of fillings such as beer-braised beef short ribs, chipotle chicken, garlicky shrimp and goat cheese. Hereís the best part. It has a list of the local farms from where the food was sourced.

Itís a long way from San Francisco International to downtown. Grab a cup of soup at the San Francisco Soup Company near Gate 80. They have a great variety of nice soups and, of course, some sour dough to go with it.

You donít have to be hungry or under-nourished while on the road. To steal a phrase from celebrity chef Alton Brown, you can find good eats at the airport.

Paul Clolery is vice president and editorial director of NPT Publishing Group in Morris Plains, N.J., which publishes The NonProfit Times and its sister publication the magazine Exempt. He also has oversight responsibilities for the editorial content The NonProfit Times Online, the e-letters NPT Weekly, NPT Instant Fundraising, NPT TechnoBuzz, Exempt and NPTJobs.

Often a speaker for industry meetings and conferences, he has spoken at conferences of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, The American Society of Association Executives, The American Institue of Certified Public Accountants, The DMA Nonprofit Federation, the Blackbaud user conference, the Kintera user conference, the Convio user and the Sage Software user conferences. He also has been master of ceremonies for events at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

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