Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Vacation: Wolfgang Puck's Airport Cafe

Wolfgang Puck's Airport Cafe
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
Terminal 3, Gate 17, Concourse B
Hebron, KY

The Cincinnati/Northern KY International Airport is growing on us. The airport doesn't seem as busy as it once was - rising costs at Delta have forced the vacation traveler to consider low-cost airlines at rival airports - but it seems cleaner and more streamlined these days. Sure, it doesn't have the elegance of Amsterdam's Schiphol nor the sexy, sleek modernism of Københavns Lufthavn, and it certainly doesn't have the hustle and bustle of O'Hare or Heathrow, but it's efficient and easy to navigate, which score big points with travelers.

There are a fair number of eateries at CVG, but most are run-of-the-mill fast-food and snacky-snacky items like cinnamon rolls, cookies, doughnuts and frozen yogurt. We wanted something more substantial before our transatlantic flight, however, and a quick look at the menus of Outback Steakhouse and Max & Erma's confirmed a lack of vegetarian options. Luckily we had some time to kill and had a wander to the opposite end of Terminal 3, where a friendly face welcomed us to Wolfgang Puck's. The list of vegetarian-friendly options posted on their specials board lured me in.

Obviously this outpost lacks the wow-factor of a traditional Wolfgang Puck restaurant, but the stylish decor was impressive for an airport cafe. More important for me was the list of vegetarian options, which for an abbreviated menu were more than adequate. There are two vegetarian soups (tortilla and butternut squash) and two salads (spinach and mixed baby greens) for the light appetite, as well as two veg pizzas and three pastas on the entree menu. I opted for the linguini with tomato basil garlic sauce, which came with a side salad.

Baby greens with bright dressing

The salad dressing was delicate and tart, with bright hints of orange and thyme. Fantastic. The salad itself was a basic mix of baby greens, and the only complaint I have is that it was almost too cold to eat. I'm guessing the salads (plates and all) are stored in a frigid environment.

The linguini entree was the exact opposite - Holy cow but that melamine plate came out scorching and I burned myself on the first bite. The entree was inedible until it had time to cool, and I must admit that I thought it would be better than it was, given the chef's reputation. I've never had any of his range of frozen ready-meals, but I suspect the restaurant entree came from the same industrial kitchen.

Linguine in tomato-garlic sauce

Not so my husband's choice of roast chicken with garlic mashed potatoes. He was surprised to find a half-chicken on his plate - much more than he had envisioned. He was well pleased with his selection, and I was envious after I'd had a couple of forkfuls of those mashed potatoes. They were creamy and buttery and garlicky and amazing.

The stylish decor is inviting

Wolfgang Puck's Airport Cafe has a decent selection of bar drinks, but as it appeared that the corporate entity might have been at the restaurant assessing staff on the day of our visit, I'm very surprised that the bar would pair a bottle of beer with a lowball glass rather than a standard pilsner/drinking glass. It felt odd sipping a beer in a glass that I equate with whiskey. The managerial party taking notes on the staff should have meant a stellar dining experience, but although our server was energetic and friendly, she neglected to clear away our salad plates, which sat on the tiny table for our entire meal.

All in all, I found Wolfgang Puck's to be an alright place for a pre-flight meal and will most likely revisit the next time we travel, moreso because of the vegetarian options available rather than a genuine enjoyment of the food, which was just ok.

Still, it was better than the vegetarian meal served up by Delta a few hours later.
Delta Air Lines' sad excuse of a vegetarian meal

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