People love flying into Reagan National Airport because of the view of the monuments downtown upon landing and the airport's accessibility via its own stop on Washington's Metrorail station. But while being teeny tiny means security lines can move swiftly, it also means there are fewer decent options when it comes to food. Still, there are a few gems within the airport itself and, conveniently, there are several restaurants worth visiting within reach for those travelers facing long layovers and delays.
In honor of the beginning of summer travel season, we're re-running our guide to ten places to eat and drink in and around National that are local to DC, so that delayed travelers can find the fastest, finest food and beverages to suit the amount of time they have to kill.
Best Bets Inside Reagan National Airport
1) Five Guys: Sure, Five Guys has been expanding across the country at a rapid pace, but the burger restaurant got its start right here in Northern Virginia. Their customizable burgers and fries cooked in peanut oil have rabid followers in the DC area and beyond and for very good reason — they are delicious (Gates 35-45).
2) California Tortilla: Originally based out of Bethesda, Maryland, this chain is a local favorite for its burritos, tacos, fajitas, quesadillas and salads. Cal Tort, as many Washingtonians call it, likes to describe itself as "spunky" and it boasts a Wall of Flame lined with more than 75 kinds of hot sauces from the mild to the super spicy (Gates 35-45).
3) Mayorga Coffee: This coffee roaster with a Latin American roast profile has a handful of retail locations throughout the DC area, as well as a roasting facility out in Rockville. Mayorga offers 100 percent Arabica coffee and has been keeping people caffeinated since 1997 (pre-security).
4) Matsutake Sushi: Airport sushi can be a sketchy encounter at best, but Matsutake is a solid option. The Japanese restaurant has a few other locations in the area (including one out at Dulles Airport) and this one offers the usual: sushi, sashimi, tempura and teriyaki. It's waiter service, too, so you can take some time to relax over your miso soup (pre-security).
5) Potbelly Sandwich Shop: OK, the Chicago-based Potbelly is not a Washington restaurant, but it'd be understandable if you thought so given the sandwich chain's prevalence on our city blocks. Their sandwiches and salads have been sustaining DC worker bees for years and are a solid choice for quick lunch or dinner before hopping on your flight — or to bring aboard with you (Gates 23-34).
Best Bets Outside Reagan National Airport
(You'll need at least three hours to get there, eat, and get back.)
1) Jaleo: Spanish chef José Andrés is currently king of DC's dining scene and he just so happens to have a restaurant in Crystal City, minutes away from National Airport. Though the flagship Jaleo location is downtown, this one has the same menu of tapas favorites that have helped propel Andrés to the enormous fame and accolades he's collected over the years. (2250A Crystal Drive, Arlington, 5 minutes from the airport.)
2) Kabob Palace: This Middle Eastern restaurant has cultivated a serious following for its fine versions of chicken, lamb and beef kabobs. Kabob Palace is open all hours of the day, meaning that even during a painful late-night layover you can eat well outside of the airport. (2315 South Eads Street, Arlington, 5 minutes from the airport.)
3) Bangkok 54: If you're jonesing for Thai food, hop in a cab and head for Bangkok 54 on Columbia Pike. This restaurant has got a slick-looking design scheme and a menu packed with authentic versions of Thai classics like crispy duck, curries and more. There's also a lounge here for all your boozy needs. (2919 Columbia Pike, Arlington, 10 minutes from the airport.)
4) Bob & Edith's Diner: It seems like Bob & Edith's has been sitting there on Columbia Pike forever serving up breakfast foods at all hours of the day because, dammit, breakfast should always be served at all hours of the day. In fact, the diner has been serving breakfast, lunch and dinner 24 hours a day since 1969. (2310 Columbia Pike, Arlington, 10 minutes from the airport.)
5) Memphis Barbeque: The newcomer on the scene, Memphis Barbeque only opened in Crystal City in December 2011. But DC has gone mad for barbecue and these meats are slow-cooked over a live hickory fire. And the restaurant is practically next door to the airport in the nearby Crystal City, so points for convenience. Get the pulled pork or the spare ribs — wet. (320 South 23rd St, Arlington, 5 minutes from the airport.)
More Eater Airport Dining Guides
1) New York City: John F. Kennedy (JFK) | LaGuardia (LGA) | Newark (EWR)
2) Los Angeles: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
3) San Francisco: SF International (SFO) | Oakland International (OAK)
4) Washington, DC: Washington Dulles (IAD) | Reagan National (DCA) | Baltimore Washington International (BWI)
5) Boston: Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
6) Atlanta: Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL)
7) Miami: Miami International Airport (MIA)
8) New Orleans: Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)
9) Chicago: O'Hare International Airport (ORD) | Chicago Midway (MDW)
10) Houston: George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) | William P. Hobby (HOU)
11) Austin: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
12) Dallas: Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
13) Denver: Denver International Airport (DIA)
14) Portland, OR: Portland International Airport (PDX)
15) Seattle, WA: Seattle-Tacoma Airport (SEA)
16) Minnesota: Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport (MSP)
17) Barcelona: Barcelona El Prat Airport (BCN)