It's 9:53, about two hours after I landed, and another hour to go before my next flight takes off. I've bought a couple of amethyst fragments for my girls, a Scharfen Berger tiny little chocolate bar, and a cup of *$ espresso. But the one perk of an unnaturally long layover in Houston is Pappadeaux.
Houston used to be a really severely crappy airport. Not old Detroit crappy or current Memphis crappy, but it was the standard fare low ceilings and maze like walks to get from one gate to another. Then, about the time I started flying regularly, maybe 97 or 98, they opened up Terminal E, and stuck an actual decent restaurant down by E7.
I've been there maybe a dozen times over the years, and they've done an admirable job keeping the place together through what must be thousands of people a day. The menu is relatively simple - choose a fish, choose a style, choose a sauce; or go with one of a handful of New Orleans themed entrees. Nothing I've had there is earth shattering, but at the same time, everything seems remarkably fresh, and well prepared. Tonight I had a salad and a couple of crab cakes. I have no idea if this is relevant for everyone else but my first impression of this stuff is knife work. Whoever prepped the tomatoes and little cubes of cucumber in the salad did so with a real actual knife, and did so with care and precision. And not that long ago. The crab cakes too, were surprising - served on a bed of spinach and crawfish with a "light" butter sauce, that was delicious and light relative only to hollandaise. There was even some neveau froo froo garnish on top and fresh parsely sprinkled around the perimeter.
Before I gush too much, let me say that this is a long way from inspired cuisine, it's just inspired for being in an Airport. There's still some glaring failures - the plastic utencils clash mightily with the brass and dark wood feel of the place. The service is great but infrequent. The food arrives very slowly, and the layout of the place provides no space for waiting for the inevitable 15 minutes it takes to get a table. Still - if you've got time to kill, and a bit of per diem left, it's a great way to kill 45 minutes in Houston and forget for a minute that you're stuck in an airport.