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New Orleans’s Best New Place to Eat Is the Airport—and Both Fliers and Nonfliers Can Indulge

By Michelle Baran

Dec 13, 2019

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Leah’s Kitchen pays tribute to the late, great “Queen of Creole” Leah Chase.

Courtesy of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport

Leah’s Kitchen pays tribute to the late, great “Queen of Creole” Leah Chase.

The city’s new airport terminal features an impressive roster of restaurants from some of the city’s most respected chefs, and you don't need a boarding pass to try them out.

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The new terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is now open, and in addition to providing the city with a much-needed new transportation hub, it is an impressive showcase of some of the foodie town’s most celebrated chefs.

Added bonus: you don’t have to be a ticketed passenger to eat there. As of this month, the MSY Guest Pass allows the nonflying public to indulge in the new dining venues alongside their flying counterparts.

The $1 billion terminal was designed by the late Argentine architect César Pelli and replaces the original terminal, which was constructed in 1959. The new structure features a long list of much-needed upgrades, including free high-speed internet; chargers at half of the seats in the gate areas; water bottle refilling stations; parents’ rooms; and music venues both before and after security.

But the upgrade we’re most excited about is the food. There will be 40 retail stores throughout the terminal, including some standout dining venues that will likely have us heading to the airport a little early the next time we’re flying out of New Orleans.

New Orleans really needed this new terminal; the old one was built in 1959.

One of the centerpiece restaurants is Leah’s Kitchen, an homage to the late, self-taught Creole chef Leah Chase, who died earlier this year at age 96. The New York Times reported that Chase’s grandson, Edgar Chase IV, is running the much anticipated eatery, which will serve classic Creole cuisine.

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Chase’s storied restaurant Dooky Chase’s, located in the city’s Tremé neighborhood, had an outpost in the airport’s old terminal, but that was shut down along with the old terminal on November 6. At Leah’s Kitchen, diners will be able to indulge in Leah’s famed fried chicken and gumbo to the backdrop of a large mural depicting her image.

The chic Folse Market by chef John Folse will be serving New Orleans–style seafood and po’boys.

Another star player is Folse Market from Louisiana native chef John Folse, who has become a global ambassador for Cajun cuisine. Together with New York chef Rick Tromato, Folse is at the helm of the upscale Restaurant R’evolution in New Orleans’s French Quarter. The Folse Market at the new terminal serves seafood, po’boys, charcuterie, coffee, and wine; it also sells merchandise.

Chef and restaurateur Emeril Lagasse, who has longtime roots in New Orleans, is represented in the new MSY terminal as well. Emeril’s Table is among the list of establishments offering travelers New Orleans cuisine and cocktails before their flights.

One of the newcomers we’re most jazzed about is the highly acclaimed New Orleans venue MoPho from chef Michael Gulotta, which marries southern favorites like shrimp and grits with Vietnamese standards, including, of course, pho soup. MoPho’s interpretation of Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches offers fillings such as “Nola hot sausage,” fried shrimp, and fried oyster with more traditional banh mi fixings.

Why yes we will have one more order of beignets before we leave, thank you.

For a sweet souvenir, New Orleans beignet institution Café du Monde has set up shop in the new terminal for all last-minute fried-and-powdered-goodness needs, along with Angelo Brocato, which has been doling out Italian gelato and desserts in New Orleans since 1905.

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And of course, no trip to or from New Orleans would be complete without a proper cocktail. Bar Sazerac is serving them up in a sophisticated, speakeasy-style setting. For one last hit of live music as only New Orleans can deliver, at Heritage School of Music you can get a drink while musicians play on stage.

The decision to build a new airport terminal was made back in 2013. That same year, the airport announced that the architects César Pelli and William Raymond Manning of Manning Architects had signed on to the project. Pelli is known for, among other things, having designed the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

When the new terminal opened on November 6, the old terminal was closed to the public. Additional information about the terminal can be found on the New MSY website, which is dedicated to the project.

For those interested in obtaining the MSY Guest Pass, they can do so online up to 24 hours before their visit. The pass provides access to the postsecurity area in the new terminal seven days a week between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.‚ with a limit of 50 visitors per day, Monday through Friday, and 100 visitors per day on Saturdays and Sundays.

Approved visitors will go through standard security screening, so any security requirements for regular passengers will also be applied to visitors (minus the need for a boarding pass), including presenting a valid government-issued photo identification. MSY Guest Pass holders will also be prohibited from bringing through any items that have been barred by the Transportation Security Administration.

Visitors 13 years or older will need a guest pass, and those 12 years and under will not if accompanied by an adult with a pass.

This story originally appeared on October 22, 2019, and was updated on December 13, 2019, to include current information.

>> Next: Plan Your Trip With AFAR’s Guide to New Orleans

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