Every traveler knows the way it goes with flight layovers. Anthony Bourdain was even smart enough to create a show around them. Why? If you have a layover, you admit food defeat, and are most likely willing to go the remainder of your day without sitting down to a satisfying meal, or at least one tasty enough to get you through another plane ride without a bag of blue chips. Airport food and terminal restaurants? Eh, no thank you. Any self-respecting foodie would rather starve.
But what if you have a little time to spare? Maybe your flight's been delayed or you've just picked up a starving out-of-town guest. Would you consider a rendezvous with some of the city's nearby establishments instead of the airport food mall? Well, if you're in West Palm Beach at the Palm Beach International Airport, you should. There just happen to be a few good finds just miles from the runway.
Simply hop in a cab and prepare to chow down at any of these five restaurants, each located off Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach and just minutes from the airport. Whether you're in the mood for fast food, soul food, a sandwich -- even just a salad -- Clean Plate Charlie has it covered.
5. Los Parceros
Not everyone can say they've had good Colombian food, never mind good Colombian fast food. But if you happen to be in West Palm Beach, Los Parceros offers both. Less than five miles from PBI, you'll find the tiny takeout and sit-down restaurant that covers all manner of Colombian fast food, including the traditional street-food-style burgers and hot dogs the likes you'd find at Miami's La Moon Restaurant but also a few authentic regional dishes made exactly as you'll find them in the owner's home city of Pereira. Many of the picks are variations of family recipes given a slight twist. A must: the empanadas. A different breed than the Spanish or South American versions, they're tiny -- a Colombian trait -- with a thick, crunchy, corn-meal shell stuffed with a tasty forcemeat, a flavorful combination of beef and potato blended to a creamy consistency. They're served with a small cup of ají picante, a spicy Colombian sauce made with green chili peppers, onion, cilantro, lime juice, and vinegar and accented with cumin.
A longtime West Palm Beach establishment, Nick's 50's Diner is a nostalgic tribute to an imaginary postwar America, 1955 Seeburg jukebox and all. Decked out in a fit of 1950s memorabilia, this retro diner is particularly proud of its half-pound burgers -- all ten of them -- claiming "You can't beat Nick's meat." The best part: Nothing on the menu is more than $10. That includes a whole mess of sandwiches, hot dogs, sandwiches, and wraps. Say you're more of a clean eater trying to find a good meal. Try a salad. The menu offers 13 types, from a garden, Greek, and Cobb to a tuna, caesar, or buffalo chicken platter. Looking for something special? They even have fried clams, homemade meat loaf, and turkey-breast platters made with meat that's roasted on the premises.
Let's face it, while traveling isn't easy on anyone, it's especially uncomfortable for vegetarians and vegans. They're forced to pack a snack and lunch at home, then somehow keep it intact through security lines and bag checks. And if you're on a meat-free meal plan and stuck at an airport for a few hours, a wilted salad, apple, or bag of nuts is about all you'll get for airport fare. However, venture just outside the terminal walls and a short cab ride can land you at The Vegan Cafe off Okeechobee. Since opening in July, it's already earned a reputation among the local vegan-loving population, including a few "celebrities" like Hippocrates Health Institute codirectors Anna Marie and Brian Clement and Vanilla Ice. The café offers a chalkboard menu of cold-pressed juices, smoothies, and a serve-yourself soup bar that changes daily. There's also a short menu of raw, vegan eats. And for the fully committed vegan, the entire right wall is dedicated to shelves showcasing colorful jars of owner Moe Senechal's homemade, probiotic-infused, fermented foods. Try the Pond Yum! popsicles for an after-meal treat. They're healthy and delicious!
If you're craving something melty, cheesy, meaty, and delicious -- airport food isn't going to cut it, and you know it. A short trip outside the convenience-store crap will get you some food worth salivating for, from fresh-baked bread, choice meat, plenty of special sauce, and food that's made with lots of love. That's what makes a sub sandwich from this New England original one of the area's best stops for any layover. Rinaldi's has been serving Italian deli lovers some of the best sandwiches from its South Florida location for more than five years. The current owners -- a couple hailing from New York and New Jersey -- offer a variety of hot and cold subs using Boar's Head meat and fresh-baked bread. The menu has a great selection of specialty sandwiches -- more than 20 in all -- many of them given Italian Mafia-related names, like the "Mobster," "Brando," and "Pauly Special." Ask for the house specialty, however, and everyone will tell you to get the "Godfather," a hot sub combo of chopped steak, bacon, cappicola, salami, pepperoni, and provolone and finished with the standard lettuce, tomato, and mayo. If you go early, try the pork roll egg and cheese. If you're coming from up North, it's as New England as you can get in the Sunshine State, served right at this tiny slice of the Bronx in West Palm Beach.
Voted one of the best places for cheap eats in Palm Beach County, Bay Bay's is the perfect spot to grab a quick, tasty meal during a long layover at Palm Beach International Airport. Here, it's all about satisfying a craving for that unlikely duo -- chicken and waffles. Here, the chicken goes through an 11-step process that includes a dunk in some secret, specialty herbs and spices before being fried to perfection and paired with a soft, fresh-pressed waffle. You can choose from dark or light meat platters, plus score wingettes and specialty waffle options like apple cinnamon and Cuban coffee. They've also got your standard soul-food sides like collard greens and mac and cheese, plus lots of other Southern-style eats, from shrimp poorboys to baby back ribs. There's even wine and beer, so you can make it a full-fledged meal with a few brews at this laid-back urban bar and grill.
Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.