Over the past several years, there have been significant strides in the quality of food at places typically known for terrible options -- think airports, bowling alleys, etc. But while we applaud these efforts to bring tasty food to the masses, there is still a long way to go. Food that is both healthy and delicious is understandably harder to execute on a large scale than unhealthy, non-tasty food. But if there is demand, there will be change.
Here's a round-up of public spaces that are oh-so-slowly beginning to offer tastier fare:
Typical movie theater fare involves overly buttered popcorn, mass-produced candy and very large sodas. There's a reason those movie theater floors are always so sticky -- there's just so much sugar around. <strong>Places doing it right: </strong> <a href="http://www.nitehawkcinema.com/" target="_blank">Nitehawk Cinema</a> in Brooklyn offers small plates such as heirloom tomatoes with mozzarella and risotto balls with lemon and thyme. The <a href="http://drafthouse.com/" target="_blank">Alamo Drafthouse</a>, with locations around Texas and a few other states, has a menu that includes a range of wraps, sandwiches and appetizers.
If you're a frequent flyer, you've probably been in this situation: You're starving at an airport, but the only dining options are fast food... and that's not exactly what you want to eat before jumping on a long flight. <strong>Places doing it right:</strong> Slowly but surely, airports are realizing that people will pay more money for better food. The <a href="http://www.jetblue.com/travel/jfk/" target="_blank">JetBlue terminal at JFK</a> offers a range of options that aren't just palatable, but are actually good. And elsewhere, if you know what you're hunting for, you maybe just be able to <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/01/travel/airport-restaurants" target="_blank">track something down</a> amidst the disappointing landscape.
Going for a long hike? Great. You'll probably be starving afterwards. Then you'll have a choice of an unappetizing burger or hot dog. And your hunger may continue. <strong>Places doing it right:</strong> The National Park Service is slowly changing its food options. It has announced a policy that mandates <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/05/national-park-service-healthy-food_n_3391500.html" target="_blank">healthier and more sustainable food.</a> New options include fish tacos and yogurt parfaits.
One of the great things about DC's many museums is that admission is free in so many of them. The food, however, is not usually a big selling point. At the National Mall, you can choose between generic <a href="http://www.si.edu/Dining" target="_blank">food court options</a> and McDonald's. On another note, around the country, there are a bunch of fabulous museum restaurants that cater to a higher-end diner such as <a href="http://www.themodernnyc.com/" target="_blank">The Modern</a> in New York. But while that food may be great, it isn't exactly food for the masses. We want something like a decent sandwich that won't break the bank. <strong>Places doing it right:</strong> One exception to DC's poor food quality in museums is <a href="http://www.mitsitamcafe.com/" target="_blank">Mitsitam Cafe</a> in the National Museum Of the American Indian which serves indigenous cuisines of the Americas. And in New York, <a href="http://momaps1.org/about/mwells/" target="_blank">M. Wells</a> at MoMa's PS1 offshoot is pretty great.
Even when we were kids, we recognized that bowling alley food was pretty terrible. The pizza was cardboard-y and everything just felt ... gross. (Maybe it had something to do with shared bowling shoes being in such close proximity?) <strong>Places doing it right:</strong> Brooklyn Bowl offers totally <a href="http://www.brooklynbowl.com/food" target="_blank">decent fried chicken</a>, among other options. <a href="http://www.bowlluckystrike.com/" target="_blank">Lucky Strike</a> has locations across the country and offers a range of appetizers, flatbread pizzas and more. The company may not be reinventing the wheel, but at least the food tastes okay!
There have been a ton of articles about how stadium food has come a long way. And sure, it has. But the vast majority of stadiums are still serving mostly burgers, hot dogs, chicken fingers and more. We're not necessarily expecting gourmet salads here, but sometimes a vegetable (not french fries) or non-meat alternative would be welcome. <strong>Places doing it right:</strong> PETA recently rounded up the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/27/vegetarian-baseball-stadium_n_3511690.html" target="_blank">top 10 vegetarian baseball stadiums</a>. For the meat lovers out there, we strongly recommend this <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/pat-lafrieda-steak-sandwich-at-citi-field-2013-6" target="_blank">steak sandwich</a>...even if it is $15.
Have you noticed how weird the cafe car on Amtrak smells? Yeah... that food is not good. <strong>Places doing it right:</strong> Um. Well the chefs that serve on <a href="http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?c=Page&pagename=am%2FLayout&cid=1241337915346" target="_blank">Amtrak Culinary Advisory Council</a> is fairly impressive. Some of their suggestions seem <a href="http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/139/824/Acela-First-Class-Menu-2013.pdf" target="_blank">sort of okay.</a>... if you can afford Acela First Class. For everyone else, your best bet is still to probably brown bag it.
Highway Rest Stops
Hope you like Sbarro, Cinnabon or Roy Rogers because those might be your only choices when heading to a highway rest stop for a bathroom and snack break. <strong>Places doing it right:</strong> You might as well head to Italy and find a decent meal at <a href="http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/driving/autogrill.htm" target="_blank">Autogrill</a>. Ain't nothing for you here.