NYC Dining: Taste of Prime Tavern (LGA)

Taste of Prime Tavern
LaGuardia Airport Terminal D

Web Site:

Since early summer, a lot of you may have been wondering “What the hell happened to Perlow’s posts?”

Well, the Jersey part of Off The Broiler has been run like clockwork by Melody Kettle, who has been updating you on all things delicious in the Garden State.

My wife and I moved to South Florida at the end of June, where I’ve gone into research mode in terms of the local restaurant scene. I’ve also been trying to keep my technology blogging on ZDNet up to regular levels, which has been a challenge in and of itself.

But many of you know I primarily work in technology consulting and I do a lot of travel. Since early August I’ve been commuting back and forth to Brooklyn on a weekly basis.

And that involves spending a lot of time in airports.

Specifically, New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, Terminal D. Which I depart from on Thursday nights to return home to the Fort Lauderdale area.

Terminals C & D are run by Delta, which is my carrier of choice.  I always start at D even if I have flights out of C, because there is a free shuttle bus between the two terminals and the only open SkyClub is currently at D.

So if I have a 2 or more hour wait before my flight, I grab something to eat and then hit the club for drinks.

There are a number of good places to eat in Terminal D, all of which are run by a company called On The Go Management, which owns high-end and creative restaurant concepts in a number of different airports.

One of the things that this company has pioneered is placing seating areas in the terminal gates which have specially-secured iPads where you can browse their menus and have food delivered directly to your seat.

I haven’t tried any of those offerings yet because I prefer a traditional sit-down dining experience away from the gates themselves, but if you’re in a hurry and want something better than pre-wrapped sandwiches from a kiosk, it looks like a good way to go.

The most prominent of the restaurants in Terminal D is A Taste of Prime Tavern, which opened in August of 2010, and  has a menu that was originally formulated by Michael Lomonaco, of Porter House New York in the Time Warner Center in Manhattan.

I’m saying that it’s the most prominent because it is directly behind the main security checkpoint, has the most seating of the other restaurants, the biggest bar area, and has a dramatic window view of the departing aircraft.

In terms of the prices, I think they are pretty reasonable given the overhead that this place has to deal with in being in an airport terminal. If you are expecting it to be a bargain, it isn’t, but I can guarantee you cannot go wrong with practically anything you order here, particularly if you want a place to have a civilized meal for an hour or more.

For the quality of the food you get, the value is definitely there.

The menu items change seasonally depending on what the restaurant can source and what is selling, but here’s a sample menu.

Bar Area/Main Dining Room.

Main dining room, window area

Airport food doesn’t have to suck. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Tables are decorated with fresh flowers, which I think is a really nice touch.

Here’s the primary reason why I go to this place: The Tavern Burger. This is a big half pound burger, using meat from what is considered to be one of the best meat purveyors in NYC, Pat LaFrieda. LaFrieda burger meat blend are used in many of the top Manhattan burger places, like Shake Shack and Minetta Tavern.

This burger has big strips of crispy thick bacon, with blue cheese and BBQ sauce on it, on a really nice brioche bun.

You’d be hard pressed to find a better airport burger on the entire planet. OTG also runs a Pat LaFrieda burger stand in Terminal D for those who want more of a fast food experience and more customization and toppings in terms of the burger options.

Here’s yet another view of the burger. Note the use of perfectly ripe red tomato and excellent home-made fries. My only advice to diners is that you order the burger one doneness level down from the way you typically prefer it. If you order it rare, it’s gonna come out medium-rare. If you order it Medium-rare, it’s going to come out Medium.

That’s just the way this kitchen seems to work. Medium-rare is correct for this thickness of burger, so ask for it rare.

And yes, they do have Turkey Burgers. Excellent ones at that. This one has melted Swiss cheese with a cranberry mayo dressing and alfalfa sprouts.

Sliders. Forget these guys and go straight to the full-sized burgers.  It’s the only item I’ve been really disappointed in at this place. Too much bun and emphasis on cuteness here.

If you arrive at a more breakfasty-brunchy hour, you can get all sorts of different eggy items such as various Benedicts and stuff. This is the classic Breakfast Sandwich on a big English muffin, with Canadian Bacon and Cheese with home fries. Hits the spot.

If you’re in a mood for a nice salad, here’s the iceberg wedge with blue cheese and bacon.

This is the restaurant’s Caesar, which is about as good as a Ceasar is going to get, with nice hearts of romaine lettuce and shaved Parmigiano cheese and anchovy fillets. I’m ashamed to say I yanked the anchovy fillets out. Anchovies are essential to making a good Caesar dressing, but I don’t like eating them whole.

This is a watercress salad with kalamata olives, feta cheese and slices of ripe watermelon. Was nice and cooling on a hot summer’s day.

Heirloom Tomato Insalata Caprese with balsamic reduction dressing. I’ve had this one a number of times and they’ve used different kind of heirlooms depending on what they have available including Green Zebras. I’d only order this particular dish in the summer, though.

Same salad but using New Jersey beefsteaks.

Chilled Cucumber Soup. This had a heavy dill taste to it. I’m not really a huge fan of dill as a primary flavor profile but the soup was very refreshing in late August when I had it.

Manhattan Clam Chowder. Classic preparation, with nice big chunky pieces of quahog in it.

Besides really good burgers, sandwiches, soups and salads the restaurant also offers main dishes, such as steaks, chops and fish. This was one of the more creative dishes, small scallops served in their own shells (a rare find even in NYC) in a saute with onion and sun dried tomato, rendering their own broth. This was accompanied by a big thick slice of toasted crusty bread to sop up the juices with. Wonderful stuff.

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