Welcome to Dining Guides, an intermittent series on the many dining hubs around the greater Phoenix area and what they have to offer. Breakfast to happy hour, quick coffee to sit-down dining, we break down some of our favorite places in each neighborhood. Today, we want to zero in on Terminal 3.
It's spring break, spring training, or just plain spring, and people are making their way to Sky Harbor International Airport. And if that way is via Sun Country, Frontier, JetBlue, Hawaiian, or Delta Air Lines, your palates are in for a treat.
Terminal 3 has come a long way, baby — and there’s still more to go. The recently named John S. McCain III Terminal at the Phoenix airport has become a sunny, spacious hub for dining, and a damn good representation of what local chef’s and restaurants have been up to thanks to Sky Harbor locations of The Parlor and SanTan, as well as The Tavern and Christopher's.
Here’s a dining guide to eating local at Terminal 3. Most of these places have breakfast, lunch, and dinner options, but here’s where we think you’ll enjoy your time in T3 best.
Your favorite caffeinated beverage is found at a number of places in Terminal 3, including two locations of Peet’s Coffee, and three locations of Starbucks. Plus, many of the terminal eateries probably have a pot brewing somewhere.
But we recommend Giant Coffee, originating right from First Street from Matt of Matt's Big Breakfast. They serve (as they put it) some direct trade, first-rate espresso, single-origin coffee, and scratch-made pastries. Get just a shot, a latte, cold brew, organic tea (iced or hot), and the aptly named Red Eye.
Giant Coffee is located in the South Concourse, post security, inside the Ironwood store.
You could grab a pastry or quick breakfast sandwich at any coffee shop in T3, but Original ChopShop is there for those who need a real breakfast before a flight (or upon landing) or are in search for vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free options.
Till 10 a.m., the Original ChopShop offers avocado toast (of course), the Sunrise Wrap, and the Balanced Bowl. Beyond breakfast, find parfaits, grilled protein bowls, and sandwiches. Fresh juices include the Cold Buster, Daily Detox, and more. There’re even 24-ounce protein shakes with whey powder, including the Jacked Up PB+J and the Muscle Malt — to which a shot of cold brew can be added.
Find Original ChopShop post security, near the top of the escalator, and open at 4 a.m.
First, yes, they have alcohol here for those hoping to make their airport dining experience more of a brunch thing. Christopher Gross, the James Beard award-winning chef, opened Christopher’s toward the end of the South Concourse in early 2019. The spot is secluded but surrounded by enough gate-standers and other travelers that you’re free to have a ball of a brunch.
Diners can warm up with morning cocktails like the Ketel One Sriracha Mary, the Absolut Smoked Bloody Mary, or a mimosa, and pick off the breakfast menu. Early items include a smoked salmon bagel, scrambled eggs with truffle salt, or the favorite brioche Benedict. Other favorites include the small plate of crispy petite raviolis, the goat cheese salad, or the roast chicken sandwich.
If you dig down into your subconscious, you realize pizza for lunch is the perfect choice. Good thing The Parlor — a Food Network-recognized pizzeria — has a Sky Harbor location now. But be alert — The Parlor is located just past security, up the escalator to the right. You almost can’t see, as if it needs an east-facing sign.
But it’s there, ready to serve wood-oven, eight-inch pizzas plus pastas, sandwiches, salads, and its well-known fritto misto (crispy calamari and shrimp with grilled lemon and romesco). You can’t go wrong with the salsiccia pizza, topped with locally made Schreiner’s Parlor-blend sausage, grilled radicchio, sage, and saba. And pro tip: Order a side of rosemary flatbread.
Mustache Pretzels has to be your just-off-the-plane snack, or something quick for you to grab before boarding. The latest addition to the fleet (two food trucks and a kiosk at the Phoenix Convention Center), the Sky Harbor location features a tight menu of yes, mustache-shaped pretzels.
There are flavored pretzels, bites, dogs, and dips (think green chile queso, honey mustard, and the irresistible cream cheese option). Find Mustache Pretzels in the South Concourse.
This one’s obvious. If you’re looking for a quick drink in Terminal 3 (not to disparage the bars at Christopher’s or The Tavern), grab local brews at the SanTan Brewing Company. Kegs are on full display, which gives it that original, downtown Chandler feel in the South Concourse.
Arizona’s award-winning and largest craft brewery offers their popular brews like Mr. Pineapple, Oktoberfest, and Sex Panther (and MoonJuice and the HefeWeizen). But if you want to get hyper-local, the PHX Lager is crisp, bright, and easy to drink (especially if you’re pairing with popular dishes like the crispy Cobb salad, chopped brisket sandwich, or Ricky Ricardo flat bread).
There are also beer-to-go options with a quick-service counter named “The Roadie.”
Though settled in the T3 corridor as the first eatery you’ll see when entering the South Concourse, The Tavern never seems to settle down. This is Phoenix chef and TV personality Mark Tarbell’s place, after all.
And while they offer breakfast and lunch items, the entrees make this place the ideal dinner spot. Think spice-rubbed flat iron steak, green chile pork stew, ricotta gnudi, or the house favorite, Damn Good Bowl of Noodles with Vegetables (or chicken). There’s also the Eater award-winning American Classic burger, and a full bar to cap off — or begin — your travels.
For something sweet, because you’re officially in vacation mode (we get it), there’s no one place. Instead, we’ll give you a few options.
If you’re sticking around at The Tavern, try the house-made coconut cream pie (have mercy) or the cinnamon-spiced chocolate mousse. Back at SanTan Brewing Company, they have the seasonal brownie a la mode made with one of their brews and weighed down with house-made gelato. And finally, Mustache Pretzels has a cinnamon sugar pretzel option with Nutella dipping sauce.
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The Delta Sky Club at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport near Gate F8 is brand new. Like, just opened in Terminal 3 in January 2019. It’s 7,500 square feet of sunny lounge area adorned in Southwestern-meets-aviation art and yes, there’s a buffet, full coffee and tea service, and a full bar. Individual Delta Sky Club membership costs are $545 per year (or 54,500 miles) or $50 per month.
The buffet has interchanging options, but during our visit, there was a quinoa and avocado salad, Southwest coleslaw salad, dates, figs, Swiss cheese, and hot offerings. There were also signature dishes like the PHX Superfood Salad and PHX Grilled Chicken Salad, and of course, some Arizona Gunslinger hot sauce.
The bar has the usual offerings, plus some tequila and mezcal (the regional play) and selected wines from Andrea Robinson — Delta's master sommelier. Seasonal cocktails make it easy for some guests to order or try something new. We saw the Gin Tonic Thyme on our visit — a Spanish-style gin and tonic with fresh citrus and other botanical ingredients. Hours are 5 a.m. to 1 a.m., daily.