The Best and Worst of Admirals Club Food

Jul 14, 2015

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TPG Intern Kevin Song spent last week on an Admirals Club tour, working from lounges across the eastern United States with the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. Along the way, he visited Chicago-O’Hare, New York-LaGuardia, PhiladelphiaBoston and Washington-Reagan.

Last week, I spent five days working and eating in Admirals Clubs. It’s certainly no secret that domestic lounge food isn’t great, and spending a week eating it wasn’t a very luxurious experience at all.

Nevertheless, I still was able to have at least one decent meal amidst the moldy and cold sandwiches I got elsewhere. I encourage you to consider the “club special” offerings that many of the Admirals Club have over the standard menu, as those are often freshly prepared, at least a bit more recently than the standard food.

The Best

My first acceptable meal in an Admirals Club, the lobster roll wasn't that bad.
My only acceptable meal in an Admirals Club — the lobster roll wasn’t bad.

1. Lobster Roll — Boston Logan International Airport B30

By far the best meal I had on my journey, this was the only meal that I was glad to eat, and the only one I was able to finish. Unlike at most other lounges, the food wasn’t simply just dumped onto a plate in front of me, but prepared in the back and served wherever in the lounge I liked.

The lobster roll is Boston’s “club special,” thought it wasn’t offered at the other Admirals Club in Boston (yet — since that lounge was formerly a US Airways Club). Unlike sandwiches that were taken from the refrigerator and served, the bread was nicely buttered and toasted, and the lobster, while not the freshest ever, was pretty decent.

I’ve had a lot of people tell me to skip the food in the lounge and head to the terminal, so I decided to do just that. I visited the famous Boston-based chain, Legal Sea Foods, but I didn’t find much luck there. The lobster roll that I ordered for comparison featured bits of cartilage and shell, and while it was presented slightly better, it was also $12 more expensive (!), even before considering the higher tip expected for dining at a sit-down restaurant.

Because of this, I’d rank the lobster roll in the Admirals Club pretty highly for value, and it’s a much better option than anything else in the lounge.

It certainly wasn’t the best lobster roll I’d ever had, but it was definitely edible. That’s much more than I can say about the other food on my trip.

This panini was much better than the one in Chicago — but not great.
This panini was much better than the one in Chicago — but not great.

2. Apricot Chipotle Pork Panini — Washington Reagan National Airport Terminal B

I wasn’t a huge fan of this one, but I disliked it less than the other things I ordered from the Admirals Club menu. Like in Boston, it was plated in the back and served at your seat, instead of being “prepared” and served at the bar.

The panini lacked a complex taste and just tasted like a bunch of sauce and pork. But, at least it was edible, and I was able to finish the majority of the sandwich. I just wish that American would invest in some better chips to go with the sandwiches — an extra 25 cents for “better” chips would go a long way from the Lays or Ruffles chips currently on offer.

I was able to enjoy my second lunch in front of a great view of the gates and runway.
I was able to enjoy my lunch in front of a great view of the gates and runway.

Bonus: The Centurion Lounge — New York LaGuardia Airport

Needless to say, the complimentary food at The Centurion Lounge was far better than any menu food that I ordered at the Admirals Club. If you have access to one of these lounges and are transiting an airport that features one, definitely skip food elsewhere and head straight here.

Every lounge has unique and locally-inspired cuisine created by a well-known chef. At LaGuardia, I had a fresh ramen noodle soup, great slow-cooked salmon, beet salad, avocados, roasted corn, garlic broccoli and delicious strawberry shortcake. It’s a far cry from the offerings at any domestic airline lounge.

The Worst

No, not the white flour on the ciabatta — the tomato caprese sandwich had greenish, blueish mold on the right side of the sandwich.
No, not the white flour on the ciabatta — the tomato caprese sandwich had greenish, blueish mold on the right side of the sandwich.

1. Moldy Tomato Caprese Sandwich — New York LaGuardia Airport Terminal C

There’s no question about this one. There’s absolutely no excuse for any establishment to serve moldy food, especially not one where the annual membership fee is well over $400.

I never got around to tasting it, so I can’t report on how it tasted, but after this, I certainly did not want to order anything else in the lounge. The presentation was dismal as well, as it was given to me packaged in saran wrap, and without the extras that the menu said it was served with. I had to ask for those, and even then, I didn’t get the chocolate chip cookie.

Unfortunately, this Southwest Chicken Salad disappointed.
Unfortunately, this Southwest Chicken Salad disappointed.

2. Southwest Chicken Salad — Chicago O’Hare International Airport Concourse H/K

This was the first meal that I ordered on my week-long trip, and unfortunately, it wasn’t great. The dressing didn’t have much taste except an overpowering spice. There was none of that rich flavor underneath that makes spicy food so good. It was bland and spicy at the same time, if that’s possible.

The entire salad was literally flipped upside down from a plastic takeout container in front of me and served — definitely not impressive. The only redeeming factor of this salad was the half avocado — I love avocados. I wasn’t able to finish the salad, unfortunately.

Item Admirals Club Price Taste Freshness Presentation Value Overall
Lobster Roll BOS B30 $15.99 4 4 3 4 3.8
Apricot Chipotle Pork Panini DCA B $12 3 2 2 2 2.3
Roast Beef & Cheddar Wrap PHL B/C $12 2 2 2 2 2.0
Turkey Florentine Panini ORD H/K $11 3 1 3 1 2.0
Southwest Chicken Salad ORD H/K $12 2 2 1 1 1.5
Tomato Caprese Sandwich LGA C $12 N/A 0 1 0 0.3
Centurion Lounge Buffet LGA Complimentary 4 5 3 5 4.3
Lobster Roll Legal Sea Foods $28 3 4 4 2 3.3

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