The new Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX was unveiled last night at a black-tie gala, after nearly $2 billion in renovations. There are new boarding gates, more passport agents and fancy new video displays, but most importantly, there's the new "Great Hall" -- an airy shopping and dining area with over 60 retailers and restaurants. If you have a favorite L.A. eatery, there's a good chance you'll find an outpost here.
Well-heeled guests dined on farro and grape salad, burrata sandwiches and curried cauliflower at The Larder, the 4th such outpost for Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne. Once open it will be a marketplace focused on grab-and-go, plane-friendly fare: tartine sandwiches, fresh salads and pre-packed picnic boxes. Border Grill will offer that one last bracing hit of Mexican spice before you board your flight to Asia; co-owners Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger dished up cochinita pibil, rice and beans, plantains and ceviche last night -- standbys that'll anchor the airport menu.
Sushi chefs from a Sushi Roku-owned spot called "Lucky Fish" rolled warm crab rolls; Petrossian offered passersby spoonfuls of caviar. Unlike at their West Hollywood outpost, at LAX they're planning to focus on just caviar and accoutrements instead of a full lunch menu.
Michael Voltaggio's ink.sack served up cold fried chicken sandwiches layered with tangy ranch cheese and a special hot sauce (so popular it's now available online); when the terminal opens to the public, a couple half sandwiches and a sack of Maryland crab chips could be just the snack to tide you over til in-flight service kicks in.
If last night is any indication, sugar-lovers will have a ball in the new terminal: Tables groaned with homemade cookies, brownies, cupcakes and macarons from Vanilla Bakeshop and Short Cake.
Other eateries opening in the Great Hall: quick-serve pizza joint 800 Degrees, Ill Forks steakhouse, James Beach, Starbucks, Pinkberry, Marmalade Café, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, DrinkLA, Cantina Laredo, Scoreboard LA, and the 27th airport location of Vino Volo, a wine and small-plates bar. If you've never been to one, it can be an absolutely life-saving experience when traveling through, say, Sacramento.
Oh, and there's a Panda Express. No airport terminal is complete, it seems, without a Panda Express.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, for whom this new Hall is named, led the crowd in chants of "I Love L.A." as servers circulated with the last of the egg rolls, brownies and wine. The offerings are enough to make domestic travelers green with envy. And bad news: This food court seems to be behind the security checkpoints.
Construction should be completed this fall. Be careful: You just might miss your flight.
The Great Hall is in the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, 380 World Way, Los Angeles; (310) 568-7500.