the spot: Newark Airport Terminal C(United) Newark NJ 07114
the eats: Burgers and Dumplings
the bucks: $$$
the full nelson: you’re at the airport. start drinking to prepare yourself for the tab
Travel is an expense folks. You know this when you spend $4 for a bottle of water at the airport or the hotel. You know this when you rack up those Uber/Lyft charges. I’d like to tell you that I can somehow thread the needle at the airport with a thrifty day of Cheap Eats but the opposite is true. Bite the bullet, open up the wallet and save yourself the agony of a meal at Burger King.
Oh and your best bet is accept a 30-40% budget increase with alcohol. Trust me, it helps with the impending $50-$100 tabs you’re about to incur.
Dim Sum has been a banner of Cheap Eats for years. Even when it gets pricey I still find the meal an overall bang for your buck experience. Little Purse Dumpling Den, situated in terminal C of Newark Airport seemed like the right start to Eating Newark Airport. Just be prepared to bring a medium sized wallet to Little Purse Dumpling Den.
At nearly $2.70 a dumpling you might have big expectations at Little Purse Dumpling Den. Though there only 5 dumplings they were a decent size, like 2-3 bites each. The dough was fresh and had a great chew. I ordered the pork and leek dumplings and the prominent taste of leek was a good indicator of freshness. At the time I thought these weren’t bad but I was quick to move on. Looking back now it’s hard to swallow I paid almost $14 for not awesome dumplings.
Vanguard Kitchen is usually the type of restaurant I avoid at the airport. First off who has the time for sit down dining at the airport? I’m usually paranoid about missing the flight. Well I had a lot of time to kill Newark(which is why I visited two restaurants) and the upside to visiting Vanguard in the pandemic is that you can order immediately with tablets positioned at every bar seat and table.
So if you haven’t found out by now: I have a food and bev podcast(Eat This Drink That– subscribe!) which means I have gone off the deep end with wine. I’ve always appreciated wine though the price factor and variety can be intimidating. With my co-host Steve Greer, booze expert and beverage industry insider on text standby, I picked a Malbec to ease into my dining experience. Also I knew it would pair well with this.
Argentina tends to offer some excellent and affordable wines, particularly reds. So when translated to airport fees, we are talking $15+ a glass. I had two. That plus a $30 burger and I should be swimming in financial woe. Thing is, it’s the airport and it would turn out that a blue cheese burger with a nice of glass of red wine made for a worthy special occasion. Oh and I also had this beer too:
A local IPA is always worthy of a try. This beer wasn’t too heavy on the hops, in fact this could be the kind of IPA that could make for a good tailgate option for the beer nerd. It also helped wet my whistle for a $30 burger. Oh and speaking of that burger . . .
Initially I was torn between the burrata burger and the black and blue. Either way I was committed to being classy and having a glass of wine on my burger. While a semi soft creamy cheese like burrata would pair well with a red wine, the sofrito on the burger threw me. An onion and tomato saute seemed too acidic to play well with a wine like Malbec. Also the Malbec bottle said it went with blue cheese burgers. I took that as a sign.
I don’t do this, like ever. Yet here I am showing you a burger that’s half eaten. Truth is I was amazed at well put together this burger was. We are at the airport after all and the only guarantee is overpriced food. This burger was overpriced but it was damn solid too. Well composed starting with the patty to bun ratio all the way through the toppings build. This burger held together well.
I added red onion too(and they charged me like $1.55 for it!) but it hung in there. Also the bite of red onion is spot on with the funk of the blue cheese, the smokiness of the bacon and the meaty punch of the beef patty. This may not be a burger you would go out of your way for, even if priced at half what Vanguard charges, but I was sure enjoying it. That wine opened up beautifully with the burger too. The bun could have been fresher and the fries could have been more interesting like shoestring or frites vs sports bar variety but you’ll eat em up.
It turns out that every add on made the meal that much more memorable if insanely expensive. I practically forgot about the dumplings and maybe it’s because I should have had a beer or a sake to go with it. Vanguard’s blue cheese burger with wine was the move even if it meant dropping $50+ before tax and tip. Look, the airport is expensive but if you have time to kill, do it in style with a bacon blue cheeseburger and a big glass of red wine at Vanguard.