Croque Madame at JFK Airport: Non, Merci


In this occasional column, we tackle the options at New York City’s airports.

Among the great travails of travel is the challenge of finding nourishment prior to an impending flight. With the trend of carriers debundling amenities and moving to an a la carte model for inflight food, is it better to consume in the terminal or wait to board (or, for that matter, wait to land)? Given the reputations of airport food and airline food, the proposition is really a pick-your-poison scenario.

Prior to a recent flight to Las Vegas, I made the decision to eat before the flight. Within earshot of the departure gate (in Terminal 2, Gate C62), I spotted a kiosk/bar called Croque Madame. With a nod to my inevitable future of seeing another out-of-context French icon (the replica Eiffel Tower at the Paris Casino), I opted to sit down and order the eponymous croque madame via the iPad driven self-ordering menu system. In a literal stroke (and tap) of genius that is digitally enabled upselling, there was a suggestion to pair my entree with a glass of wine. The app, sensing that it had a live one on the hook, offered to further upsell the glass of wine to an additional half glass of wine. The robots have indeed become sentient.

The order arrived in just under 10 minutes. I took my plastic knife and metal fork and dove in.

Like an online date negotiated under false premises, the sandwich as served did not meet the expectations set forth by the online photo. The ham was not moist, but instead had a leathery appearance, prompting me to brush a protruding portion of the meat with a fingertip, verifying it to be as parched as anticipated. The gruyere was not molten as depicted, and the bread failed to contribute to the indulgent flavor one would hope for. Skeptical at not having seeing a grill top, I presumed that the sunnyside up egg was not the result of alchemistic process but instead of some space age (likely microwave) technology.

The accompanying salad did little to improve the entree, as the wilted greens were served with a side of an unconvincing vinaigrette.

Repeatability: If you’re on your way to Vegas and the idea of lowering your expectations of authenticity is of masochistic (or rational) appeal, Croque Madame may nicely serve this purpose. If you’re looking for something equivalent to a more standard casual dining experience, then you may opt to look elsewhere or take your chances on the plane.