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How Much Would David Brooks’s Widely Mocked $78 Airport Meal Cost at MSP?

A budget-based burger/booze breakdown of MSP.

Twitter/New York Times/MSP|

Really makes ya think…

David Brooks, the longtime center-right New York Times columnist, is no stranger to getting roasted online for his surplus bad takes. (For a crude yet reliable litmus test on whether to take people seriously, always check if the Iraq War cheerleader box is checked.) On Wednesday, the world learned that, to tap into the pure id of Brooks, you gotta grease the mind skids with multiple single-malt Scotches. Here's the powerful, not at all screamingly out-of-touch logic he cooked up that evening:

Internet sleuths quickly deduced that most of Mr. Brooks's tab was devoted to liquor, and the booze peddler, 1911 Smoke House Barbeque, defended their prices Thursday, writing via Facebook: "Looks like someone was knocking back some serious drinks - Bar tab was almost 80% and he's complaining about the cost of his meal 🤔 keep drinking buddy - we get paid off everything." The savvy marketers then debuted The D Brooks special—$17.78 for a burger, fries, and double-shot of whiskey.

For expert, locally angled insight and commentary, we turned to Kyle Potter. Here's what the MN-based editor of Thrifty Traveler had to say when asked about Scotch/burger pricing at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport:

I applaud and encourage the [Racket's] story but I'm afraid I don't have any real useful insight to share, especially on the wheres and how muches. I like a nice glass of scotch or bourbon as much as the next bloviating citizen of the internet but [Brooks's] thirsty tweet strikes me as a result of two glasses of the good stuff—pun very much intended. Airport food is definitely overpriced but one thrifty trick to save is by... oh, I don't know, just drinking your single-malt scotch in the comfort of your home or even at your hotel like a normal person? Delta even sells a remarkably decent Old Fashioned onboard for like $10!

So we beat on, localized burger/booze pricing content against the current, and studied the menus of each and every food vendor at MSP.

Some ground rules to apply to our findings...

  • In the interest of civility, this post will not mock Brooks, 62, for marrying a millennial while bashing the generation as "emotionally soft." Racket reader Norm Charlatan already did a bang-up of that.
  • Prices do not reflect tips, taxes, or fees, the latter of which seem like a real scam these days. Somebody should look into that...
  • As for booze, we attempted to find the best one-to-one comps for single-malt Scotch, but it wasn't easy. Only one (surprising) establishment lists the stuff on their menu, it turns out, thus rendering this entire exercise kinda futile but, hopefully, still fun.
  • Do the arithmetic yourselves! It's believed Brooks downed two glasses of Scotch, so feel free to multiple the drink prices below and add them to the food tally. Realistically, it wouldn't be hard to hit $78, though a thinking person wouldn't mistake that for a broad economic indicator of anything... other than the high-end booze consumption of our nation's leading commentators.

Alright! Ready for takeoff?

Blue Door Pub

Terminal 1, Concourse A

Burger: The Blucy ($10.95, tots $4.10 extra)—"bleu cheese, garlic, and pickle"

Booze: Manhattan ($16)

Assessment: Blue Door is solid! You could do a whole lot worse.

Bottle Rocket

Terminal 1, Concourse F

Burger: Cheezy Double Burger ($17.99, choice of fries or salad included)—"Beef patties, American cheese, provolone, brewer's mayo, house pickles, egg bun"

Booze: Old Fashioned ($17)

Assessment: A restaurant themed after Wes Anderson's 1996 debut? No, this is fast-casual right out of central casting, complete with needlessly voicey menu copy.

Buffalo Wild Wings

Terminal 1, Concourse C

Burger: All American Burger ($12.29, includes "natural-cut" French fries)—"Double patty / hand-smashed / sea salt / course black pepper / American cheese / shredded iceberg / tomato / pickles / mustard / mayo / challah bun / grilled onion upon request"

Booze: Selection and prices not listed.

Assessment: This treasonous chicken wing chain moved its corporate headquarters from the Twin Cities to Atlanta in 2018. For that, we'll gently ridicule its no-shit decision to list salt and pepper among the burger ingredients.


Terminal 1, MSP Mall

Burger: Big Mouth Burger, the Oldtimer with Cheese ($18.99, fries included)—"Cheddar, pickles, lettuce, tomato, red onion, mustard"

Booze: Maker's Mark Old Fashioned ($19.29)

Assessment: The trademarked Big Mouth Burgers promise "100% beef." Pretty low bar for Chili's Grill & Bar.


Terminal 2, Concourse H

Burger: Barrio Burger ($16.50, includes "housemade Cumin Dusted Corn Chips & Salsa")—"Grilled Red Onion, Avocado, Monterey Jack, Jalapeño-Slaw, Brioche"

Booze: Limited, though three is a plussed-up bloody for $15.

Assessment: It's nice to see solid, unspectacular spots like Blue Door and Barrio at the airport. Terminal 2 flyers will recognize this as one of just a few options.

The Cook & the Ox

Terminal 1, MSP Mall

Burger: The Ox ($22, sides extra)—"Half pound premium ground beef patty, aged Wisconsin cheddar, thick grilled bacon"

Booze: The Cook's Old Fashioned ($18)

Assessment: Naming restaurants like this feels very of the Portlandia era.

Custom Burgers

Terminal 1, Concourse G

Burger: Custom Burger ($16.99, side of fries)—"American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, custom sauce, potato bun"

Booze: N/A

Assessment: Very funny that the namesake Custom Burger is preordained with specific toppings.


Terminal 1, Concourse F

Burger: Hi-Lo Burger ($15.29, served with fries or a "diner salad")—"certified angus beef, American cheese, lettuce, pickles, diner sauce"

Booze: Old Fashioned ($16)

Assessment: Remember when Adele dined at the Lake Street location?

Ike's Clubhouse

Terminal 1, MSP Mall

Burger: Ike's Burger ($15.50, served with fries)—"Hand-formed beef patty grilled and served on a grilled bun. We add tomato, lettuce, onion and pickle."

Booze: Not listed on menu.

Assessment: Not wild about the "hand-formed" language, but what I am I gonna do? In any case, Ike's almost certainly has booze, perhaps even our evasive Scotch.

LoLo American Kitchen

Terminal 1, Concourse F

Burger: Lola Burger ($17.50, "served with house-made chips and side of pickled cucumber")—"Premium beef burger, bacon, spicy ghost pepper jack, LoLo steak sauce"

Booze: LoLo Old Fashioned ($15)

Assessment: USA Today allegedly named LoLo "Best Airport Bar."


Terminal 1, Concourse D

Burger: $9.50-$10.20 Big Mac combo

Assessment: Mr. Brooks, this is how you could have flexed your everyman American bona fides. I fondly remember, when The Golden Arches briefly exited MSP, the rabble-rousing from the masses made headlines across town.

Mill City Tavern

Terminal 1, Concourse G

Burger: The Perfect Burger ($24.99, includes fries)—"Double beef patty, bacon, dijonnaise, American cheese, ice box pickles, brioche bun"

Booze: Not listed, though a self-respecting tavern certainly sells booze.

Assessment: Any burger priced this high is, by definition, imperfect.


Terminal 1, Concourse G


Booze: PROJECT SIDE BY CAR (unlisted price)

Assessment: Chef Russell Klein of St. Paul's Meritage is behind this place. Smart move, using ripe tomatoes and green lettuce.

Minnesota Wild Bar and Restaurant

Terminal 2, Concourse H

Burger: CHEDDAR BURGER ($18.49, fries included)—"Angus beef, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle"

Booze: Five kinds of Scotch! Balvenie 14-yr. Caribbean Cask, Glenfiddich 14-yr., Macallan 12-yr., Jonnie Walker Black, Johnnie Walker Red (prices unlisted)

Assessment: If there's a place for Brooks to get Scotch-drunk and tweet sweeping statements about the economy at MSP, it appears Minnesota Wild Bar and Restaurant is the spot. Brooks was born in Canada, so this hockey theme is a little too on-the-nose.


Terminal 1, Concourse G

Burger: Mill City Cheeseburger ($18.50, fries $4 extra)—"Lettuce, tomato, onion" (Weirdly, you're asked to pay $2.25 extra for cheese… on the cheeseburger.)

Booze: "A full bar" is promised, but not listed.

Assessment: That cheese thing is so weird.

People's Organic

Terminal 1, MSP Mall

Burger: Grass-Fed Cheeseburger ($17, includes organic green salad; fries $3 extra)—"Local grass-fed beef / BGH-free white cheddar / bibb lettuce / pickles / caramelized onions / siracha aioli / 100% sprouted organic wheat bun"

Booze: Long Island Iced Tea ($16)

Assessment: Damn, that's about as healthy as you can make a cheeseburger sound.

Red Cow

Terminal 1, Concourse E

Burger: Ultimate ($12, no fry info available)—"Certified Angus Beef burger, wisconsin aged cheddar, iceberg lettuce, tomato, onion & red cow sauce."

Booze: Old Fashioned ($15)

Assessment: Affordable prices for a high-end burger. No notes.

Shake Shack

Terminal 1, MSP Mall

Burger: ShackBurger ($7.25, fries $4.25 extra)—"Cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, ShackSauce."

Booze: N/A

Assessment: Do not, I repeat, do not sleep on Shake Shack's first-ever veggie burger, which recently debuted. It's so damn good.


Terminal 1, Concourse C

Burger: Double Classic Smash ($7.99, "Smashfries" $3.49 extra)—"Certified Angus Beef, American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, pickles, Smash Sauce, ketchup, toasted bun."

Booze: $10.79 cocktails (no brown liquors)

Assessment: This might be the best burger/booze combo at MSP, budget-wise.

Stone Arch

Terminal 1, MSP Mall

Burger: Stone Arch Cheeseburger ($15, served with fries or home-made slaw)—"Bacon-onion jam, REAL American cheese, Stone Sauce and pickles on a house-made bun."

Booze: Not listed.

Assessment: Fake American cheese? You're not welcome here.

Twinburger & Tap

Terminal 1, Concourse G

Burger: Beer Queso Burger ($16.99, served with ranch chips)—"8 oz prime burger, stout beer cheese, charred jalapeños, lettuce, tomato."

Booze: Not listed.

Cost: I'm issuing a challenge to MSP's marketing team to punch up this phoned-in copy that introduces Twinburger & Tap: "Savor every bite with a selection delicious eats—all crafted to satisfy your cravings before your flight." 

Twins Grill

Terminal 1, Concourse C

Burger: Cheeseburger ($13.95, served with "Ballpark Fries")—"Angus Beef Patty, Lettuce, Tomato, Red Red Onion, choice of cheese."

Booze: $11 Big Ginger

Assessment: The Twins, like the Wild, never come through in the playoffs, but the latter franchise comes through with the Scotch—no single-malt in Twins Territory.


Terminal 1, Concourse G

Burger: Cheeseburger ($15.75, fries $5.50 extra)—"10 oz / american cheese / balsamic caramelized onions"

Booze: Not listed.

Cost: The great Doug Flicker, who spoke with Racket at length about his career and his burgers this past summer, advises the menu here.


Terminal 1, Concourse F

Burger: $4.19 Dave's Single

Assessment: The consensus from my favorite fast-food podcasts and commentators? Overall quality at Wendy's has dipped in recent years. It's not the Spicy Chicken Sandwich of your youth, though Frostys still rule.

Zona Cocina

Terminal 1, Concourse F

Burger: Gringo Burger ($14.99, served with fries a roasted jalapeno)—"Flame grilled burger served with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and mayo on the side"

Booze: Unpriced tequilas, but no brown liquor.

Assessment: It's long past time for this article to end.

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