American Airlines is really upping their game when it comes to their Flagship lounges. Their first new Flagship lounge in JFK is beautiful. It’s better than what United is offering, and their construction pace puts American in the lead as well.
What’s even more special are the Flagship First Dining rooms. The dining room in JFK was an unbelievable meal. At a time when United is backing away from commitments they made on lounge opening dates, American has already opened their third (Los Angeles).
Those who follow along here know that I don’t spend my days jetting around in international first class. There’s a bit of a fun, short story. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have received some pretty cool invitations this year. My travel week started in Toronto. I was invited up to get a sneak peek at Air Canada’s Signature Suite. Except, they surprised us with an hour in a flight simulator beforehand.
After the Air Canada festivities I was heading to Miami straight from Toronto for a work trip. Turned out Ben from One Mile at a Time was headed there to catch a flight “home” (nowhere near Miami). He was going to check out the new Flagship Lounge in Miami (which is pretty darn awesome), then fly home. The third member of our motley crew turned out to be Gary Leff of View From The Wing. He was headed to Miami to take the first Boeing 737 Max flight on American Airlines. The three of us decided to meet for lunch at the Flagship Lounge in Miami.
At a high level, I think of this is an upscale restaurant as opposed to an airline lounge. It really is like almost nothing else you’ll find in an airport. High quality food, great servers, quite upscale dining rooms. This is luxury travel I wish I could experience every time I flew!
Where Is Flagship First Dining, And How Do You Get In?
Flagship First Dining in Miami is located inside the Flagship lounge at D30. It’s part of the old Admirals Club that used to be there. The new club hadn’t reopened during my visit a few weeks ago.
Getting into the dining room is tough. You need to be traveling in first class (not business) to/from South America, Australia, Asia or Europe or first class between New York and LA/SF.
So, how was I going to get in to the Flagship Lounge in Miami, especially since I had just flown coach on Air Canada’s low-cost carrier, Rouge? This is where I give a special thanks to the Corp Comm folks at American. They were nice enough to get me in for the sneak peek. Some might say that biases my opinions. But, I included links to Gary’s and Ben’s reviews above so you can compare notes and keep me honest.
Flagship First Dining Room
The dining room itself is small compared to the rest of the lounge. But, there’s plenty of space. There’s a bar and some lounge seating, though I doubt the dining room ever gets busy enough to need the space for people waiting for tables.
The dining room has formal seating for about 20 folks, mostly in tables of 2. About half the dining room has a view of the tarmac. It’s very quiet. Even though the dining room for the Flagship lounge is right outside (and was crowded during our visit) I couldn’t hear a peep. Even when another couple joined us, there wasn’t much noise. Since the room was empty the staff was nice enough to push two tables together for the 3 of us.
Being inquisitive bloggers, we decided to divvy up the menu and order one of everything. There were plenty of pictures and a bit of sampling here and there. Even with 3 of us, we still didn’t manage to finish everything we ordered.
The high level review is that the food is quite good, better than you’ll get in any other lounge in the United States. The staff did a good job folding in Miami cuisine. Let’s not get too lost in the weeds here. I’ll give my thoughts on each dish below. But, this really was a fabulous dining experience.
Here’s a look at the menu, then I’ll break down each of the dishes I sampled.
The goat cheese croquette was fine. I don’t mind goat cheese, though this was probably the first time I had it in a croquette. I liked the sauce that came with it. You definitely needed the sauce to add enough flavor.
The ceviche was good. It didn’t hit Ben as awesome. I sort of lump ceviche in with oysters as seafood I’ll always eat, but rarely love. So, I might not be the best judge here.
The corn chowder was absolutely the winner of the starters. I loved that they took the time to pour it over the crab fritters table side. I only got a spoonful. I’m jealous Gary got to finish this. I think it was my favorite of all the dishes.
The empanada was a bit doughy but still checked all the normal boxes you’d expect an empanada to check.
Shockingly, none of us ordered the salad.
Ben got the Tuna Poke and it was excellent. The quality of the fish was just dynamite. I love a super fresh piece of tuna. Really, I’d challenge you to find raw fish in a lounge somewhere that’s noticeably better than our tuna was that day.
Carne Asada was up next. The rice and beans were in something of a croquette, which was great. The plantains were also a nice touch. I really enjoyed the dish.
The black bean cake was something I would literally never order as an entree. I’m a carnivore and my cholesterol level reflects that accurately. My wife would have enjoyed it, though. A bit of spice, plenty of black beans.
The chimichurri chicken was a bit on the dry side, mostly because the sauce was served beside it as opposed to simmering the chicken in the sauce. I think they just overcooked the chicken a bit.
The presentation on the pork shank was appealing. I liked the pork shank and probably would have preferred it without the rice.
The burger. Ah, the burger. So, they nailed the temperature. It came out medium rare, just as I requested. It didn’t quite have the pizazz that the burger in the JFK Flagship Dining had, though still a really good burger. That JFK burger was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. And, I’ve had a lot of burgers. Gary and I both commented that maybe the bun is the culprit there. It’s still a good burger. The JFK folks just spoiled me rotten.
There was a bit of a South Florida theme in the desserts with the Key Lime Pie.
I’m not a big flan fan, but it was fine.
The best part of dessert? The airplane. I’m pretty sure these were the same chocolate airplanes they served in JFK. And, they’re really good. I enjoyed it more than the Key Lime Pie, and was thankful to the staff when they packed two up for me to take home to my kids. The kids were pretty darn thankful as well!
American Airlines Flagship First Dining are restaurant quality dishes. Even in those instances where the food wasn’t great, the presentation and quality outpace pretty much any lounge food I can recall. Small touches like pouring the soup table-side really add to the experience.
If I’m being honest, the food at the JFK Flagship First Dining room was better. But, the service in Miami was warmer. The experience was a real treat for me. At a time when United Airlines can’t even tell us when new Polaris lounges will open, American has opened up fabulous experiences in JFK, Miami and now LAX.
American Airlines built a reputation over the past couple of decades that revolved around a solid service reputation, quality in-flight catering and a loyal following by business travelers. The last few years has been rough on those fronts. Rollbacks in catering have been painful by comparison to the past. It’s great to see American reestablishing itself as an airline offering a high-quality product they can be proud of. I hope this is the start of a new trend, not a one-off experience.
Honestly, it never gets old being able to fly a few hours to some random airport and meet friends for lunch. I still have to pinch myself to remind me that my travel experiences can be pretty cool.
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