30 Minutes at Bar Symon in the Pittsburgh Airport

I envy people who arrive at the airport three hours before their flight. They breeze through security, stand on the moving walkway and ask for a dessert menu at T.G.I. Friday’s.

No matter how hard I try, I always end up at the terminal with barely enough time to grab pretzel at Auntie Anne’s, much less a full sit-down meal. I blame it on the inevitable traffic slowdown through the Fort Pitt Tunnel and spending 15 minutes circling the airport parking lot. I blame it on the guy in front of me at security who forgets to take the change out of his pockets.

Before boarding a flight to Boston at Pittsburgh International Airport, I wanted to eat at Bar Symon. Michael Symon, the restaurant’s creator, won me over when I dined at his Cleveland restaurant, Lola.

Plus, his infectious giggle always makes me smile.

“I have 30 minutes before boarding. What can I order that won’t make me miss my flight?” I asked the server as I tucked my carry-on bag under the table and sat in the gray metal chair, facing the bar.

“That’s not a problem,” she replied. “You’ve got plenty of time. Order anything you want.”

Nearly 10 minutes later, my Lola burger and fries arrived, each in a separate basket. The shoestring-cut fries were perched on a pile of finely grated parmesan cheese and sprinkled with flecks of rosemary. I immediately split the portion in half to prevent myself from overindulging.

Blanketed in melted cheddar cheese and crowned with an egg, the burger was thick and cooked with the slightest bit of pink in the center, exactly the way I wanted. When I pressed the burger together to take a bite, the yolk broke and was immediately absorbed into toasted challah bun. The pickled onions added a sharp vinegar taste and enhanced the richness of the meat.

Mr. Symon and his crew know how to make a great burger. As for the fries — shrug — they were crisp and nibble-worthy. But didn’t quite rock my world.

I paid up, grabbed my bag, and checked the time. My server was right, in and out with a full belly in only 30 minutes.

This story was originally published in the life section of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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