Nostalgia fans and fans of the Jetsons, TWA and the 60s in general, will feel right at home when they enter the TWA Flight Center turned hotel at New York City’s JFK International Airport. Utilizing the striking design elements that defined the space as conceived by Eero Saarinen and opened in 1962, the current-day TWA Hotel, its two unique cocktail lounges, and the Jean-Georges Vongerichten-helmed restaurant, Paris Café, are an instant time trip to a bygone era. This is midcentury retro at its best, with fun twists like elevator buttons that reference present-day JetBlue and the 1960s TWA Hotel, telephone booths (remember them?), and cars with tailfins that seem to stretch for blocks.
The red and white color scheme of the hotel and the Paris Café restaurant/Lisbon Lounge space is original, using chili pepper red and white carpeting to full futuristic effect. You can choose to sit at a very-George Jetson looking table or at seats hugging the swirling counter where you’ll be treated to servers knowledgeable in the why’s and wherefore’s of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s very appropriate cuisine.
The all-day menu varies from light bites to nostalgic faves inspired by food from in-flight TWA menus including burgers, fish & chips, and parmesan-crusted organic chicken breast. Among the dishes with the most prominent Jean-Georges stamp are the refreshing spring pea soup, crispy salmon sushi, and black truffle pizza.
You should definitely try an expertly prepared cocktail with updated monikers from the 60s like the Passionfruit Whiskey Fizz, made with a savory-sweet combination of Maker’s Mark whiskey, passionfruit and chili.
But you also might want to save a bit of energy for a cocktail at Connie , the original TWA plane converted into a lively cocktail lounge with seating both theater-style and facing each other as in a luxury jet. You actually climb the stairs to board the plane from outdoors. A reservation and classic in-flight cocktails like negronis and martinis are musts.
The Sunken Lounge sits in the original waiting and check-in area of the TWA Terminal. The original red carpeting is there as are cocktails with 60s names like “Come Fly with Me,” inspired by Frank Sinatra’s tune and adorned with swizzle sticks showing TWA’s original destinations.
Everything is appropriate to the look and period from the clothing worn by servers to the light switches, elevators, coin telephone booths with rotary dialing, and even the rotating panels that show departures and arrivals as well as cheeky messages.
If you’d like to get into the swing of it, you can purchase a TWA flight bag at the gift shop. Or, better still, book a room at the 512-room hotel. And, don’t worry about noise, the windows are outfitted with a glass wall designed to prevent any sounds from planes landing and taking off at the busy airport. The style is midcentury but the infrastructure is definitely current.
I was completely enthralled being back in the iconic TWA Terminal. The setting has the making of a perfect staycation, or at least for a very different evening out. And it’s another good reason to plan for an early flight in the morning – you can overnight here before you leave and avoid rush hour traffic. TWA Hotel
All Photos: Meryl Pearlstein