My Favorite Meal On American Airlines, Ever

Filed Under: American, Travel

I don’t have many good things to say about American Airlines nowadays, so it’s time for a compliment. 😉

For the most part I don’t think food in US domestic first class is worth eating. This isn’t just limited to American, but also applies to Delta and United.

Lunch in American Airlines business class

I think JetBlue is one of the only airlines that does food well on domestic flights.

Dinner in JetBlue Mint

For a long time I thought American had the worst food of the major US carriers, though as of the beginning of this year they made the single biggest improvement they could possibly make to their meal service (well, short of spending an extra dollar per passenger, but let’s be realistic).

American began letting passengers order special meals in domestic first class.

The reason I like this so much is because it means I can order an Asian vegetarian meal even when flying domestically. This is typically some sort of spicy Indian vegetarian food. While there’s certainly variance in the quality of Indian vegetarian food, I find that even the worst Indian vegetarian food isn’t that bad (it’s food that reheats well, is flavorful, etc.).

I’ve written about my experience ordering Asian vegetarian meals on American. Some meals have been excellent

And some have not been

Through trial and error I’ve realized that it all comes down to the airport you’re flying out of. For example, JFK has excellent Asian vegetarian meals, while LAX doesn’t.

Well, I have another update on the special meal front. I just flew American from New York to Miami, and I think I had the best special meal I’ve ever had on American. This meal was actually exceptional, and I would have been happy to be served it in a restaurant. So to get this on a 2.5 hour domestic flight is even more exciting.

Here’s a picture (the starter is a chickpea salad and the dessert is gulab jamun):

I really think that’s the best meal I’ve ever been served on American. I’ve had the same meal on the same flight two weeks in a row.

What’s funny is that both times the person across the aisle stopped me and asked what I ordered, commenting that my meal looked so much better than their meal.

American lets you pre-order meals, so I wish they’d just make this exact meal a permanent option on the menu, and I’d never have anything bad to say about their food again.

So anyway, if you’re as displeased with American’s food in general and haven’t been ordering Asian vegetarian meals, start ordering them (though not out of LAX), especially out of JFK. At least that’s my go to option for lunch and dinner — for breakfast I usually order a kosher meal, which is usually a basic omelet.

  1. That gulab jamun looks sooo good!

    It’s really hard to serve a terrible Indian meal, because no matter what bottom of the barrel place you get your ingredients, all the spices can somewhat hide that.

  2. Ben – to clarify that JFK to MIA meal is an Asian Vegetarian, correct?

    Also, what do you recommend if you’re flying out of LAX?

  3. I think I had the exact same thing when I flew out of Miami to Detroit. Have tried Asian Veg Meal out of Miami a lot of times and have never been disappointed.

  4. Any idea about the Asian vegetarian meal when catered out of DFW? I have DFW-HKG in business booked next week, and based on the descriptions here in the past year, I pre-ordered Asian vegetarian option, hoping it would turn out more like the nice looking Indian dishes rather than a bland steamed broccoli with rice. That’s a long flight to get stuck with a bad meal so hoping I have good fortune.

  5. @lucky – used to order Asian vegetarian all the time. Then 3 or 4 weeks in a row was told “Catering forgot to supply your special meal”. Finally reached out to AA and was told they don’t offer special meals on flights under 1,500 miles (my usual trip is just over 1,400) even though the option to preorder a special meal is available. This was all over the summer, I gave up since then but maybe they have brought the option back? It really was the best part about the AA “experience”.

  6. I got a mediocre Asian Vegetarian lunch today, flying from DCA to MIA. Other experiences have been better. I’ve never been able to figure out why they come with 2 salads, though, especially since one consists of mostly greens with no dressing or seasonings of any kind provided to go with it.

  7. AA’s chief chef/creator of their meals is a lovely Indian lady, so these SE Asian dishes are going to be excellent!! Since the vast majority of Indians are either vegetarian or consume incredibly small amounts of meat (you’ll see them nibble a piece or two) once in a blue moon, these dishes should be on everyone’s radar. Contrary to popular belief, Indian food is not always spicy.


  8. Very cool article. I have discovered and appreciated the same but it has been hit and miss. I would say that ORD also did a pretty good job with the Asian Vegetarian meal while PHX and LAX were below par. I will look forward to trying JFK in the near future

  9. What about departing SFO?

    Also, huge bummer that AA doesn’t have any Flagship First lounges/dining/etc in SFO. I’ll possibly be flying in F SFO-JFK and am bummed to miss out on their Flagship ground experience. (I’m usually a UA flyer, but I want to try the 3-cabin F, and transiting through LAX isn’t an option.)

  10. I had a meal in J on an AA TATL flight two weeks ago that was so spicy it was inedible. The only Vegetarian option on the regular inflight menu shouldn’t be anything heavily spiced unless it comes with a warning in the menu description. The absolute worst meal ever on any flight to include hundreds I’ve flown in Y. Not everyone likes Indian food

  11. Indian food is just really comforting. I highly recommend the roasted eggplant on Jet Airways. Please correct me, but I think it’s baigan bhoorta? It’s rare that I eat on a flight unless it’s Indian food.

  12. It def looks appetizing if your in a hospital dying
    Please keep American Airlines and all of its vile its catering as far away as you can from me
    They were on point up till 9-11 and have been 99% crap ever since

  13. I have found the Hindu meal on AA F always to be quite flavorful. Sometimes a chicken curry, other times a pleasant meatless Hindu meal. Always good.

  14. During my last trip (MCO-DFW) I pre-ordered Kosher for lunch and got on of my best mean in AA. It was Moroccan Chicken (excellent) and a host of other stuff. The meal was packed with a lot of plastic though which is how Kosher meals is served.

    On my second leg (DFW-LAX), I got Asian Vegetarian which was also excellent.

  15. Interesting, Brit. I experienced that for the first time today DFW-LAX. FA was clueless, Twitter apologized and said they would pass it along. I had AVG PHL-DFW, DFW-PSP, and DFW-DCA last month, so it seems the answers they give are inconsistent. Frustrating because them not loading the special meal means you run the risk of getting no choice at all.

  16. Keep in mind that it really comes down to the airline food service providers…and there’s really only two that most airlines use…and the quality of the meal is mostly in their hands.

  17. Asian vegetarian is always good on American. AA management too deficient to put this meal in regular rotation for everyone.

  18. I am vegetarian and have been ordering the Asian veg options whenever possible for quite some time to great success. Unfortunately, I had a rude awakening this past week flying United from ORD to SFO, which no longer allows for meal requests (!). To add insult to injury, the meal options were a pesto chicken or an Asian beef salad. United’s concession/suggestion for vegetarians was to let me know the beef came on the side (or I could opt for the hummus box from the main cabin). If airlines are going to discontinue vegetarian options, you’d think they might have one of the available options be something vegetarian – how hard would it be to offer a choice like pasta primavera, cheese ravioli, or any number of veg-friendly-yet-crowd-pleasing options that might still have balanced nutritional value? I ended up with an anemic plate of lettuce and rice noodles (fortunately I packed my own provisions for just such an eventuality). Grab those Asian vegetarian options while you can!

  19. I have tried ordering Asian Vegetarian on MIA-LHR-MIA in AA Premium Economy and also on a few AA routes in J and found those dishes too salty and generally of mediocre quality (like the rest of the food AA serves). I would say that prepackaged Tasty Bite Indian meals are significantly better. Looking forward to visit India again in February for some real food.

  20. Adding an additional data point just for the record, based on this blogs recommendation I ordered a Muslim meal on a F flight from PHL to DEN. I was served the meal depicted in images 3 and 4 within the article. The meal was labeled “HNML”, which I assume is Hindu/Muslim. The meal actually came with naan warmed in the oven. I was not offered another piece of bread from the main meals, but I was offered the strawberry ice cream dessert following the meal. Overall an excellent meal!

  21. Mark- glad to know I’m not the only one this happened to! Seems like plenty of people get the special meals on flights under 1,500 miles. Would be nice to know what the policy is, if any.

  22. The AVML meals are definitely the high point of AA catering. Of course, the low point is the fact that operations are a hot mess so your special meal may or may not make your flight. I’ve never heard of any policy restricting special meals to longer flights; they should be available on any flight that provides regular catering. I’ve had plenty on ~1200 mile flights, and plenty of times my flight was properly catered.

  23. So I’m trying the various special meals. The kosher on IAH-ORD was fair with brisket &gravey. But I just had the best smoked brisket ever the day before! Oh well
    Next up the Asian veggie.

  24. I pre ordered an Asian Veggie meal on UA in F, the FA laughed at me for the choice, asked me a 2nd time if I really ordered that, then brought me something completely different.

  25. Never realized you could pre order in domestic F!

    I just checked on my Delta app and found the option for asian vegetarian MCO-JFK.

    Will post back with my review

  26. Careful what you wish for.
    Air Canada has been serving the same breakfast for over 15 years. On flights leaving all Canadian station you get the (in)famous Parsley Omelet With Chicken Sausage, Cottage Cheese, Roasted Red Skin Potatoes, and Red Pepper Relish
    Flight after flight, same omelet.

  27. Why do they put strawberries & a raspberry in the gulab jamun? Love it, but berries have no place in that dish. Put it on the side.

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