NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/CBSNews) – Most travelers walking through Terminal C at Newark Liberty International Airport have no idea they’re passing right by one of the most sought-after restaurants in the New York area.
Through a door and down a secret hallway, a speakeasy meets fine dining. As CBS News’ Chris Van Cleave reported, your taste buds will delight, if you can score an invite.
The invite-only restaurant called Classified has just 36 seats and is just steps from your gate. It’s exclusive guest list boats CEOs and celebrities, like Madonna.
“It’s very much like New York, you know secret. I actually had to take a little bit of time to find it,” said United Airlines frequent flyer Brie Morrow, one of the first invited to make a reservation. “I just had oysters and I’m eating a very fresh salad with shrimp. So I appreciate being able to have a healthy meal with a nice glass of wine.”
The menu and wine list rival anything you’d see at a trendy New York City restaurant and can easily set you back $100 a person.
“It’s an oasis inside a restaurant inside an airport,” said chef Nate Appleman.
The James Beard Award-winning chef is the VP of culinary for OTG, the restaurant company that teamed with United to turn the mostly forgotten meeting room into Classified.
Van Cleave spoke with Appleman as he prepared a 42-ounce tomahawk steak – one of the signature dishes.
“Most airports have prepackaged food that’s been cooked before and somebody’s just heating it in a microwave,” he said. “Here, we’re actually cooking from scratch, we’re using great product. You can’t find that anywhere.”
It’s an unusual business plan to create a restaurant that people don’t know where it is and have to be invited into.
“Isn’t that a lot of fun even just saying that?” OTG CEO Rick Blatstein said. “We wanted to create a really unique space that’s kind of out of the way, little bit of a speakeasy way to get to, but somewhere where you can just enjoy a great meal.”
People don’t often think of Newark Airport as a spot for trending dining.
“They don’t, but they soon will,” said Blatstein.
In order to be invited, you have to be a United frequent flyer.