The airport with easy access but dull food ups its game

For anyone who catches flights from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, there’s a huge upside: It often beats traveling to LAX, and it’s easy to get in and get out. The downside? Food choices are limited and a bit boring.

That’s about to change.

More than a dozen new dining options are slated to arrive at the international airport by the end of 2025, including plenty of popular local restaurants, such as Chaupain Bakery, Left Coast Brewing and Wahoo’s Fish Taco.

Under a new 15-year contract, HMSHost, a food-service company that operates dining concepts at airports around the world, will develop more than 32,100 feet of concessions across Terminals A, B and C. The new dining venues will include outposts of Five Vines Wine Bar, Taco’s La Piña, Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza Store and Mama’s Comfort Food & Cocktails.

Artist renderings of Mama’s Comfort Food & Cocktails, one of several new dining spots coming soon to John Wayne Airport.


“These improvements underscore our commitment to providing guests with a unique and memorable dining experience showcasing local favorites and beloved national brands,” said airport director Charlene Reynold in a press release.

Tourists who desire to get one last bite of quintessential O.C. fare will be able to scratch that itch with Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, a fast casual O.C.-born chain known for its Baja-style fish tacos and other healthy eats.

The journey to open a Wahoo’s at his hometown airport has been long, co-founder Wing Lam told the O.C. Board of Supervisors before it voted to approve the project.

“We’ve been in Orange County now for 36 years,” Lam said. “I’m really looking forward to having our flagship store represented at the airport.”

Travelers will be able to satisfy their craving for buttery and flaky snacks at Chaupain Bakery, which already has stores in Laguna Hills and San Clemente. The bakery gained acclaim for its chocolate-almond custard croissant, filled with homemade custard and topped with sliced almonds and powdered sugar.

Visitors in the mood for a big breakfast might be inclined to dine at Mama’s Comfort Food & Cocktails, where you can get favorites such as French toast, biscuit skillets and scrambles.

Also, there will be new vending options called OC To Go where travelers can order hot, made-to-order pizza, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Wow Bao buns and dumplings, salads, smoothies and coffee at all hours of the day.

A revamped Anaheim Ducks Breakaway Bar & Grill will feature a new look and menu.

Earlier this month, Orange County supervisors voted to approve the new concessions at the airport, which serves more than 11 million passengers a year.

John Wayne Airport is consistently ranked as one of the best large airports in the United States. The terminals are easy to navigate, with a distinctly taupe suburban vibe. Security is efficient, and parking is easy and near the airport.

The new restaurants will start opening early next year, according to Ashley Davidson, an HMSHost representative.

Starbucks will remain, but some current restaurants will close to make room for new spots. Some of the changes: Earl of Sandwich, Sgt. Pepperoni and Starbucks will replace McDonald’s and Hudson News. Tacos La Piña will take over for California Pizza Kitchen. Five Vines Wine Bar will supplant Vino Volo. The new Anaheim Duck’s Bar and Chaupain Bakery will succeed Ruby’s and Farmers Market.

An artist rendering of a restaurant inside an airport.

Artist renderings of Breakaway Bar.


Artois Belgian Bar, Hobie Sand Bar, Qdoba, OC Pizza, Jamba Juice and Ciao Gourmet Market and the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf will also shutter, making way for Aunt Annie’s Pretzels, BonChon Korean Fried Chicken, Earl of Sandwich, Habit Burger Grill, Dunkin’ Donuts, Panera Bread and others.

The new openings come at the heels of other local dining institutions opening outposts at the airport, such as Brodard Express, the beloved Orange County Vietnamese restaurant known for its spring rolls that launched last year, and Taps Fish House and Brewery, which opened in February.

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