Food Review: United Polaris Lounge at Newark Airport
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United Polaris lounges have been rolling out across the country since 2018, and they are certainly something special. United has taken it upon itself to set a new standard for passengers with their Polaris product. Aimed at offering luxury appeal, exceptional service, and first-class amenities, Polaris has been getting rave reviews since its inception.
The United Polaris Lounge at Newark airport is a massive 27,000 square feet and features complimentary restaurants, bars, and showers. Polaris lounge access is restricted for United passengers flying business class on long-haul international flights, or international first class on partner airlines.
I started my journey today at the United Polaris lounge at Newark Airport in Terminal C. The lounge is located in between Gates 100 – 120, right past security.
This lounge visit preceeded my flight on a 787 in United Polaris Business Class to Frankfurt.
After a seamless check in process that consisted of scanning my boarding pass at the front desk reader, I was in. I immediately planned to check out the food.
The first thing I noticed was the lounge’s impressive space; it was massive, but incredibly well designed and comfortable. A large, well stocked bar greets you upon entrance, while further inwards laid the buffet dining station.
While the lounge is “exclusive”, it was still very crowded. Since United operates a ton of long haul flights out of the Newark hub, the large space was being put to excellent use. I found a spot at the bar and enjoyed a quick drink while my appetite grew.
Hungry, I decided to browse the food options and made my way towards the dining section. The buffet was well maintained and had a lot of freshly prepared options to choose from. There were about 6 different offerings from the hot and cold bar, and there seemed to be food to match any dietary preference.
While I was tempted to dive in, I had plenty of time to kill in the lounge before my flight, so I decided to hit the buffet a bit later on. I wanted to prioritize the acclaimed seated a la carte dining first after hearing such rave reviews.
A La Carte Dining
The gem of the Polaris lounge is certainly the a la carte dining option. This seated service has a full menu bursting with options, all freshly prepared and generously plated.
Airplane aficionados would love the views that were available for the seated dining section. Looking out directly at the runway, it was easy to lose track of time watching the bustling planes departing and landing directly outside.
I was a little confused at first since the area looks like a proper restaurant. There was even a hostess stand and designed seating, closely resembling every restaurant I’ve ever dined in. As I cracked open the menu, and I couldn’t be sure if the food was free. There were no prices attached to any of the food options, but I just trusted my gut that flying in a premium cabin meant that the food would all be included. Other guests must have been similarly confused, since the lounge and bar were packed while the dining area I sat in was relatively empty. Oh, well. Their loss!
The menu selection was impressive. It included a wide array of options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, each designed and optimized as small portions served on shareable plates. Fine by me, as I didn’t want to ruin my appetite for the on board dining experience. But since I was still hungry and not apt to turn down “free”, I had to at least try a few things.
I decided to order a sampling of the Pumpkin Arancini, Hearty Autumn Salad, and the Cauliflower Steak Entree.
But before the food came, I needed another drink.
I decided to grab a couple of different options to sip on.
The highlight was a drink called “The Paper Plane”, a United signature cocktail that was the first libation highlighted on the top of the menu. It was made of Oolong-steeped bourbon, Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, Aperol, and lemon juice. Garnished with a mini paper airplane. How cool!
The glass of champagne was Piper-Heidsieck “1785” Cuvee Brute. It was a full-bodied champagne with a bright citrusy flavor. A bottle of this champaign usually retails for around $30.
The first dish to arrive was the Pumpkin Arancini. To be honest, I confused myself in the ordering process and wasn’t completely sure what an arancini was. I thought it was a type of pasta, and was surprised but not at all disappointed when it came as a rice ball.
The arancini was a reasonably heavy starter. It was deep fried with a mix of arborio rice, fonduta, grana padano. It tasted pretty good, but given the long flight that still lay in front of me, I was reluctant to eat the whole thing and have it sit wrong on the plane. I had just a few small bites before moving on.
The next dish was a simple yet refreshing autumn salad, the perfect palate cleanser after the fried rice balls. The salad featured roasted root vegetables, fruits, robiola cheese, rye breadcrumbs, and mixed greens. The salad was much lighter then I expected, which I enjoyed. I took a pass on the cheese to keep it even lighter, something I didn’t regret considering all the food that I ended up crushing.
The last dish that I came was the Cauliflower Steak. It was served with sliced radishes and drizzled with a rosemary vinaigrette. I don’t usually order vegetarian dishes, but I do enjoy cauliflower steak, which is a dish that I often make at home, so I was interested in trying it at the United Polaris Lounge. The cauliflower was well prepared and had crispy parts, usually my favorite part of the dish, although overall it was a bit soft. I was happy to pick through the dish, and the best part was that nothing that I had eaten left me feeling too full.
All of the dishes came out fairly quickly, so even if you find yourself short on time, the a la carte dining is a must try. It was exceptionally convenient and tasted much better than standard airport food. All of the dishes were served on Bernardaud dinnerware, masters of French porcelain, and were well presented beautifully for small such small plates.
Next up was the buffet. At this point I wasn’t too hungry, and probably could have gone without eating until the meal service on the flight. But I couldn’t let the opportunity go to waste, so I sucked in my gut and grabbed a plate.
I walked through the buffet and was impressed by the sheer amount of selection, and I filled my plate with some small finger foods that caught my eye while browsing.
The cold station featured sandwiches made on a pretzel bun, and a beet dish served with a yogurt sauce. Both dishes were well stocked whenever I walked past. I nibbled on a roast beef and cheddar pretzel bun sandwich. It was pretty good, and definitely freshly made.
There was a fairly large selection of antipasti including meats, cheeses, and dips (most notably a spinach and artichoke dip).
Other cold dishes included a farro salad and potatoes, which I tried and found to be pretty enjoyable.
The hot bar section had a ton of food. Despite the large volume, it wasn’t presented in the most appetizing ways, but it all smelled delicious. The above dish was a sweet potato mash with an olive oil and cream sauce.
Another signature dish featured roasted turkey and cranberries.
Not to be missed was the dessert station. Stocked with cookies, donuts, and other assorted cakes, it caught my eye even though I’m not the biggest fan fan of sweets. Even still I grabbed a cookie for the road.
While most airline lounges have a selection of different drinks, United went above and beyond with their offerings. Freshly infused water and teas and fresh fruit juice packed the station.
Last but not least was the station with candy and nuts, with mini cups set beside them to take on the go.
Overall I was very impressed with United Polaris Lounge’s food and the sheer amount of options that are available. The staff was also friendly and professional making me feel comfortable that any special requests could be accommodated.
I would recommend arriving early for a flight out of Newark just to try out the lounge. It really adds to the experience of flying in a premium class and shouldn’t be overlooked.
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