I had a rare connection in Newark and enough time to try United’s exclusive “Classified” restaurant. Was it worth the time and money?
Newark, Terminal C between gates 102 and 120 inside the Saison restaurant (opposite Tumi). Other reviews of the restaurant, including those from traditional media outlets, stated that Classified is “behind” Saison in C Terminal, however, this was not particularly helpful. For pure invisibility reasons, Classified lived up to its name.
Because as cute as it may be to actually have a hidden restaurant, you can’t eat there if you don’t know where it is. For the avoidance of doubt, walk to the host stand or into the Saison restaurant, they will try to seat you, indicate you are looking for Classified (it would have been kind of great if they made it an old spy tradecraft phrase like, “The weather is lovely today in Moscow”) and they will lead you there.
Here’s a picture of a dark hallway that makes you feel like you found a secret.
I am speechless about the fact that there are no decent (or easily found) Newark terminal maps with food options overlayed. To make it clear, I added an arrow to the Terminal C map where you will find Saison, then follow previous directions to get to the proper door.
I’d heard about Classified, the secret United invite-only restaurant at Newark, from just about every corner of the internet. They may want to change the name to “Declassified” but I still bit on the chance to try it out. But of course you can’t just rock up to Classified and sit down, there are rules that come with clandestine dining.
First, I had to start by making a reservation at their website once you prove you’re worthy. One problem I had with this is choosing a reservation time on a connection. I was due to land in Newark at 8:50 AM and depart two hours later so I made my reservation for 9:15 AM, hoping that my flight would be on-time and near the terminal. However, when my flight landed 30 minutes early into C terminal (a downside of padding departure and arrival times) and had way too much time before my reservation. I showed up early and got in.
Classified emailed me to reconfirm my reservation the night before and asked me to upload a picture of myself to identify me upon arrival. I uploaded a photo and my reservation was reconfirmed.
Once led to the back of Saison and inside I found a single other patron on my Thursday morning visit before I left a couple had pushed occupancy to four guests.
Saison is certainly a step above other options in the terminal, though I haven’t dined at them all, the food looked to be high-quality at tables throughout the dining room on the way to the back for Classified. I tried to grab some images of the menu but they appeared out of focus. Ed from Pizza In Motion has excellent images of the menu, I will yield to him and encourage you to check out his review.
It’s important to note that Classified is essentially just a backroom to Saison and some solid marketing.
How Was Breakfast?
The food was good, not great. It’s not hard to execute French Toast and I believe the dinner menu probably impresses more than breakfast. A steak omelet is a nice option, but a 42 oz Tomahawk steak is something truly special.
Food was delivered fast, and the service was surprisingly good. Once I sat down, a small shot smoothie was brought to the table, I was also offered breakfast libations (Mimosa, Bloody Mary, Champagne, etc.) which were complimentary for the holiday season, a nice gesture. Hot towel service is served before the food arrives as well.
Where They Went Wrong
Most aspects of my Classified experience felt premium, a little bit secret and exclusive. Service was exceptional. In fact, I would say it was more like a luxury hotel than a restaurant. However, the tablet-based ordering system, an upgrade in the rest of the airport, cheapens the experience at Classified.
The cutlery is also oddly disappointing. The fork was heavy-weighted metal, but the knife is plastic. I understand, due to security, that knives may have to be plastic, but the pitchfork that accompanied it was just as dangerous. Further, do they swap these knives out for other meals or are their customers spending $98 on a 42 oz Tomahawk steak and cutting it with this?
Passed up on Polaris
I have been only to United’s Polaris lounge in San Francisco, but it was really impressive to me (here is Matthew’s Newark Polaris review). The menu changes regularly and this month’s looked even better than when I last tried it. It’s hard to walk away from a great experience included with my ticket for a paid experience for which I couldn’t say if it would live up to expectations.
For those on the fence, I’d advise to check out Classified for dinner perhaps, but for breakfast, I’d head to the lounge. Note that getting in is not guaranteed. I was permitted entry on my departure but denied on my return. Matthew, a Million Miler with United has not been granted access yet. When I was granted entry, my annual and lifetime miles with United were nearly the same, 70,000.
Have you tried Classified? Would you pick this over the shiny, new Polaris lounge? What do you think?