Despite the free Wi-Fi and access to SEPTA, people love to complain about Philadelphia International Airport. Though out-of-towners might still be sore grumbling over their passage through PHL a decade or so ago, the growing airport is now home to a handful of eateries that better reflect the foodie abundance within Philly itself. From locally roasted coffee and freshly baked bread to notable chef’s terminal outputs, PHL has plenty to offer travelers, whether they’re looking for a quality bite on the go or to kill a long layover over rounds of curated alcohol menus and high end fare.
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Closest gate: A3 Also in Terminal B and Terminal E The Philadelphia-based coffee roaster is a no brainer for any caffeine-fueled trip to or from Philly, and luckily there are a handful of locations throughout the airport. If you’re in a hurry, get a frothy draft latte on tap, or stock up on cans for the trip. Pair with one (or several) fluffy, fresh pastries for a sweet snack to hold you over.
Closest gate: A24 Also in Terminal B/C Connector, Terminal F If you’re desperate to sink your teeth into a decent burger during your travels, but don’t have a ton of time, Smashburger is one of your best bets. The fast-casual spot serves classic burgers (including veggie options) and fries, and also has order-ahead options so you can get your food without waiting in line, which is particularly handy if you’re in a rush.
Closest gate: A23 Also in Terminals C, Terminal D/E Connector, Terminal E This Philly-area classic can be experienced without even leaving the airport. Crab fries are the quintessential item here, of course, but the spot is also key for the classic sports-and-beer combo while you wait for your connecting flight, and there's also a kick-packing Bloody Mary worth your attention as well.
Closest gate: A14 This may be one of the crowning jewels of an airport with a not-great rep. The menu is spearheaded by Michael Solomonov, the mastermind behind Zahav and numerous other highly lauded food concepts in Philly, and the digs are lush. The catch? You have to have maximum bougie status and be an American Express cardholder. If you happen to have the golden ticket, you'll get to enjoy Mediterranean menu items plus beer, wine, and cocktails.
Also in Terminal D/E Connector Chances are that anywhere you eat or drink in the airport will be overpriced compared to alternatives out in the real world, but if you’re in the hunt for an actual good wine list and don’t mind spending some extra bucks, Vino Volo is worth a visit. You can snag one of the airport's better salad or sandwich options here too, plus it’s a good spot to park your laptop and enjoy the free Wi-Fi with a glass of wine.
Also in Terminal F Self-styled as “Philadelphia’s hometown bakery,” LeBus is already well known in the city for fresh, daily bread that varies from pastry to baguette to bagel to… well, everything else. Choose from the sandwich menu for that amazing bread, or simply grab a danish and coffee to go.
Closest gate: B11 Welcome to one of the best foodie terminals in PHL. Let’s start with Baba Bar, helmed by Top Chef’s Nicholas Elmi, whose food you might be familiar with if you’ve ever to Laurel in East Passyunk or Royal Boucherie in Old City. Here the cuisine is Mediterranean focused, including hummus, wraps, and kebabs, plus friendly bartenders that will make your delay so much happier.
Closest gate: B9 Are you fan of Tria’s multiple locations around Rittenhouse and Washington Square? Germantown Biergarten takes influence from those beloved Philly taprooms, with the same beer experts owning this beer hall, which is inspired by Philly’s historic Germantown neighborhood. The food menu continues this theme, with pretzels and brats galore.
Closest gate: B6 The airport beer possibilities continue to expand, now at this tavern/steakhouse hybrid in one of the airport’s flashier hubs. Kevin Sbraga is behind the restaurant, which offers beer and wine selections to pair with your steak and other dishes, plus there’s a kids menu available. Like many other restaurants throughout the airport, Independence Prime has table iPads for you to peruse the menu -- and more importantly, chargers for you to juice up your devices.
Closest gate: C18 Yes, we’re seriously suggesting airport sushi. Say cheers with sake, wine, cocktails, and/or Asian beers while you watch the chefs prepare your sushi rolls and dim sum in the open kitchen. This is also one of the prettier food settings in the airport, so those #Travel 'Grams you’re taking will carry some leverage here.
Closest gate: C23 Obviously the Philadelphia airport can’t go without having at least one decent Italian eatery. The owners of Old City’s Positano Coast and Caffe Aldo Lambert in Cherry Hill are behind this vendor, which offers pizza, pasta, sandwiches, and salads, plus a breakfast menu.
Closest gate: D9 This is your go-to if you want a meal that'll keep you full enough to skip the in-flight dinner. Lola fries (which come in rosemary, Parmesan, poutine, and pulled pork varieties) might be enough to satisfy you, but you could always consider expanding your stomach further with one of Bar Symon’s burgers, including the Thanksgiving-themed Gobbler or the pastrami-filled Fat Doug. Plus, if you need it, you can get the bun gluten-free.
Closest gate: E12 Cantina Laredo leans toward higher-end Mexican fare, such as the so-called “top shelf” guacamole, various queso options, and tapas that include ceviche and ahi tuna tacos. Though it’s a bit pricier than your average airport stop, the serving sizes are generous, and if you’re in the terminal it’s at least worth a visit so you can drink the only airport margarita worth having.
Closest gate: F11 This is the airport go-to for one of the best beer (and wine) selections in the vicinity, which you can pair with higher quality pub fare including mussels, fried calamari, and burgers. The bar is a cozy spot to watch a game, and tables are each outfitted with iPads where you can order and pay. Plus: outlets, precious outlets!
Closest gate: F10 Don’t worry, we won’t let you leave the airport without knowing of at least one cheesesteak option at your disposal. Tony Luke’s, one of the South Philly originals, is holding it down at the airport with roast pork and cheesesteaks, as well as kid-friendly items and breakfast fare. The sandwiches aren’t priced too differently than what you’d expect outside the airport, which is another bonus.
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Marielle Mondon is a writer in Philadelphia. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.