While Philadelphia International Airport may offer its patrons an almost comical embarrassment of rudeness, inexplicable baggage-handling mishaps and a design aesthetic as appealing as an old-school suburban mall, there’s some good news: The food isn’t as toxic as it used to be. Vino Volo, for example, is always a solid option. A quick bite at Chickie’s and Pete’s starts off a journey well. And now, there is even greater hope than ever before: Terminal F.
Here, finally, is a terminal that offers weary travelers something that’s in preciously short supply throughout the rest of the airport: appealing dining options in a well-thought-out environment. None of them are more attention-grabbing or more stress-reducing than Local Tavern, the relatively new restaurant managed by OTG and featuring a menu that Jose Garces consulted on.
I recently stopped by before a flight to Madrid; I was flying U.S. Airways, on whose planes the food in coach is best compared to the unholy lovechild of Alpo and whatever the worst thing is that you remember from your middle-school cafeteria. So with a seven-plus-hour flight ahead of me, spending a bit more than I normally would on airport dining was easy to justify.
Upon that first bite of pulled pork sandwich, however, it immediately became clear that this was no stereotypical airport meal. It was good food in its own right that just happened to be available in an airport. That sandwich, expertly moistened by a barbecue sauce perched on the razor’s edge between sweet and tangy—and given kick with fried pickles on top—balanced out my pre-flight psyche like I’d never experienced at PHL before. And the Brussels sprouts, just barely sticky with balsamic, made me feel a way I almost never do at an airport while eating: healthy.
Everything you eat at Local, from sides to proper entrees, you order through a clever iPad system; you can customize your order, add items, pay through it and even browse the interwebs. And while some people may push back at the lack of much human contact during the meal, I actually found it to be perfectly suited to the context of the airport. Checking your bags, wending your way through security and dealing with the myriad other headaches of air travel are stressful enough. Being able to retreat into your own world in this well-appointed space is fantastic.
Now all we need is for the rest of the airport to take a lesson from it, and from its neighbors in Terminal F. Hope springs eternal.
Dinner with Luke Palladino