About 100,000 vehicles burn rubber up and down the eastern edge of Philadelphia on I-95 daily, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Many of these circumnavigators are simply passing through this fair town. Visiting a distant uncle in Catskill for Hanukkah. Trafficking psychedelic mushrooms to Virginia Beach. Trying to save a few bucks on airfare by road-tripping the fam from Hartford to Georgia.
For whatever reason, these people do not live in Philadelphia, the greatest city on the big blue dot. Most probably think they have zero reason to make a pit stop and contribute to the local economy.
But these travelers are wrong — at least as far as food is concerned.
Philly’s increasingly renowned culinary scene can be experienced a stone’s throw from the highway. No matter which exit you take between the airport and the far Northeast, our calculations show there’s unique and memorable bite five minutes or less from the off-ramp. So stop in and give us your money. We’ll send you on your way with a full stomach faster than you can ask directions to “14th Street.”
Click around on the map or scroll down for the exit-by-exit list.
Philadelphia International Airport to Bartram Avenue / Essington Avenue North (Broad Street) & Pattison Avenue
4503 S. Broad St.
This modern Italian joint is part of the Vetri Family — the restaurant group founded by Marc Vetri and now owned by Urban Outfitters. Don’t let the corporate takeover fool you: Vetri protege chef Brad Spence now runs the show, and his game is top-notch. With a is equally suited for the road-weary and the Navy Yard business crowd alike. Take Exit 17 to Broad Street and you’re there.
336 Kedron Ave., Folsom
This is the only exception to both the “in Philly” and the “five minute” parameters of this list, because there isn’t much to eat outside of security at the airport. If you’re taking a flight, it’s a different situation altogether — there’s plenty of good local options at PHL. But if you’re just driving through, Charlie’s legendary burgers are entirely worth the 10-minute detour into Delco.
I-76 East (Walt Whitman Bridge) / Packer Avenue
39 E. Oregon Ave.
The original location of this famed family-run cheesesteakery would be on every tourist’s itinerary were it not for its corner-pocket location by a highway underpass. On the flip-side, that makes it a perfect pitstop for the I-95 crowd. Tip: along with the classics, don’t sleep on the breakfast sandwiches. And a general warning: lines can be outrageously long.
320 E. Oregon Ave.
A visit to South Philly wouldn’t be complete without a pit stop for Vietnamese cuisine, and you can get some savory brisket phở and summer rolls a few minutes’ drive from Exit 19.
Columbus Boulevard / Washington Avenue
1400 S. Columbus Blvd.
Whether you’re swinging with the rhythm at the famous jazz brunch or digging in for happy hour at the spacious roof deck, you’d never know this Pennsport mainstay for soul food and live blues — from the Bynum brothers of Zanzibar Blue fame — is just stone’s throw from the exit.
901 S. Columbus Blvd.
This riverside shack is run by a family with decades of South Philly hoagie experience, so it’s basically a traveler’s best option for a quick way to sample the city’s famous sandwich prowess. Get a cheesesteak, if you want, but the chicken cutlet — layered with provolone and broccoli rabe — is renowned throughout the region. If you lived here, you’d be home.
1219 2nd St.
Though it’s tucked away on a side street, the original location of this now-famous contemporary fried chicken and donut stop is surprisingly close to the highway. Call ahead or use an app to order the “hot fresh” made-to-order sweets so they’ll be ready to snag when you roll up to the corner.
I-676 / US 30 / Callowhill Street
402 Wood St
Warning: Exit 22 will shoot you onto the oft-clogged I-676 throughway, but hop off the first exit you see and there’s plenty of sleeper gems in the Callowhill neighborhood. Radicchio offers fantastic Italian — and it’s BYOB for whoever isn’t taking the wheel when you hit the road.
500 Spring Garden Street
Philly’s oldest continuously-operating brewery has a brand new 70,000-square-foot facility, complete with a giant taproom serving excellent snack food along with the beer. There’s plenty of parking around there, too, so it’s easy to stay a while and take a tour of the brewhouse.
263 N. 3rd St.
If you’re trying to stay healthy on the road, local chef Khoran Horn’s cold-pressed juice and acai bowls here will leave you feeling light and lean.
Girard Avenue / Lehigh Avenue
1235 E. Palmer Street
Traveler-friendly name aside, this rowhouse gastropub is a local favorite in the city’s red-hot Fishtown neighborhood. Pro tip: try the seitan wings and gulp down a Fishtown Iced Tea (except you, driver).
413 E. Girard Ave.
A regular contender for best burger in Philly, $10 or less gets you any half-pounder at Sketch, even the high-end Wagyu beef. Also, the “sketch” part of the name is applied literally here — the walls are covered in crayon work, and both kids and adults are encouraged to add their own.
632 E. Girard Ave.
This no-frills breakfast spot is an no-brainer if you’re passing through early in the day. Just make sure you add scrapple to your order — the crispy-outside, creamy-inside pork treat is something no meatlover should leave the region without trying.
Allegheny Avenue / Castor Avenue
3467 Richmond St.
This recently revamped tavern is one of the few places on this list that actually has a 30-foot billboard on I-95 telling you to take the next exit. Crabs are the big seller, but the new owners — who also oversee Grey Lodge Pub and Hop Angel Brauhaus — have done up a fine pub menu and craft brew list, too.
3173 Richmond St.
You can’t drop into Port Richmond and ignore the fierce Polish presence, and it doesn’t get more authentic than the pan-seared pierogis and stuffed cabbage at this neighborhood fixture. No complaining about the prices, either — these meals offer some of the best values in all Philadelphia.
3301 Richmond St.
A legendary Irish tavern in Port Richmond whose fall-off-the-bone, oven-baked wings will leave your crew in contemplative silence for the next hour of the trip. (Extra bonus!)
Bridge Street / Harbison Avenue
2551 Orthodox Street
This food truck channeling the owners’ Polish heritage in ways both modern and classic opened a brick-and-mortar location last year — and lucky for you, it sits in the shadow of the highway. The buttery golabki (stuffed cabbage) alone is worth the visit. We’re spoiling you with this one, transients.
PA 73 (Cottman Avenue)
4633 Princeton Ave.
Travelers probably call them subs or grinders or whatever, but if it’s an enormous, thigh-sized introduction to what normal people (aka Philadelphians) call hoagies, Fink’s is your spot. Top-notch social media game, too.
7500 State Road
What, Philly isn’t known for its BBQ? Well…correct. But Sweet Lucy’s is one of a half dozen places in the city that do it right. There’s plenty of parking at this industrial warehouse-turned pitmaster palace, and the counter-service offerings are plentiful and cheap.
Academy Road / Linden Avenue
9242 N. Delaware Ave.
The city’s rare green stretch along the Delaware River also has a waterfront restaurant with seafood options and burgers. Stretch your legs along the river trail afterwards.