At Gate B10 is Mezzogiorno, an Italian eatery created by Nomad Pizza founder Stalin Bedon.

At Gate B10 is Mezzogiorno, an Italian eatery created by Nomad Pizza founder Stalin Bedon.

Some of you may remember a movie from a few years ago called “The Terminal.” It starred Tom Hanks and told the story of a traveler’s worst nightmare – getting stranded at an airport through no fault of one’s own and then having to find a way to literally live at the terminal. The film’s tagline was “Life is Waiting” and, having experienced quite a few delays at airports myself, I could definitely relate.

I thought about that movie and of seemingly endless cycles of waiting as I made my way to Philadelphia International Airport for one of the more unusual assignments of my career.

Late night travelers passing Mezzogiorno.

Late night travelers passing Mezzogiorno.

As part of a massive redevelopment effort, good old Terminal B – dependable but uninspiring – was scheduled for a major facelift.  The Philadelphia Business Journal described it as “a $30 million game changer” – a big, bold blast of the future while you’re waiting to catch a flight to Chicago. And the folks behind the first phase of the project, EP Guidi Construction, wanted me to document the results. 

Three new restaurants had ushered in this new era. My challenge was to show the quality and details of each in the context of a place in which people are always going somewhere else.

The aptly named Germantown Biergarten at Gate B9 – a true taste of Philly.

The aptly named Germantown Biergarten at Gate B9 – a true taste of Philly.

No time for a beer, but the selection was tempting.

No time for a beer, but the selection was tempting.

Oh, did I mention that this all had to be done in the middle of the night? Oh, yes. No restaurant employees or consumers – only a handful of travelers passing through. Plus, I was assigned my own personal security guard. 

Yet the airport is a vibrant community of its own at night – a secret world populated by maintenance workers, construction workers and “third watch” airline personnel. Some we had to work around, some we had to wait for, and some had to wait for us. But it all seemed to work. 

Each seat has an iPad for ordering, paying and tracking when your flight is scheduled to depart.

Each seat has an iPad for ordering, paying and tracking when your flight is scheduled to depart.

Boule Café, la cuisine française in Philadelphia at Gate B-14.

Boule Café, la cuisine française in Philadelphia at Gate B-14.

No cheesesteaks at this bistro. 

No cheesesteaks at this bistro. 

But the thrill of the night? Getting to drive my Honda minivan across the tarmac, right beside the planes. Terminal velocity, to be sure.

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