This past weekend I hung out with some Amish people twisting pretzels, then sat people-watching in the Beer Garden. My 20-year-old body wasn’t consuming anything it shouldn’t have at the time, I just happened to be relaxing in the Reading Terminal Market. This place is a culinarian’s dream come true – gone are the mind-numbing days of pacing the sticky aisles of a grocery store.
You cannot live in Philadelphia without having heard of this spot. It houses more than 80 businesses, a big step up from its opening in 1892 as a market beneath a train shed. It is closed on Sunday and the Amish-owned stores are open only Wednesday through Saturday. It is estimated that 80,000 tourists and locals shop at the market per week, according to their Web site, www.readingterminalmarket.org.
There is a large, cafeteria-style section in the center of the market that has a bunch of tables and chairs. Many businessmen and women drop in for a bite at lunchtime, scoring the free wireless Internet as well.
It gained fame as well when it appeared in a chase scene in the movie National Treasure.
Enter Reading Terminal Market for the first time comfortable with the fact that you will quickly become lost. Fish markets, bakeries, wine suppliers, restaurants, juice bars and homemade pasta stations are only a sprinkling of purveyors that call the market home. Grab a map or print one off their Web site so you can – at some point – get out. Here are a few places you just can’t overlook:
Fisher’s Soft Pretzels puts Auntie Anne’s to great shame. Not only do they make those pretzels in front of you (deliciously saturated with melted butter), they also have a considerable selection of homemade ice creams that are really cheap. Dreaming of summer? Hot waffles and some ‘moose tracks’ ice cream will definitely conjure up sultry memories at the Jersey shore.
Try to walk past Old City Coffee, and you will find yourself backpedaling to breathe in that freshly-roasted smell again. It might be a small corner in the market, but it packs a big punch in my book.
This is not what you buy from your mother’s stale coffee can supplier. Check out the trendy espresso bar for a quick pick-me-up.
Right near the middle of the market is Original Turkey, where they roast turkey all day long for sandwiches, soups, wraps and platters.
Sample a sliver of the hot turkey and see how turkey made right doesn’t need fancy sauces or titles. Turkey noodle soup from this place is surprisingly better than the bland Campbell’s any day. Get there before the lunch rush, otherwise you’ll miss out on the country white bread.
Want to really impress your hot date on Saturday night? Scoop up some gigantic tiger shrimp from John Yi Fish Market, where the slogan is ‘Eat fish, live longer!’ Next, pick out some fresh pasta hanging to dry at By George – Pizza & Pasta, and some veggies from the OK Lee Produce aisle. Add some rolls from Le Bus Bakery and a local bottle of Chardonnay from Blue Mountain Vineyards and you are set to cook up a storm.
So, go check out this historical landmark for some great eats and exotic tastes of Philly.
Brianna Barry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.