So it’s the late 1800’s, and you’re a merchant along High Street, maybe a descendant of one of the many vendors who have been coming to this section of Philadelphia since 1680. You learn, much to your chagrin, that the Philadelphia & Reading company has purchased a swathe of land, the very same swathe where you sell your doodads and geegaws, to build a railroad. Well, you won’t have any of that, and eventually, you, the other merchants, and P&R work out a deal that relocates the merchants below the station, and thus, the Reading Terminal / Market was born.
You probably won’t be vindicated in your lifetime, having died of blood-letting or something, but you might be gratified to know that the Market will outlive the Reading Terminal around it. Coal supplies ran low, and the uptick in prices drove away train riders, but farmers and merchants stuck around. These days, in conjunction with the convention center just next door, the Reading Terminal Market (no slash, this time) is booming, boasting over 70 merchants offering everything from Amish specialities to roast duck to wine.
I have a soft spot for the Market. Almost anything I want, I can find there. Usually, what I want is fresh mozzarella from the Valley Shepherd Creamery and Meltkraft, but sometimes, I want some donuts from Beiler’s, or a sandwich from — well, almost anywhere. There’s no better microcosm of Philadelphian food than at the Market — Thai food next to a burger place next to an Amish diner and bakery. Always something new to taste, or to try, and if all else fails, you can always people watch, or listen to one of the musicians in the seating areas.
My recommendations: the Red, White, and Green sandwich (a hearty, delicious twits on the classic grilled cheese) from Meltkraft, as well as their fresh mozzarella. The milkshake-and-pretzel combo from Miller’s Twist (’cause the price-to-quality ratio can’t be beat, for five dollars). A half-dozen donuts from Beiler’s Donuts, if the line isn’t too long (do some laps while you wait to justify the calories you’ll eat!). Ice cream from Bassetts Ice Cream (ice cream!). Hope’s Cookies from the Pennsylvania General Store (come near closing, and they’re a dollar each). Fresh juice from Lancaster County Dairy (try the blueberry lemonade). Fried chicken from Kevin Parker’s Soul Food Cafe (the next best thing to actual ambrosia from the gods). Cannoli from Termini Brothers Bakery…
Honestly, I could name something that I like from almost every store at the Market. Try it sometime!