Nothing beats The Reading Terminal Market for produce, meats, cheeses, farm fresh eggs, freshly baked breads, cakes & treats, locally roasted coffees and of course, beautiful flowers. The market has about 80 merchants set inside a space of just under 2 acres, with over 100,000 patrons visiting every single week. We are very fortunate to have such a place in Center City Philadelphia, because it provides numerous families, restaurants & other establishments with the best of the best. This is the market that has hosted The Food Network's Throwdown with Bobby Flay.
Many people make it a tradition to visit this market just to grab a bite to eat and what's more, there is a little bit of everything for everyone; traditional Thai food, a wonderful creperie that makes both sweet & savory crepes, a stand that makes Thanksgiving turkey dinners every single day, sushi restaurants, traditional Amish food, freshly churned American-style ice cream, just to name a few can be found here. Some establishments have their own seating while other stands rely on seating scattered throughout the market for their patrons. Amidst all of the activity, the market manages to host live jazz sessions (free!) every second Friday of every month and wonderful piano playing on the first & third Thursdays of every month. It's so much fun shopping here when these events are going on.
I've been coming to The Reading Terminal Market for over 12 years now and at one point I was shopping here at least twice a week. Back then it was easy for me, because I would simply take the train into the nearby 12th St. & Market St. station, and walk a block over into the market to purchase fresh produce, poultry, eggs, cheeses, spices & local honeys. I managed to establish a rapport with many of the vendors throughout the years and came to rely on their tips & expertise when making my purchases. Do you know that I ran into famed chef Eric Ripert at The Reading Terminal twice? The first time he was clearly having a photo shoot at one of the market stalls and I didn't get a chance to say hello. The second time he was with his chef from 10 Arts, his Center City restaurant, buying a large cheese pumpkin that I overheard him say he wanted to roast. I mustered the courage to introduce myself and was instantly greeted with his charming personality.
Although I don't visit it as often as I used to, I still enjoy coming to The Reading Terminal to partake of the freshest in-season produce whenever I find myself in the area. This was the case just last week. I was surprised to find quite a few changes at the market (some old vendors have gone, yet others have come in), but what I was most surprised by was having a few merchants, whom I hadn't seen in years, remember me.
Take a stroll with me through The Reading Terminal Market and see where I enjoy shopping. Be sure to click on the individual links to some of these vendors for an in-depth look at what they have to offer.
Termini Brothers is an old establishment that serves some of the city's best cakes and pastries. Traditional Italian cannoli, cream cakes, biscotti and other delicious confections are favorites with many Philadelphians. This place is always booming with activity. They're known for their sprinkled cupcakes which take on a bit of prideful color during baseball season. I've had them before, they're really good!
Down Home Diner, which offers typical diner food, has been remodeled into a sleeker, brighter restaurant. Seating is offered within the confines of the restaurant, but during the lunch time hour it's almost impossible to find any space. Although I've never eaten here, it does seem like quite the hot spot.
Here is Iovine Brothers: Urban Produce Market. This stand is run by brothers, James (hi Jimmy!) and Vincent; it is always busy, especially around the holidays. In fact, this place can seem like a madhouse around Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I recommend shopping as early as possible during that time. Iovine's is where I met Eric Ripert many years ago. I used to get all of my lettuces, onions, mushrooms (one can even find fresh truffles here when they're in season!), several types of apples, herbs and even dried fruit from here. I absolutely love Iovine's.
Godshall's Poultry is a marvelous place which offers all sorts of fowl. Fryers, poussins, capons, turkeys, ducks, geese, rabbits, game hens, eggs and cured poultry meats in every shape & form are located here; they have the best turkey pepperoni at Godshall's that is out of this world on homemade pizza. Every single year I order my turkeys from them several weeks before Thanksgiving. I've even been known to purchase fresh chicken livers for my kitties' birthdays here! Because the place gets very busy, they have a numbered ticket system at this establishment. Grab one and wait for your number to be called.
Flying Monkey Bakery has moved from a cramped location to this more centralized and bright spot. As you can see, they specialize in cupcakes, cookies, cakes and delicious brownies. Everything is freshly made behind the counter and you can bet they sell a lot. I just love their unique logo.
Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce is another favorite. Amish farmers from Lancaster County provide us with their freshest selections of quality produce during the summer months and I must say that their sweet white corn is out of this world; at my home, we anticipate it every year.
Not only is the produce great at Kauffman's, but the wide array of canned goods and even crafts available for purchase, is phenomenal. They have delicious jams, jellies, pickled produce (good chow chow, okra, cucumbers, corn relish), mustards, nut butters, pickled eggs and my all-time favorite, local honeys. I'm spoiled to have such great honey at my finger tips. Believe me, I use every bit of it and waste nothing.
Here's a view of some of their produce. The cantaloupes have been great this year, as have their peaches and various berries. Behind the stall one can find handmade and hand cut pastas, among other grains
At the end of this corridor is Metropolitan Bakery. If you must buy brioche from a bakery in Philadelphia, it has to come from Metropolitan. I always try to get a large loaf to freeze at home. It's great for bread puddings, french toast, sandwiches and of course, lightly toasted with some butter & jam.
John Yi Fish Market is my favorite fishmonger at the market. I especially love the jumbo lump blue crabmeat from Maryland sold here. It's a treat for us when I purchase some to make delectable cakes in the summer. Served with some fresh corn on the cob & a tomato salad from Kauffman's and I'm in heaven!
Beiler's Bakery is known for their Amish baked goods. People go crazy for their donuts (I've had them and they are unlike any other), pies, cakes, cookies, tea breads, jelly rolls and their whoopie pies. You haven't tasted a whoopie pie until you've had one from Beiler's.
Just look at this mouthwatering selection. That red velvet jelly roll caught my attention as did the saucer-sized chocolate whoopie pies on the left. Everything is good here.
You can see the ladies dressed in their traditional Amish clothing working behind the counters. Everyone is friendly and quite helpful here. A nice selection of tea breads, cinnamon rolls and cakes are located on this end.
Fair Food Farmstand is a year round cooperative of local farms. I've seen them grow from a tiny corner stall at their inception, to this spacious and light-filled area of the market. This is the place I like to shop for my fresh dairy. Locally churned butter (salted & unsalted) is available here as is wonderful yogurt, heavy cream, milk and tangy buttermilk.
Artisanal honeys, soaps, nuts, flours, sugars and even some pastas are available through Fair Food Farmstand. See what piques your interest.
Don't forget to pick up some flowers if you're at The Reading Terminal. It's always nice to pick and choose among one's favorites for a nice arrangement. There are several vendors scattered throughout the market.
World famous Bassets Ice Cream offers some of the best selections of traditional and not so traditional ice cream. Established by Louis Dubois Bassett back in 1861, Bassett's is America's oldest ice cream company. It's a must for anyone visiting Philadelphia. You won't be disappointed.
This is but a small glimpse of what The Reading Terminal has to offer its patrons and visitors each and every day. The next time you find yourself in the city of Philadelphia, whether it's for business or pleasure, make sure to visit this exciting and vibrant place. You're going to be glad you did!