Heading to Philadelphia? It’s a city filled with history including a little food history. Reading Terminal Market, one of the largest and oldest public markets in the United States, has been a go-to for groceries and foodstuffs for more than a century.
Filled with excellent food, vendors and more, Reading Terminal Market has inhabited its current space at 51 North 12th Street in Philadelphia since 1893 (though its roots go back even farther!). Make time to wander the aisles, peruse the vendors and pick up everything from pickles to pastries, along with grocery items like mushrooms, spices and more.
Or just get lunch, and admire the space that’s fed Philly for more than 125 years.
Here are 5 things not to miss in Reading Terminal Market.
Donuts at Beiler’s Donuts & Salads
Soft and fresh, often warm from the oven. The donuts at Beiler’s Donuts & Salads in Reading Terminal Market are exquisite specimens of sweet confection perfection. With more than 50 flavors being made, there are so many varieties to choose from including dipped, glazed, sprinkled, baconed and topped with cereal. Don’t shy away from the filled varieties though; they are among the best I’ve ever had. I particularly recommend the Salty Caramel, which hits all the right notes of salty, sweet and creamy (thanks to its filling).
Beiler’s, and its sister stand (Beiler’s Bakery), is owned and operated by several generations of the same Pennsylvania Dutch family. The recipes and techniques they use, according to their listing on the Reading Terminal Market webpage, have been passed down for hundreds of years.
Cheeses and Meats at Downtown Cheese
With an enormous display case filled with domestic and international cheeses as well as charcuterie, the neon sign of Downtown Cheese beckons in Reading Terminal Market. But which cheeses will you choose? Manchego, cambozola, Formage d’affinois … There’s so many to choose from.
Whatever you choose, don’t forget to select some charcuterie to enjoy too. And perhaps some olives to round out your impromptu cheese board?
A Baguette from Metropolitan Bakery
Cheeses? Check! Charcuterie? Check! Now, what to enjoy them with … A baguette of course! Head over to Metropolitan Bakery where loaves and boules and rolls await. Choose from their demi-baguettes (I recommend the sourdough), which is a crusty loaf with an airy crumb. It’s perfect for enjoying with those cheeses. And just plain delightful.
Of course, you should pause and consider the bakery’s array of other baked good too. They are worth checking out while in Reading Terminal Market.
Seasonal Lemonades from Iovine Brothers Produce
Thirsty? Lemonades and other juices will help. At Iovine Brothers Produce, you’ll find a colorful selection of lemonades from the classic to the creative. Strawberry Apple Lemonade sounds tasty, but how about some activated charcoal? Not only are these drinks super fresh, but some even boast potential health benefits too. This stand is a healthy oasis in a sea of cheesecakes. Be sure to check out their produce, nuts and more as well.
And while you’re wandering Reading Terminal Market, also stop to appreciate the array of mushrooms that Iovine’s carries. It’s pretty impressive.
Look, you’re in Philly. It would be a massive blunder to not have a cheesesteak. Served sizzling hot with or without cheese, peppers, onions and sometimes more, cheesesteaks are to Philadelphia what the Boston Cream Pie is to Bostom and huge slices of thin crust pizza are to New York. And, fortunately, there’s much opportunity to heed the call of the cheesesteak in Reading Terminal Market.
On my last trip, I grabbed a cheesesteak with whiz from Spataro’s. It was delightful (don’t be afraid to salt and pepper it a bit!). The bread, in particular, was everything a good hoagie roll should be — doughy and chewy with the right amount of crust. But I also love DiNic’s and there’s Carmen’s, By George! and more serving up lovely, hot cheesesteaks for your indulgence. Just get one.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. Her latest cookbook is The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook, published by Rockridge Press, which focuses on quick, easy, from-scratch cooking for busy people. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.