I love going to markets and food halls. They are typically an excellent representation of whatever city or place you happen to be in. They’re a one stop shop to immersing yourself in the culture of the city. Especially when it comes to food.
Reading Terminal Market is one of the best, and one of my favorite markets that I have ever been to. I have gone to Reading Terminal Market every single time that I have been to Philly (I’ve only been to Philadelphia twice, but the fact remains true!!), and I will continue to do so every time I visit in the future. There is just so much to look at and so much food to try from so may different places that are unique to Philly and the state of Pennsylvania that it can easily be overwhelming. And that’s not even taking into account the THRONGS of people (tourist and locals alike) that show up to the market every day. But, I would implore you to set aside any introverted or anxious tendencies or feelings and make a trip to Reading Terminal Market anyways.
There are stalls that range from coffee to ice cream, Thai food to Cajun food, specialty sausage butchers to cheese mongers, cookbook purveyors to gourmet honey shops, fresh produce to dried herbs and spices. There is a heavy Pennsylvania Dutch influence that intermingles with foods from cultures all over the globe. There’s a traditional creperie right next to hanging, whole, roasted Peking ducks. And with over 100 merchants, if there’s anything you ever need, you’ll likely find under the roof of Reading Terminal Market.
Like most places where there are a plethora of dining options, the best plan of attack at Reading Terminal Market is to go with a few friends, split up to go to different places, and share your spoils with each other. Don’t be like Joey.
The last time I was at Reading Terminal Market, I shared an artisan grilled cheese sandwich from Valley Shepherd Creamery & Meltkraft Grilled Cheese and a couple of amish soft pretzels from Miller’s Twist with the friends that I was visiting.
Originally, when I left one of my friends in line at Valley Shepherd Creamery & Meltkraft Grilled Cheese to order us a grilled cheese, we had decided on a different grilled cheese, but once she got closer to the counter and saw the daily special, she made an executive decision and changed our order. The special that day was a sandwich called the Hogs N’ Clogs, which was a grilled cheese with kielbasa, sauerkraut, and red onion, grilled in a panini press. I’m sure that the sandwich that we had mutually agreed upon would have been wonderful, but my friend definitely made the right decision with this one*. Not to say that the sandwich we were going to get would have been bad (it was still a grilled cheese after all, and who doesn’t like a good grilled cheese??!?), but the Hogs N’ Clogs was so good that it couldn’t not be the right call. Frankly, the Hogs N’ Clogs sandwich was so good that I can’t remember what the other sandwich* even was! The bread was perfectly toasted and browned in the panini press, and the acid from the kraut and the onions cut through the sweetness of the bread and the richness of the cheese perfectly.
*Or maybe I can’t remember because I’m writing this almost two moths after the fact. . . but I prefer to believe it’s because the Hogs N’ Clogs was that good (the other sandwich was called the Somerset: gruyere cheese, cured ham, cornichon pickles, and whole grain mustard. Thanks Internet for serving as my memory!)
I feel like I’ve spent a good amount of time talking about a sandwich that you may not be able to try seeing as how it was a daily special, and I have no idea how often they rotate through their specials if at all. That’s insensitive of me. But, if my sandwich was any indication (which it is and indication, seeing as how it came from the same place), then any grilled cheese sandwich from Valley Shepherd Creamery & Meltkraft Grilled Cheese that sounds good to you will make you want to talk about it to people that won’t be able to have it either!
The soft pretzels from Miller’s Twist were excellent as well. It’s tough to beat a fresh soft pretzel drenched in butter or coated in cinnamon sugar. I have actually gone to Miller’s Twist both times that I’ve been to Reading Terminal Market, but that’s because they usually have a short and fast moving line (More of a testament to their speed an efficiency rather than an indication of the quality) and I’m usually hungry and impatient. A match made in Heaven! Plus, it’s a fun line to wait in because you’re able to watch them make all sorts of pretzels right on the other side of the glass. Have you ever tried to make a pretzel twist? I have and let me tell you, it’s much more difficult than it looks, and these guys make it look like nothing! I’ll take all the exposure to their wizardry that I can get.
No matter when you go to Reading Terminal Market, it WILL be packed. But it’s worth all the effort of picking a place, waiting in line, and competing with other patrons for a seat at one of the highly coveted tables. It’s all part of the experience, and it wouldn’t be a trip to Reading Terminal Market without it. After all, it’s in the city of brotherly love, and what’s more what’s more brotherly than fighting over food and a seat at the table??