Craving homemade pumpkin cookies with cream cheese icing, a gargantuan dill pickle, a famous Philly cheesesteak or coffee chocolate chip granola? How about salmon and tilapia with tomatoes, capers and spinach, a pulled pork sandwich or an Asian pear? If you’re hungry, head over to the Reading Terminal Market just across the street from the Philadelphia Convention Center at the corner of 12th and Arch streets. Be prepared, though, to have a tough time deciding what to eat.
I recommend taking a walk around to survey the place before making any hasty decisions. But knowing more than 10,000 of us are in town, expect a crush of people, especially around the candy shops, cheesesteak stands, bakeries and produce marts.
Start healthy at Iovine’s Produce or Fair Food Farmstand, where all the produce is organic or grown with minimum pesticide use on farms no farther than 25 miles from downtown Philly. They also offer fresh local cheeses, yogurts and apple cider, raw milk, eggs, poultry and meats. You can pick up a bunch of organic rainbow carrots for $4 (they’re orange, white and purple, but all taste like a traditional orange carrot), choose from 15 different types of apples or experiment with a head of cheddar cauliflower (it’s the color of cheddar cheese, but still tastes like cauliflower).
Saturday’s $7 meal special at Pearl’s Oyster Bar was cod on a roll, a cup of chowder and a medium soda. Beker’s Bakery is like many of the Amish-run establishments that are only open Monday-Saturday, but if you have time, walk by for the heavenly smell of fresh-baked sticky buns and dinner rolls. Metropolitan Bakery will be open tomorrow and sells a satisfying and vegan French lentil walnut salad. Their rustic wood shelves are also stocked with flour-dusted rolls of fresh bread, everything from cracked wheat to pumpkin pecan cranberry, walnut, chocolate cherry and New York rye.
I’m a candy fan, so I had to stop at Chocolate by Mueller, where there are more than 20 varieties of licorice (soft and sweet, hard and salty, you name it), jaw breakers the size of a softball alongside white rock candy, Swedish fish, and chocolate noses (the sign says, “I thought you said a dozen noses!”).
Beck’s Cajun Café offers vegetarian black-eyed pea soup and also gator gumbo (made with alligator sausage!) and crawfish etouffee. You can find authentic Japanese fare at Tokyo Sushi, southern cuisine and everyday soul at Delilah’s, Indian and Pakistani cuisine at Nanee’s Kitchen and two scoops of world-famous ice cream for $3.23 at Basetts, where they also sell dry ice so you can bring some pistachio, pralines and cream or cinnamon ice cream back to your hotel for a late-night snack.
And, sure, the food’s the big draw, but the market also features the “Best Shoe Shine in Philly” at the Shoe Doctor, a new/used bookstore and vendors selling hand-made pottery, jewelry and crafts. Philbert, the metal pig statue in the middle of the market, has an open mouth for donations “to provide affordable and nutritious food for children in needy communities” if you’re looking for a spot to drop your spare change.
Market hours are 8 a.m.–6 p.m. Monday–Saturday and 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Sundays.
What about you, fair reader? Got any good suggestions for quick bites during the meeting?
Top photo: Philbert the pig beckons donations from Reading Market Terminal customers. Middle photo: A young man entertains the market crowds. Bottom photo: An APHA Annual Meeting blogger shows off her colorful market carrots.