There wasn't a great deal of research involved when we decided to head out to Philly for a couple of days. The Rocky thing didn't interest me all that much and neither did the cheesesteak. Although now a small part of me is wishing I did try a cheesesteak, if only to say that I'd done it. I guess thinly sliced steak and melted cheese in a white bread roll doesn't rock my boat, even when walking past two of city's rivalling producers.
The first thing on the agenda was seeing what the Reading Terminal Market was all about. Yes it's a tourist market, but to be honest, I saw just as many locals shuffling down the walkways as I did out-of-towners. Plus the market is less than a minutes walk from the Marriott, where we were shacked-up for the night.
Open every day of the week, the market is housed in what was once a train shed. A handful of farmers offer fresh fruits and vegetables, whilst others tempt you with their organically raised meats, artisan cheeses and baked goods.
Breakfast was the first thing on the agenda. So rather than battle the crowds at the perpetually busy Dutch Eating Place with its enormously stodgy offerings, I thought the signature Philly's famous corned beef special (6.95) at Hatville Deli was more my scene. The sandwich was virtually a Reuben, so that was my attraction. Corned beef, coleslaw, Russian dressing and light rye bread. And sharing the counter with an Amish lady tucking into the same thing was half the novelty as well.
The northwest corner of the market is where the Pennsylvania Dutch merchants from Lancaster County peddle their homemade goods. From pickles, meats and dry goods to delectable breads, berry pies and sticky pastries.
It was difficult to ignore the cabinet at Beiler's Donuts, tempting visitors with the variety of donuts and baked treats that the Amish do oh-so well. The apple fritter blew my mind. It may look like a wrinkled piece of pastry, but taking that first bite revealed a fluffy and slightly doughy pastry, much like a donut, studded with small pieces of spiced apple and lightly crusted in an apple cider glaze. Across the walkway is Beiler's Bakery, offering even more sticky treats like slices of pies, or the whole thing, sticky buns, apple dumplings and shoofly pie. A huge slice of berry pie went back to Manhattan with me, and it was delicious.
It isn't all about Amish food at the markets. Southern food can be sampled or taken home, Asian and Middle Eastern goodies, seafood, vegetarian cuisine, coffee, you name it.
I couldn't resist when I spotted these delectables at Miller's Twist. The sausage, egg & cheese (3.5) was the perfect breakfast to go. A spiced hot sausage, wrapped in a soft omelette and baked in a thin pastry. It was the next things that made me moan with pleasure. Cinnamon pretzel sticks (3.25). Still hot, weighty sticks of dense cooked dough liberally dusted with cinnamon sugar. They were loaded with slightly salted butter and left an almost smokey maple syrup flavour in the mouth. If I died there and then I would have died with a smile on my face. This is one market that's impossible to leave with an empty stomach.Reading Terminal Market12th & Arch StreetsPhiladelphia 215 922 2317website