The Reading Terminal Market is a large public market in Center City, a Philadelphia neighborhood.
I grew up visiting the market for specific foods but never explored the whole site.
Here are the most surprising things I found at the Reading Terminal Market.
The Reading Terminal Market is one of Philadelphia's most iconic spots for fantastic food and other local goods.
According to its website, the Reading Terminal Market is one of the nation's oldest and largest public markets.
Since its opening in 1893, the market has become a popular destination for both tourists and locals. Reading Terminal Market is housed in a National Historic Landmark building and located in Center City, a bustling neighborhood at the heart of Philadelphia accessible via public transportation.
The subway stations within a short walk of the market are located at City Hall via the Broad Street Line and 13th Street via the Market-Frankford Line. For those coming from outside the city, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has Regional Rail lines that offer plenty of ways to travel into Center City.
If you're driving, prepare to spend time searching for street parking or pay a lot for parking in a garage. The closest garage is on Filbert Street between the market and City Hall, but you can find pricing information for some other Center City parking garages on the Philadelphia Parking Authority's official website.
The market is packed with restaurants selling made-to-order food, as well as local stores selling handmade goods. Although I lived just outside Philadelphia for most of my life, I only visited Reading Terminal Market to get a specific food or snack. Once I took the time to really explore the whole place, I learned there was a lot more to it than I originally thought.
Here are some of the most surprising things I found while touring the Reading Terminal Market.
I was most familiar with the Reading Terminal Market's hot and pre-packaged food, so I was surprised to find a whole produce market inside.
When I walked into the market, one of the first things that caught my attention was the colorful neon sign at Iovine Brothers.
According to the Reading Terminal Market's website, Iovine Brothers was opened by James and Vincent Iovine in the early 1990s. I never heard of it before my trip but I was pleased to learn they carried a wide array of products, such as their own line of cold-pressed juice.
They were also stocked with a number of lesser-known fruits and vegetables for delivery, like gold beets, Belgian endive, and taro root. I would definitely consider making a fresh meal with products from Iovine in the future.
There was also a full bar and kitchen in the heart of the market.
Molly Malloy's Kitchen and Bar is described as the sister store to Iovine Brothers Produce, on the market's website. Iovine Brothers is also where Molly Malloy's gets the fresh ingredients for their dishes. The restaurant serves all-day breakfast and lunch, as well as cocktails and beer if you want to catch a game on one of their TVs.
The menu features some pretty enticing options. I would love to try the challah french toast from the breakfast menu or the Nashville hot chicken sandwich for lunch.
Another restaurant that surprised me was a retro-style diner.
The Down Home Diner opened in 1987. The market's website notes that the diner's food options — like biscuits, cornbread, pancakes, burgers, jams, and soups — are made from scratch and use ingredients sourced from other vendors in the terminal.
The bright neon signs, chrome detailing, and red-leather stools immediately drew me in. It'll be on my list to try next time I stop in.
There's more than just food in the market. I came across Amazulu during my tour, a shop that sells handmade jewelry.
According to the Reading Terminal Market's website, Amazulu was founded by silversmith Chanita Powell in 1989. She now runs the booth as an art collective and showcases work by artists from all over the world.
I was so drawn to the beautiful sterling silver jewelry that I almost missed the home decor that Amazulu sells. It really felt like a one-of-a-kind business that celebrated art and design from different cultures.
Local foods also captured my attention, like this beet juice from Lancaster County Dairy.
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, known for its Amish farm country and Pennsylvania Dutch influence, is about an hour and a half from the Reading Terminal Market. I remember my mom would take day trips to Lancaster and bring home delicious, fresh food and yummy desserts. I was immediately reminded of those moments when I walked by the shop.
Aside from the farm-fresh dairy, I was most intrigued by this bottle of 100% fresh-pressed beet juice. I was surprised to see bottled beet juice, but the Reading Terminal Market's website says the juices are some of the stand's most popular products.
Another fun surprise I discovered was this fruit-flavored popcorn.
This five-flavor fruit popcorn is available at Kauffman's Pennsylvania Dutch Market. The market's website says the stand is run by a father-and-son team and stocks seasonal snacks and foods from Lancaster County.
This snack features popcorn flavored (and colored) like blue raspberry, green apple, grape, banana, and cherry. I don't know if I'd try this particular variety, but some of the other snacks looked scrumptious, too.
I knew cold cuts and fresh cuts of meat were available for purchase, but I always missed the cases of fresh fish.
I don't eat a lot of fish, so I wasn't too thrilled by the briny scent that filled my nostrils. Still, I thought it was cool that there was an assortment of fresh fish available for seafood lovers.
I didn't know bacon came in this many flavors until I walked by this case.
The market's website lists the mouth-watering varieties of bacon at L. Halteman Family Country Foods: maple-glazed, applewood, hickory-smoked, and more.
According to Halteman's website, the meat stand was opened by Lester Halteman in 1917. His family later sold the stand to the Riehls, a family of butchers whose experience goes back three generations, the Reading Terminal Market website notes.
Brothers Jake and Samuel Riehl now run the stand and offer a variety of fresh-cut meats, including the bacon that made me do a double-take.
In the back of the market, I discovered a store that sold crystals and organically-grown herbs.
Herbiary offers dozens of different products, including books on crystals and gardening, essential oils, and beauty products. After spending the afternoon among the crowds in the market, it was nice to step into a calming space and breathe in the aromatherapy.
Philbert the Pig, the "lucky" bronze statue that poops money into a glass box, is there for a good cause.
According to Atlas Obscura, Philbert is a three-foot-tall, 225-pound pig that serves as the unofficial mascot of the Reading Terminal Market. He's named after Filbert Street, which runs adjacent to the market, and functions as an enormous piggy bank.
A sign above the pig asks patrons to feed Philbert with coins and dollar bills to raise money for "affordable, fresh, and nutritious food for children in needy communities." The bronze pig is sponsored by The Food Trust in Philadelphia, but Atlas Obscura notes the donations are given to a different charity each month.
The pig's nose is often rubbed for good luck, making it a different color from the rest of his body. Market-goers can drop money into his mouth, hear it pass through the statue, and see it land in a glass box underneath.
When I saw Philbert, I was tickled by his white chef's hat. I was also reminded of the giving spirit of Philadelphians and the quirky ways people in my favorite city show support.
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