Reading Terminal Market, one of the nation’s oldest public markets (since 1893, baby!), is an essential stop on any gourmand’s Philadelphia itinerary.
To fully explore the breadth of its offerings, which include fresh produce, prepared foods, sit-down restaurants, takeaway stands, and houseware stalls, multiple visits are in order. However, if you find yourself with just a little time (and a big appetite), here are our five must-eats at the market.
Owned and operated by the same Amish family for multiple generations, Beiler’s Doughnuts (and adjacent bakery) vends over 20 different types of deep-fried rings and stuffed pastries made from a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch recipe. The pedestrian varieties (glazed, cake, etc.) will still knock your socks off, especially when consumed piping hot, but it’s the seasonal and fancy flavors that make Beiler’s better than your average donut shop. Try the pumpkin creme, triple chocolate, and harvest apple.
Apple Dumpling (Dutch Eating Place)
Consider a donut (or three) from Beiler’s a warm-up before fully indulging your sweet tooth with a colossal apple dumpling from this counter service joint, otherwise best known for its bountiful breakfast. Composed of an ample Granny Smith apple enveloped in thick vanilla dough and doused in caramel sauce, the infamous Dutch Eating Place dumpling boasts a sweet, mushy interior and sticky, flaky exterior that begs for a crown of whipped cream, or better yet, ice cream (both available).
Fried Oyster Salad (Pearl’s Oyster Bar)
Although their rotating selection of fresh oysters on the half shell are more than admirable, it’s the battered bivalves that steal the show at Pearl. A platter paired with chips is well and good, but the cornmeal-crusted oysters really shine when complemented by bitter mesclun greens, fried Brussels sprouts, and salty smoked pepitas. Ask for the herb ranch dressing on the side in order to control its distribution, as too much will drown out the delicate botanical and briny notes that make this salad so satisfying.
Vegan Poutine (Fox & Son Fancy Corn Dogs)
In a market where animal flesh-based foodstuffs tend to win the popularity contests with locals and tourists, Fox & Son more than holds its own with its selection of vegan items including a terrific herbivorous take on poutine. Hand-cut fries made from locally-sourced potatoes, layered with dairy-free cheese, form a delectable, monstrous mound that will not have you asking “Where’s the beef” (or the curds for that matter).
El Jibaro Sandwich (Loco Lucho’s Latino Kitchen)
What’s the best thing since sliced bread for sandwiches? Giant deep-fried plantain patties. Thank God for the courageous cooks at Loco Lucho’s who had the cojones to use giant tostones, instead of a banal bun, to hold together layers of pork, ham, swiss cheese, and pickles in their El Jibaro. The result is an Instagram-worthy sammie whose unctuous strata are elevated in taste and sophistication via the addition of the salty-sweet fruit starch alongside the porcine, dairy, and vegetal flavors.