On a very beautiful Thursday last week, the adventure began. 10 am stomachs empty and mouths watering, two girls on a mission set their feet on the sunshine splashed pavement of just another one of Philadelphia’s overpriced parking lots, and didn’t look back for the next 6 hours.
Map in hand, clicky pen prepared, and absolutely no strategy to speak of; we walked headstrong and hungry into The Reading Terminal Market.
Two girls on a mission to taste an entire city block worth of food.
I guess there was a strategy. Eat. 4 bites maximum. Tap out only if you feel your health is at risk. Walks around the block, allowed. Giving up, not permitted.
I knew I could eat, but I was unpleasantly surprised by the sheer amount of food I found myself comfortably able to consume that day. Don’t ask me where this idea for pure gluttony came from because really, it was just a moment in time where my million mile an hour mind thought it would be an awesome idea.
At the moment of inception of this ingenious idea, I called my best friend Natalie. The poor girl was knee deep in studying for her nursing finals, so even if I had proposed a plan for us to leave that weekend for Russia, I know she would’ve said yes. Anything to get away, we agreed.
… I will admit it now, and I am sure she will too, as soon as we stepped inside the market the energy was addictive, but the task seemed intimidating. We had a list of over two dozen places, and we promised ourselves we wouldn’t leave until we had check marks next to all of them.
The first check mark set the pace as we sat at the counter of the Down Home Diner (1). Thinking 4 bites was not a fair allotment on our part, an absolutely delicious short stack of multigrain pancakes with pear and strawberry salsa were almost decimated. Regaining composure, we were over the starting line.
It was a slice of tomato, spinach, and ricotta pizza at By George (2) up next as we slowly took in the sights around us. With each bite came the accompanied chorus of sounds, muffled by our stuffed mouths.
12th Street Cantina (3), quickly made a Fish Taco fan out of the two of us. Slathered in guacamole, the chunks of fish were perfectly seasoned and fell apart at the touch.
It was at this point we wished it was legal for us to have carried around a knife that day, as splitting everything in two with a plastic one was proving quite difficult already.No problem though when it came to Miller’s Twist (4). One delicious soft pretzel please… and our fingers did the rest!
Continuing in finger food tradition, we stopped at A.J. Pickle Patch (5). For two pickle fans, this purveyor of the big green beauties was an exciting stop for us, each taking a bite out of one of the ends. Picture worthy? Definitely.
Video worthy was our reaction as we broke into the crust of one of the Dutch Eating Place’s Apple Dumplings (6). Just noises. No words. That good.
From sweet to way too salty, Beck’s Cajun Café (7) gave us a taste of their gator gumbo. Maybe I’m not a N’awlins cuisine fan, but I needed a glass of water after just one spoonful.
All of that was forgotten at Dienner’s Bar-B-Q (8). Lenny, hardworking and proud server of the “best chicken we would ever have” served us our favorite meal of the day. It was a pulled BBQ chicken sandwich with provolone cheese and mild sauce. Four bite rule? Broken for a second time.
A sip of strawberry lemonade at Lancaster County Dairy (9), followed by Mint chocolate chip ice cream at Bassetts Ice Cream (10), apparently a presidential choice, it was time for a walk around the block.
Literally. Fresh air and a glass of water later, we were back in action and ready to tackle a very authentic chicken gyro covered in tangy tzaziki at Olympic Gyro (11).
Being as I am Middle Eastern, going to Kamal’s (12) was highly anticipated. Eating what they call, Zatar pizza, basically pita bread covered in zatar as well as a taste of falafel, I was happy. Not overly impressed, but the guy was representing my favorite cuisine well in the market.
Famous 4th Street Cookies (13), a place where I have childhood memories served up a warm chocolate chip and peanut butter cookie. This was promptly followed up with a milk chocolate covered pretzel and another childhood throwback, rock candy at Chocolate by Mueller (14). I guess I was feeling nostalgic.
As we did with the pickle we approached the Franks A lot (15) all beef hot dog the same way. Sunk our teeth into each end and immediately decided to keep it moving. Thanks a lot for very little Franks A lot.
At The Original Turkey (16), we ordered the turkey and cranberry sandwich. How can you have dry turkey at a turkey place? It was off-putting, saved only by the wonderful bread holding the sandwich together.
Not so hot hot dog and turkey sandwich gone but not forgotten; we appreciated the fame that came along with a DiNic’s (17) pork sandwich with provolone and broccoli rabe. Something that famous is bound to be good, and it was. Not mindblowing, but good.
Drum roll please for the worst thing we tasted that day… Chicken Pad Thai from the Little Thai Kitchen (18). I shouldn’t even say that we tasted it, as I believe we both actually spit out our first and only bites.
Trying to maintain the balance between savory and sweet, we couldn’t resist taking on The Flying Monkey (19). A cookies and cream whoopie pie. Sticky and sweet, accented by the oreo pieces in the cream. Well done.
Hershel’s Deli (20) was happy to serve us half a sandwich. Ecstatic about that portion size but possiblly on cloud nine when I bit into it, hot brisket with mustard and provolone. Unbelievable.
It was at Profi’s Creperie (21) where Natalie started to get wary of her eating abilities. How do you know a crepe is good? When someone who says they can’t eat anymore can’t stop eating it. Nutella and strawberries, the ultimate combo.
A vegetable egg roll at Golden Bowl (22), a rib from The Rib Stand (23), an apple cider donut from Beiler’s Bakery (24), and a piece of cookie dough fudge from Sweet As Fudge Candy Shoppe (25) the portions were starting to shrink.
The finish line was in sight, but so were some of the foods we were most looking forward to. Delilah’s at the Terminal (26), soul food for two girls that get down with the real thing, our girl Ethel hooked us up. Fried chicken, greens, cornbread; the portions were as huge as her heart.
A true treat comes in the form of a Termini Cannoli (27) whenever you have the wonderful pleasure of enjoying one. Cream as velvety as it comes, and a shell with the perfect crunch, my stomach made way for the whole thing.
We almost by passed Carmen’s Famous Sandwiches and Cheesesteaks (28). Only we would leave a cheesesteak as the last meal of the day. A chicken cheesesteak with provolone and fried onions to be precise. But this last stop proved to be more valuable than just the sandwich or the simple importance of the finality of it all.
It was the act of the woman behind the cash register that helped me make sense of why it was I got this crazy idea in the first place. As we awaited the wrapping up of our sandwich, she urged us to try the homemade lemonade’s at her neighboring vendor, Jonathan’s Best (29).
She was demonstrating what the Reading Terminal Market is. A giant family of food lovers, and why wouldn’t I want to escape the burbs and surround myself in that love for the day. She didn’t have to tell us to go try their lemonade, but she was as much as fan of their craft as she was her own. That is the beauty of loving food. It is something you can share. Like love, it is a universal language, and on that day, it was a language full of laughter, generosity, curiosity, and happiness that Natalie and I spoke 29 different times…
and I guess you could also say that it was also the day that I ate everything at the Reading Terminal Market.
Also … Please Read Penn Appetit’s Blog to see more about my FOOD filled day!! (CLICK)