With row after row of vendors offering everything from Pennsylvania Dutch pot pies to Peking duck, Reading Terminal Market is an international food hall with a decidedly Philadelphian flair. The jumble of sit-down eateries, to-go stands, produce shops, butchers, and bakeries at this 126-year-old spot make for a destination that’s a favorite with locals and tourists alike.
The railroad that lent the market its name is long gone but Reading Terminal (51 N. 12th Street) has held on to become one of the oldest continually operating public markets in the country, with the first tenants setting up stalls back in 1893. Today, traditional Philadelphia and Pennsylvania foods like cheesesteaks, roast pork sandwiches, Amish-style soft pretzels, and whoopie pies vie for attention with shawarma, pad thai, po’boys, and chicken tikka masala.
Where to head first can be overwhelming. Use this guide as a primer on the deliciousness that awaits. Note that while Reading Terminal Market is open daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., some vendors close earlier, and popular items often sell out before the end of the day. Most of the Pennsylvania Dutch shops are not open on Sundays. Can’t make it to the market? You can get groceries and prepared food delivered from many of the vendors via Mercato — though it’s much easier to navigate the delivery service website if you already have an idea of which vendors you prefer.
Miller’s Twist might be best known for its cheddar-jalapeño pretzel dog, but the true star here is the turkey sausage, cheese, and egg breakfast roll-up. The combo is so good that it’s the popular choice among other vendors as they set up for the day.
For a hot apple dumpling nearly the size of a softball, or a plate of eggs and the Pennsylvania breakfast meat called scrapple, head to Dutch Eating Place. Traditionally eaten after dinner, the dumplings also make a mean breakfast.
The roast pork sandwich at DiNic’s has been written up in magazines, featured on TV, and called the best sandwich in America. This combo of slow-roasted pork, broccoli rabe, and provolone is the ultimate Philly classic. But it does sell out every day, so for the tardy, this legendary market stop is also the spot for meatball sandwiches.
There’s always a line at Hershel’s East Side Deli, but don’t despair: These efficient sandwich experts know how to stack fresh-sliced corned beef, coleslaw, and Russian dressing on rye in the blink of an eye. Pair the sandwich with a potato knish and a can of Dr. Brown’s cream soda for the best Jewish deli experience around.
Corn dogs, poutine, cheese curds, funnel cake, and hand-cut fries make up the carnival-esque menu at Fox & Son Fancy Corndogs. The gluten-free corn dogs are available in a few varieties: classic beef-pork, all beef, spicy pork, turkey, and a vegan option.
Vegetarian and Vegan Eats
Vegan deli Luhv sells a few ready-to-eat sandwiches along with items to bring home, like cold cuts, cheese, meatless burger “dough” by the pound, and a tuna salad that tastes better than the real thing. Go for the soup with chickpeas, quinoa, kale, wakame seaweed, lentils, white beans, and onions — it’s a knockout. This is the only dedicated vegan vendor, but meat-free, dairy-free dishes are available at several market stands, including Kamal’s Middle Eastern Specialties and Nanee’s Kitchen, which sells vegan and vegetarian Indian-Pakistani fare alongside halal chicken and lamb dishes.
For lamb or pork, make a beeline for Martin’s Quality Meats and Sausages. Godshall’s Poultry is the go-to for chicken and turkey. L. Halteman Family Country Foods is where those in the know shop for dry-aged beef.
It’s hard to beat the selection at Iovine Brothers Produce, with its mounds of neatly stacked vegetables and fruits and shelves of nuts, dried fruit, and beans.
Locals line up for the salmon and rice dish at Little Thai Market, which slings a huge slab of grilled fish on top of a bed of fluffy rice. The inexpensive dish is perfect for two to share; be sure to ask for extra peanut sauce. Little Thai also stocks curry paste, fish sauce, and other must-haves for home cooks planning a Southeast Asian meal.
Pick up a whole rotisserie chicken with potatoes and carrots from Dienner’s Barbecue, the Amish eatery that serves some of the city’s most succulent birds. The plump wings here are a highlight.
For almost 50 years, Pearl’s Oyster Bar has been serving up fresh seafood and snapper soup from a no-frills spot at the market. It’s been revitalized more recently with menu additions like a Vietnamese shrimp roll and a kale salad, adding a few modern takes on what a seafood counter can offer. This is also still where diners will find one of the best fried oyster platters in the city, with a side of people-watching.
Molly Malloy’s, the large pub in the center of Reading Terminal Market, serves cups of wine and beer to go — meaning you can browse the stalls with a drink in hand (just don’t leave the market with it). Exploration begins here for best results.
For non-alcoholic drinks, stop at Kamal’s Middle Eastern Specialties for the lemonana, a refreshing mint lemonade with rose water. It goes well with the falafel, shawarma, and baklava. Another standout juice option in the market is Four Seasons Juice Bar.
One Pennsylvania Dutch family doubles down at the market with two stands: Beiler’s Bakery and, right across from it, Beiler’s Donuts and Salads. The apple fritters are not to be missed, and if you’ve never had a whoopie pie, here’s your chance.
The original Termini Brothers shop in South Philly (1523 S. 8th Street) is a pilgrimage in itself, but for many Philadelphians it’s the Reading Terminal outpost that they know and love. No swing through the market is complete without a cannoli, the Sicilian ricotta-filled treat.
The chocolate tower at Mueller Chocolate Co. — a stack of chocolate-covered goodies like Rice Krispies Treats and marshmallows — has been featured on the Food Network. But it’s the dipped fruit peels and nut clusters that steal the show here. Those looking for traditional truffles, chocolate-covered pretzels, and the like will also have plenty from choose from.