The Reading Terminal Market of 1809 consisted of outdoor sheds (“shambles”) where fisher- men and farmers sold their wares, but today the few remaining fish and butcher stands are catty–cornered by places like “Condiment,” a shop where a hipster with an impeccably waxed mustache sells, you guessed it, condiments—just condiments. I can’t exactly tell you where “the best” food is, but I can tell you that if you go “just for lunch” and that if you don’t leave with a bag of goodies, you’re missing out.
#1. GET YOUR BEARINGS:
The labyrinth of vendors inside the market can be disorienting to say the least, so take a lap to orient yourself. Pro tip: Don’t rely on the “street signs” hung up throughout the market, they’ll only confuse you more.
#2. BUT FIRST, COFFEE:
Make time to stop at Old City Coffee. It’s the best in the market, as evidenced by the fact that there are two stands in opposite corners of the market, and by the fact that they have an XL size option. Fair warning, though, they only have straws long enough to reach the bottom of the medium iced coffee cups.
#3 TRUST YOUR GUT (literally):
Despite the fact that nine out of ten of the hot food stands will claim they are "the best," it's nearly impossible to determine a true front–runner. That being said, if you really need some guidance I recommend:
Little Thai Stand: They make the kind of pad thai that is so fluorescently orange it almost glows (for all you newbs, this is a good thing).
DiNic’s Roast Pork: You think you want a cheesesteak? You don’t. You want a DiNic’s Pork Italian.
Kamal’s Middle Eastern Specialties: Basically it’s Magic Carpet with meat options, double the portions and half the price.
#4 DON'T BE AFRAID OF A LITTLE RED MEAT:
Give yourself a break from your diet of Greek Lady grilled chicken and take advantage of one of RT’s meat vendors. If the goat shank at La Divisa’s is intimidating, you’ll find Martin’s Quality Meats & Sausages to be easier on the eyes. While you’re at it, buy some cheese from Downtown Cheese or The Riehl Deli and Cheese Shop. BYO bags if you're planning to stock up on groceries; a big canvas bag is much more pleasant to lug around than 45 of those little plastic fuckers.
#5 DON'T MISS THE DUTCH:
Even if you don’t want a massive deli sandwich for lunch, you can’t leave the market without buying something from one of the thirteen “Amish” vendors. My advice? Skip the “famous” 4th Street Cookie—they’re overrated—and get your something sweet at Sweet as Fudge Candy Shoppe or try one of the 20+ flavors of popcorn at Kauffman's Lancaster Country Produce.
#6: END AT IOVINE BROS. PRODUCE:
All caps because if I could trek to 12th and Arch streets weekly to buy produce, I would (but alas, even the half block walk to Frogro seems daunting some- times). Not only do they have a plethora of reasonably priced seasonal fruits and veggies (and right now, that means enough apples and squash to feed every basic bitch in the continental US), they also have a wall of exotic produce and specialty items. I'm talking white flesh dragon fruit, whole sugar cane and a bunch
of other plants you've only seen onPinterest. Make this your last stop. Spare yourself the struggle of lugging your big bag o’ veggies through the market and leave through the 11th & Filbert streets exit right behind Iovine’s.
LOCATION: 51 N. 12th St.
TL;DR: Go for lunch, stay to shop.
DON'T MISS: IOVINE’S IOVINE’S IOVINE’S!!!
SKIP: The big–ass cookie or ice cream cone and spend your money on something sweet for later (read: Amish Peanut Butter Schmeir Popcorn from Kauffman’s)
WHEN TO GO: After 2 p.m. (to avoid the lunch rush) on one of the rare occasions you have at least a few hours of free time.
PRICE RANGE FOR LUNCH: $
PRICE RANGE FOR SHOPPING: Your call, man.