History junkies have the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, art enthusiasts have the Philadelphia Museum of Art and animal lovers have America’s first zoo. Food connoisseurs, who eat as a pastime and not just for sustenance, have Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia’s historic and iconic food hall. Boasting over 80 merchants selling Amish specialties, fresh produce, charcuterie, cheese, confections, etc. (the list is endless), this bustling market overwhelms even the most adept food shopper. Street scoped out the extensive offerings, feasting on the best grub — from the gourmet to the greasy. Whether you have 30 minutes or three hours, check out the best of Reading Terminal Market.
Best Cheese Stand
While not the most famous cheese stand in the market, Downtown Cheese offers a wide variety of local and imported cheeses you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else. The behind the counter staff employs their expertise and your taste preferences to choose the best cheese for your palate. Give them a hint as to what you like, and they will provide ample samples to ensure you’re satisfied. If you like smooth full–flavored sheep’s milk cheeses, try the Pyrenees Chistou, a brand new selection in Downtown’s repertoire.
Best Nut Butter: Kauffman’s Lancaster County Produce
Ground in front of shoppers, Kauffman’s elevates traditional peanut butter with a butterscotch flare. The Pennsylvania Dutch merchants grind butterscotch candy morsels into this all–natural nut butter, lending an unconventional sweet note.
Best Pickles: AJ Pickle Patch and Salads
If you were under the impression that pickles come jarred in two varieties (sour and sweet), then AJ Pickle Patch and Salads will immediately debunk that myth. From aged, sweet, sour and half–sour to lemon and “green,” this purveyor proves pickles are far from one note. Grab a toothpick and start tasting before you buy; with so many unique options you’ll want to taste them all before making a decision.
Best Cookie: Hope’s Peanut Butter Wilbur Cookie at the Pennsylvania General Store
This soft–centered, slightly crispy–edged cookie proves once again that peanut butter and chocolate are the perfect marriage of flavors. Hope’s substitutes traditional chocolate chips for large melt–in–your–mouth chocolate morsels coined Wilburs, an homage to a former Hershey’s employee. This cookie exceeds all expectations of an old–fashioned peanut butter cookie; it alone is worth the trek to Reading.
Best Roasted Turkey: Hershel’s East Side Deli
Hershel’s hand carved fresh roasted turkey will satiate your Jewish delicatessen cravings or your Thanksgiving dinner nostalgia. Unlike most overly dry turkey, this deli’s turkey retains its moisture, making it great with or without traditional deli mustard. If you are nice, the Hershel’s guys may slip you some of their fresh corned beef and pastrami, but beware, these red meats may make choosing what to put on your sandwich quite hard.
Best Unexpected Prepared Food: BBQ Pulled Chicken Salad from 12th Street Cantina
While we can’t speak to the quality of guac at this Reading Terminal Mexican staple (our stomachs were too full to try), the cold BBQ pulled chicken salad offered a lighter alternative to much of the market’s fare. The pulled chicken in a slightly sweet barbeque sauce was an unexpected and much–enjoyed surprise from a Mexican stand.
Best Cup of Tea: Tea Leaf Inc.
When the hub–bub of the market necessitates a calming change, head to Tea Leaf for a soothing cup of quality tea. With a large selection of loose leaf teas (nearly 10 varieties of green tea alone) and a knowledgeable vendor who will introduce you to unique blends, you’ll leave the market feeling a little zen.
Best One–Bite Confection: Flying Monkey Patisserie
Famous for its pumple and Arnold Palmer cake, Flying Monkey offers so many delicious treats that deciding what to try can be a challenge. The dense hazelnut chocolate cake truffle enrobed in a dark chocolate caused a unison of “Oh my gods” around the tasting table. Need we say more?