I’ve been away the past week, mostly eating. Rosemarie and I were visiting good friends on the Jersey Shore and in between soaking in some great weather and seashore sites, we ate…and ate…and ate. Speaking of food, we had a brief layover in Philadelphia, my hometown, and since one of my favorite places in the universe was just down the street, well, I won’t need to explain further if you continue on.
For years, from the 1800s well through the 20th Century, Reading Terminal (pronounced like the color “red”…Redding) was the center city train station for the Reading Railroad, a regional commuter rail system servicing Philadelphia with links to nearby Pennsylvania towns and neighborhoods. When I was a young lad growing up in “Philly,” there was no greater thrill than arriving on the Chestnut Hill Local at the terminal’s great European-style train shed. To me, it was something out of the movies, a real gulp and goose-bump moment .
The entire Reading complex, including the shed has since been converted to a modern steel and stone convention center; the trains and the tracks they road in on are long gone. But one thing remains: The Reading Terminal Market. The market is the ancient descendant of outdoor street sheds called “shambles” that lined Market Street (then Front Street), the one-time primary shopping/business thoroughfare in downtown Philly. Here, local tradesmen and nearby farmers sold their wares and produce to eager shoppers. When the Reading Company bought the site of their new terminal on Front Street in the late 1800s, the street vendors balked, not willing to give up their precious retail space to the railroad. Subsequently, the entire space beneath the huge train shed was set aside as a new indoor market. And so was established what has become an iconic hot spot for both natives and tourists of the City of Brotherly Love. If you ever visit Philadelphia, make sure Reading Terminal Market is on your list of things to see…and as the array of pictures below will illustrate, you best go with an empty stomach ready to gorge it with as much as you can! And don’t forget, if you click on the pictures they will expand, just like your appetite…
Above, the Reading Terminal train shed back in the days of steam, later replaced with electric trains. The cars, however, look very much like the ones I rode as a youngster. The market is on the basement floor beneath the trains.
There’s no rumbling of the great steam engines from the floor above anymore, but you can count on plenty of neon, crowded aisles on busy days and lots and lots of incredible foods.
Some of the food establishments are run by Pennsylvania’s Dutch community whose farms span lush acres to the west of the city. Below, large soft pretzels, a speciality of Philly, are twisted into shape in an artful skill that takes a little practice to learn.
The market is forever changing and every time I go there something new has been added. This time there were two new and very unique shops, one selling exotic olive oils–some 20 or more infused with all kinds of flavorings that you could sample from small urns (see below). If you like what’s called “comfort food” you will like the other new food concession. It features all kinds of grilled cheese sandwiches with a wide variety of cheeses, meats and vegetables. Below, those are some of the sandwiches being assembled and the other picture is the finished product that I took home to stare at…then eat!
I took so many pictures I’ve had a hard time selecting them for the blog. I have lots more to show you, especially the tons and tons of fresh foods in all the display counters that line every aisle of the Reading Terminal Market. I will have more in my next posting. In the meantime, if you are interested in learning about and seeing more of the market, the website is http://readingterminalmarket.com. I’ll end this post with one last picture to lure you back for the next one…