Food For Days: Exploring Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market
On our last trip to Philadelphia, we dove into the competitive world of Philly cheesesteaks. But there are so many things to do, see, and eat in Philly, we had to go back! This time, we kept things close to home: one block from the bus terminal is the historic Reading Terminal Market building.
The Market has been around since 1893, making it one of the nation’s largest and oldest public markets. Inside is a dizzying array of shops and kiosks selling everything from locally sourced food to kitchenware to fresh flowers for the table — and, of course, dozens of restaurants! With so many options, how do you choose just one place to eat? We couldn’t! Instead, we made a day of it – literally – by selecting one restaurant for each meal of the day, plus dessert.
Breakfast: Beiler’s Doughnuts
Beiler’s Doughnuts has been a Reading Terminal Market institution since 1985, serving Amish doughnuts made fresh on site every day. They have almost 50 donut varieties on their standard menu and even more specialty flavors; we chose six.
The Blueberry Fritter is full of fresh blueberries and cinnamon, complemented by a crispy, flaky sugar glaze. Served warm and fresh, it’s absolute heaven, and was our favorite of the bunch. If you like an extra sweet treat, try the Key Lime doughnut. True to its namesake, this is more of a dessert, with white icing and a sweet, smooth key lime crème filling. Or, if you really want to lean into the “breakfast” side, the Maple Bacon doughnut starts with maple crème filling, topped with maple frosting and then a truly suprising amount of bacon! (Seriously, there was SO MUCH MORE bacon on there than we were expecting, and it was cooked to crispy perfection.)
The Dream Crème is a popular option, recommended by Beiler’s staff. A chocolate-dipped doughnut with crème filling, it’s essentially a twist on a Boston crème. We thought the Crème Filled Powdered was good but nothing to write home about; however, if you want a simple sweet treat unburdened by lots of frostings/toppings, this delicious doughnut filled with their signature crème will fit the bill. Finally, we tried the Vanilla Fruity Pebbles, a specialty favorite that is (as you may have guessed) a doughnut covered with vanilla frosting and topped with a crunch layer of Fruity Pebbles cereal. Extra soft and fresh, this doughnut’s toppings were not too overpowering, allowing us to really taste the doughnut itself.
With so many options, we couldn’t possibly try all the flavors – other ones that looked especially tempting were Caramel Apple, Oreo Crème, Peanut Butter Jelly, Salty Caramel, and Smores. Alternately, if you are looking for baked goods besides doughnuts, you can walk across the aisle to their sister store, Beiler’s Bakery, featuring fresh pies, pastries, and their famous sticky buns.
Lunch: Fox & Son Fancy Corn Dogs
We were intrigued by the idea of a “fancy” corn dog, so next we headed over to Fox & Son Fancy Corn Dogs, a relatively new addition to the Market. Their corn dogs are made with all-cornmeal batter, everything they offer is naturally gluten-free, with a variety of meat options (including vegan dogs) available. We chose the Classic Corndog in order to really get a feel for the batter — since they don’t use any flour, it’s thicker and more textured than a “typical” corndog, and definitely a big step up from your traditional fair food. And if you want to get even fancier, they offer different batters (sweet potato and vegan) and several “Fancy” variants – the Chili Cheese Corndog looked especially tempting.
To complete the “fair food” experience, we paired our corndog with Poutine Fries and Chorizo Fries. The poutine fries were melty and cheesy with a perfect amount of gravy. The chorizo fries, however, were our favorite of the two – topped with a heaping amount of chorizo, garlic, chipotle mayo and parsley, they had a kick without being too spicy. They also serve cheese curds, funnel cakes and Frito Pie. Everything is gluten-free and there are plenty of vegan options so there really is something for everyone, whether you want to keep it simple or have fair food that is a little more (dare we say it) FANCY!
Dinner: Hunger Burger
Hunger Burger is a restaurant which promotes “Patties with a Purpose.” For every burger sold, they donate the equivalent of one meal to organizations that feed children in need. The menu is also really tempting, of course, but knowing that you are helping feed others while you eat really makes the meal worth it. Their menu is classic, predominantly burgers and salads with some hot side options (before noon, they sell a variety of “breakfast burgers” for the morning crowd).
Sometimes you want to be adventurous in your food choices, but other times you just want comfort food. Hunger Burger offered us a chance to do both with the Mac ‘N’ Cheese Burger, a Black Angus beef patty topped with mac ‘n’ cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, and American cheese. Paired with a side of sweet potato fries and a cookies-and-cream milkshake, there was nothing about this meal we didn’t like! The burger was nicely wrapped in paper, helping contain the mac and cheese from oozing out the edges too much. The mac and cheese was the best part – grilled to perfection with a nice crisp coating. With the fries and milkshake, this was a combination impossible not to love. For mac and cheese enthusiasts, the Lobster Mac ‘N’ Cheese seemed especially tempting, and vegetarians will not want to miss the portobello-based Bello Burger.
Dessert: Termini Bros Bakery
After a full day of meals, we could have called it quits, but how would we truly say we had explored the treasures of Reading Terminal Market without visiting Termini Bros for some dessert? A Philadelphia institution for almost a century, they have been a staple of the Market since 1985, serving everything from personal pastries to full-size cakes. It proved too hard to narrow our choices down to one or two options, so instead we bought “many”!
Rule Number One of visiting an Italian bakery is, of course: try the cannoli! Creamy and thick, this was the epitome of perfection – if you are in Philadelphia and love cannolis this is absolutely the place to get them. Another favorite was Bliss, an incredibly moist red velvet cake with simple syrup and cream cheese icing. If this had been any larger we would have required an immediate nap!
Since we started the day with a key lime doughnut, why not finish it with a Key Lime pastry? This was a nice light vanilla layer cake, which combined perfectly with the filling of key lime mousse, key lime curd, and of course it was topped with graham cracker crumbs. A surprising pastry that quickly became our favorite was the Chocolate Banana, an amaretti cookie topped with banana, french buttercream and raspberry preserves, then dipped in bittersweet chocolate. An unexpected but perfect combination of flavors, which provides sweetness with just enough crunch.
Armed with full bellies and plentiful leftovers, we finally headed for home. But with scores of tempting places to try next time, we will definitely be back! If you are heading to Philadelphia, make sure Reading Terminal Market is on your agenda. Let Peter Pan Bus Lines help you plan your trip to Philadelphia today!