We realized we have a serious problem when, after telling people that we went to Philly, and in response to their "Oh, did you go see the city hall/liberty bell/the house where Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence?" Our answer was "no, we were just there for the food."
We spent two day-trips there, driving two hours each way to spend just a few hours in this beautiful, history-rich city. Our first stop, our longest stop, both times had been the Reading Terminal Market.
The Reading Terminal Market is a food lover's dream. Imagine something the size of a huge railroad terminal converted to many shops and stands devoted to nothing but food.
Located at 12th and Arch Street, the Reading Terminal Market building was built by the Reading Railroad (pronounced Reh-ding) in 1893.
The market at that location was in existence before the terminal was built. Open-air markets were popular in Philadelphia in mid-19th century and lined the city along High Street (later renamed to Market Street). One of them, which was to become the founding for the Reading Terminal food market, was located at 12th and Market.
When the railroad selected its location to build the terminal, it faced complaints about the closing of the market and the railroad decided to incorporate the market into the terminal. Although the Reading Railroad is no longer in existence, you can still “Take a Ride on the Reading” if you play Monopoly. And the food market remains.
Today it is one of the oldest operational food markets in the country, housing over eighty merchants, where you can get anything from pickle samplings, to roast pork sandwiches, to made-on-the-spot Pennsylvania Dutch doughnuts.
The market also operates as a true food market – you can buy fresh farm produce, meat, sausage and deli meats of the most bizarre variety (such as one made with aspic and pork tongue), and fresh seafood.
After a two hour drive, venturing into the food market, we were extremely hungry. Looking for something substantial, we randomly settled on a roast beef sandwich at DiNic’s.
A line looped around the sandwich shop. A guy with a notepad went around the line taking orders based on a limited menu, deviation from which is strongly discouraged. When a woman behind me asked for hot peppers on the side, she received a shout so curt of “CAN'T DO IT!” that she nearly burst into tears. As a result, however, the line and the orders move with remarkable, almost assembly-line type of efficiency. What we didn’t know then was that DiNic’s Roast Pork and Beef was named the Best Sandwich in America by the Travel Channel.
It was a damn good sandwich.