Congratulations to Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia’s beloved public market, for being voted the best public market in America by USA Today 10Best. The market is one of the oldest and largest public markets in the nation and after more than 125 years, it continues to grow, evolve and find new ways to please locals and tourists.
The market is home to 70 small, family-owned businesses including Bassetts Ice Cream, the oldest merchant in the market. Many of the food-centric businesses have been passed down through several generations. About 40 percent of the kiosks sell prepared foods including iconic Philadelphia foods such as cheesesteaks and pretzels plus a diverse mix of ethnic foods ranging from gyros stuffed with freshly carved lamb to Southern fried chicken to thick corned beef sandwiches. The remaining merchants carry meat, poultry, seafood, produce and bulk foods. Amish merchants from Lancaster are at the market selling fresh produce and traditional Pennsylvania Dutch foods, except on Sundays. There is a sprinkling of stalls selling flowers, jewelry, cookbooks, chocolates and gifts, including the Pennsylvania General Store, a fan favorite.
There are three new kiosks and some new services for shoppers, whether they’re locals or tourist (who are starting to return) or convention attendees (who are starting to fill up the Pennsylvania Convention Center which envelopes the market).
El Merkury at the Market
Sofia Deleon, a native of Guatemala who moved to the United States in 2002, opened El Merkury at the Market in April. The kiosk offers Guatemalan deli and street food to dine in or take home to prepare yourself. El Merkury at the Market carries fresh tortillas, pupas, elote, made-to-order churros, plus salsas, pickles and breakfast items. Deleon special ordered some of the equipment used at the market directly from Spain.
El Merkury started as a series of pop-up and virtual kitchens serving Guatemalan and Salvadorian street foods. Deleon opened her first permanent El Merkury, the only quick-serve restaurant serving Central American street food and churros, in 2018 in the Rittenhouse Square area. Her new location at the Market is open seven days a week.
Sweet T’s Bakery
Sweet T’s, owned by Mark and Tia El, sells a variety of sweet potato baked goods including sweet potato pie, sweet potato pound cake, sweet potato cheesecake and four signature drinks. Pies and cakes are available by the slice, in 3-inch personal size or full size.
It is believed to be the first Black-owned bakery at Reading Terminal Market and it all started with Tia’s grandmother’s recipe. The couple opened a bakery in South Philly in 2014. The bakery transformed into a food truck in 2018, which allowed them to reach customers beyond its original neighborhood, and then in October of 2020, into a day cart at Reading Terminal Market. When the cart quickly started selling out on weekends, it became obvious that a permanent kiosk would be warmly welcomed by hungry Market patrons. Initially, Sweet T’s plans to open from Tuesdays through Saturdays and later expand hours.
Starting in June, this family-driven company will sell products from more than 20 Pennsylvania distilleries, wineries and ciders. It will be the only local outlet for such labels as Brother Monk Ciderworks, CJ Spirits and Liberty Pole Spirits. Pennsylvania Libations will be open 7 days a week. Now you'll be able to shop for your entire meal -- from cocktails to dessert -- at Reading Terminal Market.
Reading Terminal Market has extended its hours. It is now open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
More than 50 kiosks are now offering delivery within 10 miles through Mercato.
The seating area now has individual stalls with plexiglass screens.
Sadly, the Philadelphia Tribune just reported that KeVen Parker's Soul Food Cafe, which has been temporarily closed since the restaurateur's passing in January, will be permanently closed. A new soul food restaurant is expected to take over its space.
For good luck, rub the mask-covered snout of Philbert, the 225-pound bronze pig in the seating area. To spread goodwill, feed him coins, which will be donated to charity.
Get discounted parking for two hours at the Hilton Garage at 11th & Arch or the Parkway Garage at 12th & Filbert. Spend $10 to get validation from any market merchant.
If you've been holed up for a year and are ready to get out again, Reading Terminal Market is a good place to start. Reading Terminal Market is one of Philadelphia's best public spaces and meals and shopping trips to the historic market are always an adventure.
by Irene Levy Baker, author, 100 Things To Do In Philadelphia and Unique Eats & Eateries of Philadelphia. Both books are full of tips. Visit www.100ThingsToDoInPhiladelphia.com for more tips. Looking for safe places to social distance? Vaccinated? Need gifts? Go to the website for signed copies of books. For free shipping, use promo code TheCityPulse.
For more blog postings by Irene Levy Baker including a list of the sweetest places for sweets, where to take outside exercise classes and information about pop-up gardens: click here