Reading Terminal Market: Tapping Pennsylvania Dutch Traditions

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Food Hall Philadelphia

Reading Terminal Market dates to 1893 and continues to tap into Amish cooking traditions.

Reading Terminal Market is the nation’s oldest farmers market, dating to 1893. Housed a 19th Century train shed, the Pennsylvania Dutch continue to import incredible delicacies from Amish Country, just as they did over 100 years ago.

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Several historic photos of the edifice hang throughout Reading Terminal Market. A turn of the (20th) century photo includes horse-drawn carriages.

Down Home Diner

Restaurant Sign Philadelphia

Owner Jack McDavid’s motto is “Save the Farm,” so it makes sense Down Home Diner’s sign would flaunt a Holstein cow.

Restaurant Philadelphia

Down Home Diner dates to 1987 and serves some of the region’s greatest dishes in a classic setting. The diner’s rolling pin logo fits; Down Home’s tasty biscuits are made on-site.

After guzzling some much-needed 200 Mile Coffee, known for its added caffeine, I was in serious need of scrapple. I’ve craved it ever since Philly native Don McGill sang its praises. His aunt was “The Scrapple Queen of Delaware.”

Scrapple Philadelphia

Pennsylvania’s finest breakfast meat is made with leftover pork parts, cornmeal, flour, and meat broth. According to a Down Home Diner T-shirt, “The name is derived from a Medieval English word for leftovers mixed up with the German word “Panhaskreppel” (a thin slice of pot pudding) and the Netherlands Dutch word “Shrapelkoekeje” (mush or panhas fried on a hoe or shovel).” O…kay. Anyhoo, the “meat” crisps on the grill and is really pretty tasty served with good cubed potatoes and skin-on stewed apples, which weren’t syrupy or sweet.

Breakfast Philadelphia

After taking a food-free red-eye flight from Los Angeles, one scrapple plate wasn’t enough. Irregularly shaped corned beef hash, crisped on the grill, tasted terrific mixed with cubed potatoes and topped with “two eyes open.”

With my corned beef hash, I received a home-made buttermilk biscuit with a container of fresh raspberry preserves. McDavid is Virginia born, so Southern food appears in several places on the D.H.D. menu. This Northern biscuit would undoubtedly pass muster below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Breakfast Philadelphia

My breakfast companion was a friend from Lancaster County, the epicenter for Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine, and he was very happy with Down Home Diner food. A plate of tremendous sugar-cured ham included poached eggs, fresh tomatoes, and more stewed apples.

French Toast Philadelphia

This French toast was moist and delicious, sprinkled with powdered sugar.

The Dutch Corner

For the past 25 years, the northwest section of the Terminal Market has been known as The Dutch Corner, featuring numerous Pennsylvania Dutch specialties. The counters are staffed by bearded Amish men (with no mustaches) and women in bonnets.

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A sampling of fresh Lancaster County produce included cherry tomatoes, peas, and asparagus spears that all looked terrific, but it’s not like I was going to cook.

Food Hall Philadelphia

I saw scrapple in its raw form, along with smoked kielbasa and hickory smoked bacon.

Bees Philadelphia

Bee Natural features bee products like honey and wax. Watch hundreds of bees building a burgeoning honeycomb behind glass.

Fisher’s Soft Pretzels

Pretzels Philadelphia

In a city known for soft pretzels, Paul Fisher’s establishment has a strong reputation.

Pretzels Philadelphia

An Amish woman rolled dough behind glass for one of Fisher’s magical soft pretzels.

Pretzels Philadelphia

Brushing pretzels with melted butter turned out to be a winning idea.

Pretzel Philadelphia

These pretzels look like they’d have crisp crunch, but each bite was cloud-soft.

Fisher’s offered three dipping sauces, including hot sweet mustard, sweet mustard, and cheese sauce. Hot sweet mustard was well worth the extra quarter. They also sell toppings like cinnamon sugar, sour cream ‘n onion, and garlic powder.

After eating a Fisher’s pretzel, I’ll never eat those leaden New York pretzels again.

The Famous 4th Street Cookie Company

Cookies Philadelphia

The Reading Terminal Market may not be David and Jane Auspitz’s primary location, but even the offshoot offers superior cookies. They bake on-site in a silver and red oven.

Cookies Philadelphia

Famous 4th Street offers several jumbo cookie varieties, including Oatmeal Raisin, Chocolate Chip with Macadamia Nuts, Peanut Butter, Cinnamon Raisin Walnut, and Butter Almond.

Cookies Philadelphia

Peanut Butter Chocolate and Oatmeal Raisin formed a formidable cookie duo. Oatmeal raisin still had a warm, soft belly.

Bassetts Ice Cream

Ice Cream Philadelphia

L.D. Bassett founded Bassetts in 1861, Abe Lincoln’s first year in office. Bassetts first occupied the Reading Terminal Market in 1893, producing ice cream in the basement. It’s been in the same location ever since, offering classic ice creams, floats and shakes. There are even 97% fat free yogurts and sorbets, proving that in subtle ways, Bassetts has had to change with the times.

Amazingly, the ice cream counter is still in the family, run by fifth-generation representative Roger Bassett, and Michael Strange.

Bassetts ice cream flavor list included peach, butter pecan, strawberry, and coffee during my visit.

Ice Cream Philadelphia

I bought a cup of peach and butter pecan made using whole pecans. The ice cream was certainly very good, thick with buttercream, with distinct flavors.

Ice Cream Philadelphia

Cones overflowed with chocolate chip and chocolate ice cream.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

There’s nothing better than butcher-fresh scrapple, that’s for certain!

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