Reading Terminal Market is mostly a tourist trap. It’s filled with people on their first trip to the city, as well as exhausted-looking significant others who have clearly only come here to appease their fiance’s parents. But, as much as you might want to avoid the convention center area, there are actually some hidden gems in the market. From one of Philly’s best sandwiches to all kinds of delicious sweets (baked goods, ice cream, and crepes), these are the 15 best places in Reading Terminal Market that are worth your time.
Walking through Reading Terminal can be overwhelming, and you’ll probably find at least 20 different things sitting on display that you’ll immediately want to order. But at Hershel’s, once you see the huge slabs of corned beef and pastrami behind the counter, there’s no way you’re walking away without a sandwich. That’s a good thing, though, because some pastrami on rye, maybe with some mustard, is the best thing on the menu. The meat is tender, the bread is perfectly toasted, and the sandwich is easily transported somewhere far away from here, where you can eat it without someone waiting for you to give up your table.
There might be other places in Reading Terminal Market that serve ice cream, but none of them matters besides Bassetts. The stand has been in the same place at the front of the market since 1892, which means it predates college basketball, the rotary dial, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. All of their flavors are super rich and creamy, like butter pecan, raspberry truffle, and a kind-of-spicy cinnamon. They usually have a line, but it moves quickly, so don’t wander off just because the bakery across the way has no wait.
If you find yourself at Reading Terminal Market in the morning, you’re going to want to stop at Smucker’s. Their breakfast sandwiches are without a doubt one of the best things in the market. They come on big, fluffy kaiser rolls and are stacked with melty cheese, layers of perfectly cooked eggs, and your choice of breakfast meat. If you happen to be here later in the day, their roast beef, which is slow-roasted and cooked in its own gravy, is also excellent.
Smucker’s is where you should go for breakfast if you’re on the go. If you’re here on a weekend, or just decide to take the day off and for some reason choose to spend your vacation at Reading Terminal Market, you should be getting breakfast at Dutch Eating Place. They serve lunch as well, but what they do best are pancakes, eggs, and breakfast meats. Everything is heavy on butter and sugar, but as long as you’re not expecting to get a pre-workout smoothie here, you’ll be very pleased.
You can skip everything at Loco Lucho’s except their amazing Cubano sandwich. It’s layered with roast pork, ham, melted swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard, and pressed between buttery bread. There’s rarely a line either, so you’re able to get your sandwich quickly.
Kamal’s homemade falafel, served on pita with chopped lettuce and a spread of hummus, is a simple but great lunch that only takes a few minutes to pick up. There’s also an eggplant stew that’s rich and savory, or if you can’t make up your mind, you can get a mezze plate with a bunch of different Middle Eastern salads and dips.
Beiler’s takes up a whole corner of the market, with three different stands selling tons of different types of baked goods. But you come here for the doughnuts. They aren’t super cakey like the ones at a lot of other bakeries in Philly. These are lighter and fluffier, with big air pockets inside and stretchy, sweet dough. While they have tons of different flavors - from cinnamon sugar to coconut custard - the blueberry fritter is the one you want to order.
When you’re at Pearl’s, you can pretend for a second that you’re not in Reading Terminal Market. Not because it’s shut off from the rest of the space or in a particularly secluded corner, but because you can sit down on a barstool and order big platters of raw seafood. Make sure you order some oysters - they’re briny, fresh, and should be followed by a bowl of their excellent snapper soup in the winter.
The pretzels at Miller’s Twist are incredible. They’re fluffier than your average Philly soft pretzel, with crispy outsides covered in big pieces of salt, but they rip like cinnamon buns fresh from the oven. You can get them plain or covered in cinnamon-sugar, but the best thing to order is one of their pretzel-covered hot dogs. It’s an all-beef dog wrapped in melted cheese and a pretzel bun, and it’s essentially the best version of carnival food.
The Rib Stand is like Jessica Lange playing a villain or Michael Buffer saying “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble” in that it does one thing really well. In this case, that thing is dry-rubbed ribs. There’s not much else on the menu, besides a couple of sides and bottled sodas. And there isn’t anywhere to sit, so you’ll have to take your messy, fall-off-the-bone ribs somewhere else to eat them. But once you get your plate of baby back ribs, mac and cheese, coleslaw, and a cup of either mild or spicy BBQ sauce, you won’t care where or how you’re eating it.
Termini Brothers is probably the most famous bakery in Philly - and rightfully so because they make some of the best pastries, cakes, and cannolis in the city. The Reading Terminal Market location generally has a line of people who take their time deciding between a chocolate chip pound cake or a box of biscottis, but if you know what you want, you can call ahead and pick up your baked goods without waiting.
The longest line at Reading Terminal Market always seems to be at Carmen’s for their cheesesteak. If you want the best sandwich at the market, though, you’re going to want to walk down a few aisles to DiNic’s. What is worth waiting in line for at Carmen’s, though, is their Italian hoagie. The meats are piled high on fluffy white bread and covered in oil, vinegar, and a mix of salt and pepper. And it’s huge, so if you can’t finish it, you can always save the other half for dinner.
We think it’s a sin that more people wait in line at Carmen’s to get a cheesesteak than they do at DiNic’s for one of their roast pork sandwiches. It’s like if a movie theater were showing Happy Gilmore and Click and somehow Click ran the box office. While this sandwich might be simple, with marinated roast pork, broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone on a white, seeded roll, it’s delicious and tough to stay away from once you’ve tried it.
Profi’s isn’t just your only option for a good crepe in Reading Terminal Market - it’s one of your only options for a good crepe in all of Philly. But if you don’t mind wading through the tourist jungle to get here, you can get a sweet or savory crepe in about 3 minutes flat since there usually isn’t a line. The crepes themselves are pretty standard, with a nice, stretchy pancake and a good amount of filling. We’re particularly into the sweet ones - like the nutella with banana or the cinnamon-sugar crepe.
Almost everyone that walks up to the counter at Little Thai Market gets the shrimp pad thai. And it makes sense - it’s sweet and just a little bit spicy, with thick, chewy noodles and a sprinkle of peanuts. But the best thing here is the salmon curry. It’s a piece of salmon on top of a heap of rice and broccoli, covered with a spicy curry sauce. It’s so delicious that even if the three people in front of you all choose the same bowl of pad thai, don’t be swayed - the salmon curry is the right decision.