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Serendipity on loop: Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market

The market survived the Great Depression, the 1918 plague, struggled through the lean '70s and got a shot in the arm with a lavish revival in the '90s. When COVID struck, the businesses were almost gutted. Happily, the crowds are now returning.

September 11, 2022 / 06:49 PM IST
Locals' advice: Don't miss breakfast at the Dutch Eating Place.

Locals' advice: Don't miss breakfast at the Dutch Eating Place.

One of my aha moments in Philly was when I found out that the creamy Philadelphia cheese is not actually from Philadelphia. “It’s just the name,” said a local acquaintance, who urged me to visit the ‘soul’ of the city for an authentic food experience. It turned out to be the Reading Terminal Market, a bustling indoor market, touted to be the USA’s largest and oldest public market.

Stepping into the market in Centre City is a warm experience. Not the stuffy kind of warm but the fuzzy feeling that comes with being amidst delicious aromas and conversation wafting over soft pretzels and sizzling grills.

I was told to do "first things first, and head straight to the Dutch Eating Place for breakfast". Of course, the rows of stalls – over 75 of them selling fresh produce, free range meat, eggs, poultry, baked goods, savories, spices, ethnic food, chocolates, cheese, handmade crafts, jewellery, perfumes, and clothing – made "going straight to a stall" harder.

But there it was, with high chairs at a counter for a sit-down breakfast. It seemed like a popular breakfast place, for the counter was packed elbow-to-elbow!