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The 25 most essential vendors at Reading Terminal Market

Tradition and pride. That’s what Reading Terminal Market is. Here are the 25 most essential stalls.

25 cant-miss vendors at Reading Terminal Market
25 cant-miss vendors at Reading Terminal MarketRead moreBrett Affrunti

Reading Terminal Market is everything Philly.

It’s a hodgepodge of heritage, a collection of cultures, and a melting pot of merchants beside a busy train station beneath the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and almost smack-dab in the middle of town. The Terminal is now equal parts food hall and, as the name says, market. Come for breakfast, a snack, or lunch; buy provisions for dinner.

The market is in constant change, taking on new vendors while retaining its old-time charm without, as market manager Annie Allman says, “letting it slide into being just a food hall.” Many of the businesses, particularly the fresh-food purveyors, are family-owned.

Our 25 “essentials” — a sample of the stalls that we couldn’t imagine the market without — span the ages, from Bassetts (which sold dairy, including ice cream, when it opened with the market) to Tambayan, whose enterprising owner, a market veteran, decided early in the pandemic to go into business for herself, sharing her Filipino culture with her neighbors.

Tradition and pride. That’s what Reading Terminal Market is.

Here are the most essential stalls, in alphabetical order.

Bassetts Ice Cream

🥨 Bakeries & sweets

As buzzy out-of-towners Jeni’s and Van Leeuwen’s set up shop in Philadelphia, there might be a freezer case full of premium ice creams out there, but locals still line up for the 40 flavors dipped from the marble counter on the market’s 12th Street side. Particularly for the vanilla. The fifth and sixth generation of L.D. Bassett’s descendants run what is the oldest scoop shop in America, which even predates the market. (It started in a shop near Independence Hall.)

📞 215-292-2764, 🌐, 📷 @bassettsicecream

Beck’s Cajun Café

🍽️ Restaurants & prepared foods

Chef Bill Beck imports Zapp’s potato chips and Abita soda to accompany the po’ boys, jambalaya, gumbo, and beignets at his popular New Orleans tribute, open for breakfast and lunch. Since the market discourages cheesesteaks on every menu, Beck’s big-sandwich entry is called The Trainwreck — steak, salami, Andouille sausage, cheese, and onions.

📞 215-592-0505, 🌐, 📷 @beckscajuncafe


🥨 Bakeries & sweets

You may have thought that Beiler’s (say it “bye-lers”) always sold doughnuts in the market’s northwest corner, amid the aroma of Glick’s Rib Shack across the aisle. But it has only been a decade since Alvin Beiler and sons Keith and Kevin, who made them for the market’s Pennsylvania Dutch festival, gave in to public demand to devote half of a stall to them. The rest of the stall has sold salads and pickles since 1984; across another aisle is a Beiler’s bakery selling whoopie pies, sticky buns, and all sorts of homespun goods.

📞 717-278-8986, 📷 @beilersdoughnuts

Dienner’s Bar-B-Q Chicken

🍽️ Restaurants & prepared foods

Winner winner, chicken Dienner? For 42 years, chicken has been the draw at this stall from Anthony Dienner and family tucked along the Filbert Street wall next to one of the two Old City Coffee outlets. Rotisserie chicken, smoked wings, and “San Antonio” wings (lightly fried with a spicy coating) are the way to go.

📞 215-925-8755, 🌐


🍽️ Restaurants & prepared foods

The slicers whir and the chopping blocks never seem to stop clopping at this destination in the center of the market. Joe Nicolosi, whose great-grandfather started as a butcher and whose dad, Tommy, opened elsewhere at the Terminal in 1980, delivers classic Italian sandwiches, such as beef brisket, roast pork, and meatballs.

📞 215-923-6175, 🌐, 📷 @tommydinics

Down Home Diner

🍽️ Restaurants & prepared foods

Virginia-bred Jack McDavid, who also created Jack’s Firehouse in Fairmount, opened the diner in 1987 as a lunch counter on the Filbert side, later expanding with a dining room next door. Jack’s son Jason now runs the unfussy joint, known for big portions of hearty, locally sourced fare. If you need an intro to scrapple, this is it.

📞 215-627-1955, 🌐, 📷 @downhomediner

Downtown Cheese

🥬 Produce, pantry & dairy

Even before charcuterie and cheese boards were cool, this jam-packed outlet has delivered an enviable assortment of cured meats, cheeses, and accoutrements. Need a primer in Bleu D’Auvergne, Saint André, or St. Augur? Is Shropshire truly the Stilton you crave? John and Diana Morgan and staff have the answers.

📞 215-351-7412, 🌐

Dutch Eating Place

🍽️ Restaurants & prepared foods

Apple dumplings wrapped in plastic await a drizzle of cool cream at the Esh family’s counter on the Filbert Street end of the market. Here, tourists and locals sit side by side for sumptuous plates of blueberry pancake and apple-cinnamon French toasts for breakfast and hot turkey sandwiches, burgers, and other heartiness for lunch.

📞 215-922-0425, 🌐, 📷 @thedutcheatingplace

Famous 4th St. Cookie Company

🥨 Bakeries & sweets

Step through the 12th Street doors on the Filbert Street side and you’re greeted by the aroma of hot cookies, a market staple since 1978. Fans of the best-selling chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin can appreciate that Brian and Tina Phillips, who took over in 2016, have not changed a thing except for the pricing: They’re now sold by the cookie instead of by the pound.

📞 215-629-5990, 🌐, 📷 @famous4thstreetcookies

Flying Monkey Bakery

🥨 Bakeries & sweets

Center Court, the wide aisle with seating in the middle that’s lined with savory options such as Molly Malloy’s, Hunger Burger, and Spataro’s, gets a sweet balance from Elizabeth Halen’s bakery, which opened in 2010. It’s all real time and interactive, as Halen and crew seem to sell their wares as soon as they make them — particularly the generously appointed whoopie pies, available in basic and seasonal flavors — and it’s the place for an occasion cake.

📞 215-928-0340, 🌐, 📷 @FlyingMonkeyPhilly

Giunta’s Prime Shop

🥩 Meats & seafood

Veteran butcher Rob Passio, who took over the stand from Charles Giunta in 2014, deals in beef, lamb, poultry, veal, and pork. Passio is expected to take on a partner for a new venture nearby that will expand his selection of prepared items that can be popped into a slow cooker, grill, or oven.

📞 215-627-6175, 🌐, 📷 @giuntasprimeshop

Godshall’s Poultry

🥩 Meats & seafood

In the market since 1916, and now run by third-generation brothers Steve and Dean Frankenfield, this stand — behind racks of chicken eggs (double-yolk eggs, too!) — sources common items such as chicken and turkey, as well as harder-to-find birds such as goose, duck, squab, pheasant, and quail.

📞 215-922-7589, 🌐

Hershel’s East Side Deli

🍽️ Restaurants & prepared foods

Steve Safern, an engineer whose Uncle Hershel worked at Katz’s Deli for four decades, made a career change in 2006, delivering some of the region’s most prized hand-carved pastrami, corned beef, and turkey sandwiches to a constant line of customers on Center Court. You can settle into one of the eight counter stools on the opposite side (across from the fine Luhv Vegan Deli) to kibitz with the counter folks, or inspire drooling at a table nearby.

📞 215-922-6220, 🌐, 📷 @hershelseastsidedeli

Iovine Brothers Produce

🥬 Produce, pantry & dairy

Philly’s complete produce stand, occupying the entire southeast corner of the market, is also a family affair. Vinnie Iovine went to work for the predecessor, Ro & Son’s, in 1989 and bought the shop in 1994. When Jimmy joined him a year later, they changed the name. (All told, more than a dozen Iovines have worked at the market.) The brothers also operate Molly Malloy’s, the bar-restaurant next door, and have built up a business that includes fresh-squeezed juices along one perimeter.

📞 215-928-4366, 🌐, 📷 @iovinebrothersproduce

John Yi Fish Market

🥩 Meats & seafood

Under a splashy neon sign proclaiming “Eat Fish Live Longer” is one of the market’s older stands (from 1974), run for nearly all that time by Suzi Kim, who came to the United States as a piano teacher and fell into the seafood business. She later opened Ardmore Seafood on the Main Line. The counters brim with all manner of fish and seafood, live lobster, prepared items (such as crab cakes), and cooked and uncooked. Kim also is a partner with sushi chef Yong Kim (of Bluefin restaurant) on Umi Seafood & Sushi, a few aisles away.

📞 215-923-0487, 🌐

L. Halteman Family Country Foods

🥩 Meats & seafood

The family-owned Pennsylvania Dutch-style butcher shop has been around since 1918, with a full line of meats in its gleaming cases, including prime boneless short ribs and oxtails. It’s a sibling to Riehl’s Deli & Cheese Shop, which recently moved to the market’s east wall.

📞 215-925-3206, 🌐, 📷 @haltemanfamilymeats

Little Thai Market

🍽️ Restaurants & prepared foods

One of the market’s longest but briskest-moving lunch lines? That would be the one that snakes around the corner at Seangsupan Marsh’s Thai stand. The steam table with soups and pad Thai are fine, but the salmon curry is a bestselling dish: a piece of fish in a curry broth, served with steamed broccoli and rice. There’s a small grocery section, as well.

📞 215-873-0231, 🌐

Ma Lessie’s Chicken and Waffles

🍽️ Restaurants & prepared foods

After the unexpected passing of soul-food entrepreneur KeVen Parker in 2021, his former manager Perry Ison, and Ison’s cousin Stacy McCarthy — who had started a soul-food truck after he left in 2019 — put their own stamp on the stand, drawing lines not only for the mac and cheese, turkey chops, and fried chicken but also savory waffles and fruit-infused waffles.

📷 @malessieschickenandwaffless

Martin’s Specialty Sausages

🥩 Meats & seafood

Martin Giunta, who opened in 1986, is a third-generation butcher on both sides of his family. It’s a full-line shop known particularly for sausage, especially chicken and turkey sausages. If the Giunta name seems familiar, that’s because his brother Charles is a New Jersey sausage maker who sold that eponymous stand in 2014.

📞 215-629-1193, 🌐, 📷 martinssausage

Nanee’s Kitchen

🍽️ Restaurants & prepared foods

Nanee (or nani) is “grandmother,” and Sabina and Donish Ahmad cook homey South Asian dishes inspired by his maternal grandmother, Hamida (who was born to wealth in India but moved to Pakistan after the Partition). The stand caters particularly to vegans, vegetarians, the gluten-free crowd, and those who eat halal meat. Top sellers are chicken tikka masala and salmon curry, and there’s a new kofta made with Impossible burger.

📞 267-250-1273, 🌐, 📷 @naneeskitchen

Pearl’s Oyster Bar

🍽️ Restaurants & prepared foods

Dave Braunstein’s parents, Dani and Lisa, bought this simple lunch counter at the 12th and Filbert Streets corner in 1981. Dave starts the day with big breakfasts, such as French toast and BEC sandwiches, segueing into sandwiches and fried platters (like the dozen jumbo fried shrimp deal for $20 it ran in March) as the day goes on.

📞 215-964-9792, 🌐, 📷 @pearlsoysterbar

Pennsylvania General Store

🥬 Produce, pantry & dairy

Julie Holahan gathers Pennsylvania’s bounty (chocolates and other candies, snacks, gifts, and souvenirs) at her general store on the Filbert Street side, which she’s carried on since the untimely death of her husband, Michael, in 2016.

📞 215-592-9772, 🌐, 📷 @pageneralstore

Sang Kee

🍽️ Restaurants & prepared foods

One of two Chinese restaurants in the market, Sang Kee — an offshoot of Michael Chow’s popular restaurant nearby — is the place that many children will remember as “the place with all the ducks.” Countermen chop up the ducks to order all day. Feeling under the weather? The No. 5, labeled triple dumpling soup, will fix you up in no time.

📞 215-922-3930, 🌐, 📷 @sangkeechinatown


🍽️ Restaurants & prepared foods

For 21 years, Kathy Mirano helped run the market’s Olympia Gyro stand. But when work dried up in 2020, her boyfriend, John Karmanski, suggested that she make money by selling her Filipino desserts. This led her to approach market management, which suggested that she expand her menu. And she did, setting up a counter to serve such homespun dishes as tapsilog and tocilog for breakfast, and lumpia, Filipino Spaghetti, palabok, and sisig for dinner.

🌐, 📷 @tambayanphilly

The Original Turkey

🍽️ Restaurants & prepared foods

Story goes that David Bassett of the Bassetts Ice Cream stand asked his son Roger to fix him a turkey sandwich one day in 1983. Roger bought turkey, produce, and bread at the market, roasted the turkey in a portable oven, and created what became the Original Turkey, a Bassetts-branded shop that later started franchising. The original Original stand is still at Reading Terminal Market, on Center Court. Signature items are carved turkey platters and all kinds of turkey sandwiches, like celebrating Thanksgiving and Black Friday every day.

🌐, 📷 @theoriginalturkey