The sights and sounds of Pennsylvania’s largest city are also some of this country’s oldest and most revered: the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Franklin Institute, and America’s very first zoo. It is also a city of 1.5 million people, with an old and overburdened roadway system and legendary rush hour traffic.
The Reading Terminal Market is everything under one roof, but it’s not like anything you’ve ever experienced. There are great markets across the country: Seattle’s Pike Place, Cleveland’s West Side Market, D.C.’s Eastern Market and Union Square in New York City. But Reading is a food hall/shopping experience with the feel of a small village. It has straight-line aisles that accommodate more than one person at a time, places to sit and enjoy your food, and as for the choices of food: Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Greek, mezze, cheesesteaks, salumeria, baked goods, fresh produce, ice cream, beer, wine, deli and vegetarian, Plus prime meats, poultry, seafood, flowers, chocolates, books, crafts and groceries to take home. It is possible to shop only here for all your food needs, and never go inside a supermarket. A dedicated food lover may want to consider living here.
It is amazing to realize that the Market almost died several years ago. Down on its luck throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, thanks to suburban growth and the decline of the railroads that supplied its goods, the market nearly went out of business. Now every space is rented out, and the market is not merely a tourist attraction, it is a place where office workers order pizza next to construction crews feasting on roast pork sandwiches, and an Amish farmer deals in dairy alongside a stall known for its specialty of Peking duck. It’s a United Nations of food and diners, except that everyone gets along and no one leaves dissatisfied.