One of the greatest things about the location of the Philadelphia Convention Center is that it is an area of town that actually has some personality. This is something that many people commented on throughout the week…it wasn’t just your mid-level chains, but actual neighborhood places. Sure, it did cater a little to tourists, but it was a place where locals could be found spending some time as well. One of the highlights was the Reading Terminal Market. It’s a market that is very similar to Pike Place Market (for those from Seattle), in that it is a collection of small family owned food stalls, produce markets, etc. And it was my stop for breakfast and lunch every single day, saving me from the staple conventional center food (over-priced stale sandwiches) and Dunkin Donuts.
I tried to hit a different place every single day and try something new. But, rather than writing an entire post on each place, I’ve included a paragraph and a picture to try and succinctly capture each one. Each one provided a good, sometimes great, sometimes incredible meal, and never once did I pay more than $11.
Deck on DiNic’s
While Philly may be known for its cheesesteaks, the Roasted Pork sandwich at DiNic’s was without a doubt the best sandwich I had during my entire time in Philadelphia. The line for this little sandwich stand snakes back and forth as people are willing to forego the alternatives in the market and wait for this sandwich. The pork roasts are there for you to see, some sliced then, others pulled apart with a fork and knife. For the roast pork sandwich, the meat is thinly sliced, and then put back into a jus of some sort to finish it off. It is then heaped into a delicious and soft Italian roll, topped with sharp provolone and greens (in my case broccoli rabe), and finished with a little more jus. When I took my first bite into the sandwich, I was in pork heaven. It was a combination of salty, bitter, sharp and delicious. The pork was well cooked, and the bread was the perfect vessel, soaking up the sauce, but not getting so soggy that it turned to mush. I actually had to stop myself from going back here every day (I went here on Day 1) and just getting this sandwich, rather than trying something new.
Final Verdict – 4.5 Stars
Deck on The Grill at Smucker’s
The Grill at Smucker’s was one of only 3 breakfast places that was open in the market (well at least while we were there). And with a name like Smucker’s it had to be Dutch, Pennsylvania Dutch to be exact. The breakfast specialty at The Grill was the breakfast sandwich. It came in a variety of flavors like bacon, ham, scrapple, and sausage. They had eggs and your choice of cheese as well. As I looked around the stand, I noticed that when The Grill wasn’t selling sandwiches, they were selling sausages, so I figured I needed to go with a sausage sandwich. Ended up being a good choice. The Grill, like so many other places, picked just the perfect roll to go with the sandwich. It was a nice round roll of soft white bread topped with heaping amounts of eggs, cheese and sausage. I added a few pickled peppers that were more sweet than tart to finish it off. Everything worked together very well, especially the egg which was nicely seasoned and perfectly cooked. One sandwich was filling enough to get me through my entire morning, and tasty enough that I actually made two visits during my time in Philly.
Final Verdict – 3.75 Stars
Deck on Profi’s Creperie
Where DiNic’s was far and away my favorite, Profi’s Creperie was a solid second. Another of the breakfast places that I visited, Profi’s specialized in crepes, as you would probably have guessed. While my colleagues went for the savory crepe with meat and eggs, I decided on the fruit crepes instead. The first time I visited, I went with the “Berry Cheesecake” crepe. This ended up being fresh blueberries, strawberries and raspberries wrapped with cream cheese and a touch of brown sugar, wrapped in a delicate crepe and topped with some powdered sugar and cinnamon. Just fantastic! The crepe had that pancake flavor (a hint of sweetness) and was soft and well made. And you really can’t go wrong with fresh fruit. Absolutely a winner. The second trip back I went for Nutella and strawberries. To me, not as good as the first day, but still a great breakfast. With so many different varieties to choose from, ranging from savory to sweet to dessert, there is something for everyone.
Final Verdict – 4 Stars
Deck on Le Bus Bakery
Of the breakfast places I hit, Le Bus was definitely my least favorite. I thought I would give it a try given it had a French name, the breads looked good, my mind drifted to Bakery Nouveau in Seattle (twice baked Almond Croissants!)…So, let’s just say my expectations were high going in. I ended up ordering an almond croissant and a berry cobbler muffin. Starting with the muffin (again, expectations were high), I was a bit let down. Yes, it was a good muffin, a little sweet, good berries, crumbled like a muffin should. But, it was no different than anything I could have gotten at a Starbuck’s or Tully’s or any Seattle coffee chain (in fact they sold Seattle’s Best Coffee). I was a little bummed, but I had my croissant left. Let’s just say if I was bummed after the muffin, I was saddened after the croissant. It was light and flaky, but that was it. You really had to be paying attention to know it was supposed to be an almond croissant. In fact, if I were to take the almonds off the top, and give it to anyone, they probably never would have known. I ate about half before I decided I was wasting my time and threw it out.
Final Verdict – 1.5 Stars
Deck on Mezze Mediterranean
Mezze was a placed that I had eyed the very first morning as we were walking through to get breakfast. There was a beautiful display of Mediterranean sandwiches laid out, and I made a mental note to make sure that I made a trip back before I left. So, on the last day that I ate lunch in the market, I made my way over to Mezze. After looking through the case, I ended up ordering a sandwich and a cup of Seafood Bisque. The sandwich had Proscuitto, Sopresseta, one other meat, and provolone served on Italian Bread. My excitement for the sandwich quickly turned to disappointment after my first bite. Now the meat was good, and there was decent flavor to the sandwich. But…it wasn’t until the first bit that I realized everything was being buoyed by enough lettuce to feed a cage of rabbits. When I bit into the top half of the sandwich, I got meat, cheese, tomato, lettuce and bread. A very good mouthful. When I bit into the bottom half of the sandwich I got bread, lettuce, air and more lettuce. The sandwich also came with this sauce on the side that was a little fishy by itself, but worked as an acceptable filler for the air in the mouthful of lettuce bites. And the bisque was just not good. Good seafood bisque, especially crab or lobster, is one of my favorite things. This bisque, was not that. For starters it seemed to be missing one of the key ingredients to any bisque; cream! It was a very watery, brothy soup that had an overly fishy taste to it. I’m not sure what the fish was, but it wasn’t anything fresh and delicious. I was figuring I would at least get some crab in there. Anyway, I had high hopes, and they were quickly dashed.
Final Verdict – 2 Stars
Deck on Peking Duck
When you go to a place called Peking Duck for the first time, there is really only one thing that you order; Peking Duck. This place caught my eye when I noticed the ducks actually hanging in a window, and that was all I needed. Looking at the menu, you have the option to order your Peking Duck by the ½ lb. Since I was the only one eating, I figured a half pound would be enough so I ordered that. Now, my previous exposure to Peking Duck was actually in Peking (known today as Beijing) China when I was there for a study tour. That had the duck sliced nicely, a sauce, thin Asian pancakes to roll everything in, and it was all beautifully presented. So expectations having been set, I was a bit shocked when he grabbed a half a duck, pulled out the cleaver and hacked it into a few pieces, threw it in a to go container with a little sauce and handed it to me (though I do like the overtly Chinese stereotype that everyone reading this right now is picturing…yep, I can see you nodding). Realizing that it wasn’t going to be the Peking Duck I was expecting I somewhat hurriedly stammered out that I’d like a spring roll and chicken skewer. I will say that even though the duck wasn’t what I was expecting, it was good. It was cooked well, not dried out. The sauce was interesting, but hard to describe. It seemed like a plum sauce, but only if a plum sauce lacked most of the sweetness and was a little “saucier”. It wasn’t bad, just different. The chicken skewer was ok, pretty much your run-of- the-mill chicken skewer. But the surprise winner was the spring roll. I have no idea what was in it, though I’m thinking it was crab, but it was fantastic. It was perfectly crispy on the outside while exploding with flavor on the inside. It reminded me of a crab and cream cheese wonton filling, only if there was a whole lot more crab and it was the size of a spring roll. I was disappointed when I went to reach for another bite and realized I’d already finished it. Note to reader: order 2.
Final Verdict – 3.5 Stars
The Reading Terminal Market was the perfect place to visit for breakfast and lunch, especially given where we were going for dinners. There were so many small and interesting places, and I know I only touched on a handful of them. I wanted to try the cheesesteak at one place, the Cajun at another, and the barbeque at a third. I could have spent two full weeks there, and went to a different place each and every day. If you are there, and there is only one place you can go, choose DiNic’s. Otherwise, search around because I’m sure you will find exactly what you are looking for, even if you didn’t know you were looking.