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Cakewalk in the Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia

Chocolate Shoofly Pie
Philadelphia. Just the mere name of the city (never "Philly" to us) invokes all sorts of richness--in history (the Liberty Bell! Ben Franklin!), in culture (Isaiah Zagar! Gina & Matt! Art Star!)...and in baked goods. And nowhere is that baked good scene as concentrated and eclectic as at the famous Reading Terminal Market, a historic covered farmers market in the heart of the city. From Pennsylvania Dutch-influenced strudels, pies and sticky buns to rich Italian cannoli, flaky baklava and some decidedly cosmopolitan cupcakes and pastries at a variety of different vendors, the market is a veritable treasure trove of sweetness--really, the hardest part is deciding where to start. Here are some of our favorite spots:

(Cakespy Note: Our suggestion would be to visit the market between Wednesday and Saturday; many of the Amish and Mennonite vendors are not open Sunday through Tuesday).


AJ Pickle PatchKey Lime Pudding, A J Pickle

AJ Pickle Patch & Salads: AJ Pickle Patch & Salads is an oasis of deli salads and specialties, but what caught our attention were the glistening rows of puddings and cobblers, all available by the container: the hardest part is deciding whether we'd like to go for banana, key lime, or raspberry pudding--or perhaps a cobbler. Open Wed.-Sat; (215) 627-8067.

The Basic Vegetarian Snack BarSweet Potato Pie, The Basic Vegetarian, Philadelphia
Basic Four Vegetarian Snack Bar: Basic Four looks like a great stop for a veggie or vegan lunch, and a small but respectable offering of desserts, including muffins, breads, and specials such as the sweet potato pie they had the day we visited. Open seven days; (215) 440-0991.

Bassett'sBassett's Ice Cream
Bassett's Ice Cream: One of the oldest vendors in the market, they've been in the same spot since 1893--and clearly they're doing something right, with creamy, melt-in-your mouth flavors like cinnamon (perfect with apple pie), Butterscotch Vanilla or delightfully boozy Rum Raisin--or, if dairy isn't your thing, try the pinkies-out Champagne sorbet. Open seven days, (215) 925-4315; online at bassettsicecream.com.
Lemon Meringue Pies, Beiler's BakeryCinnamon Rolls! at Beiler's
Beiler's Bakery: Though we have some issues with their presentation (in an effort to make their goods easy to take on the go, many items are unattractively plastic-wrapped), overall this is one of our favorites in the Market, featuring Pennsylvania Dutch specialties like whoopie pies, strudels, and pies, including our favorite, the Shoofly Pie, which comes in chocolate as well as the classic molasses flavor. Open Wed.-Sat.; (215) 351-0735.

Onion Chocolates by Mueller Chocolates, PhiladelphiaChocolates, Chocolate by Mueller, Philadelphia 
Chocolate By Mueller: A gorgeous chocolate counter which we found delightfully unpretentious--more like, say, Li-Lac in New York City than a Godiva or fancier (read: expensive) chocolatier. Sensationalist items like chocolate-covered onions and denture-shaped chocolates round out their display. Open seven days, (215) 922-6164; chocolatebymueller.com.
Dutch Eating Place: This lunch counter boasts the comfort foods that make Pennsylvania Dutch Country famous--but what is most interesting to us is the apple dumplings, covered in a thick pastry dough and perfect warm with ice cream. Unfortunately, while they're available to-go as well, some of the magic fades away when the delicate pastries crack on top, so travel with care if you go down that road. Open Wed.-Sat..; (215) 922-0425.

Fair Food Farmstand, Reading Terminal Market
Fair Food Farmstand: Though the emphasis is on fair-trade produce and whole foods, they do have a small sampling of sweets, including all-natural sticky buns and organic jams. Good for a quick fix. (215) 627-2029.

Famous 4th St. Cookie Co.4th St. Cookie Co.
Famous 4th Street Cookie Co.: Cookies, cookies, cookies! We could smell this place before we saw it, and the anticipation is warranted--especially when the cookies are just out of the oven. Open seven days, (215) 629-5990; online at famouscookies.com.

Go, Carbohydrates!
Fisher's Soft Pretzels: We love New York hot pretzels, but we'd be lying if we didn't say that in a streetfight, Fisher's Soft Pretzels might come out on top. Wonderful. Open Wed.-Sat.; (215) 592-8510.

Cupcakes, Flying Monkey PatisserieGorgeous Brownie Spread at Flying Monkey Patisserie, Philadelphia
Flying Monkey Patisserie: Definitely the cool kid on the block, Flying Monkey is a delight for the eyes as well as the tastebuds, with rows of happy cupcakes frosted in pastel hues, gooey brownies coated with decadent toppings, and "forbidden cereal treats"--aka the Rice Krispies treats mom never made (and you know we're into that). As a nod to New Zealand, we also became acquainted with the Anzac biscuit here. Open seven days, (215) 928-0340; online at flyingmonkeyphilly.com.



Hershel's East Side Deli: A classic Jewish Deli, the crowds clamor for the pastrami and comfort foods--but our eyes were glued on the Jewish Apple Cake. We didn't try it--can any readers pass on feedback? Open seven days; (215) 922-6220.

Pastries at Kamal's Middle Eastern Specialties, PhiladelphiaKamal's
Kamal's Middle Eastern Specialties: A few spots boasted baklava, but theirs was by far and away the nicest display, featuring baklava with various fillings, as well as Konofah, Kataifi and a variety of other Middle Eastern sweets. Open seven days; (215) 925-1511.

Le Bus BakerySnowflake buns
Le Bus Bakery: We found Le Bus to be a good breakfast-bakery--chock full of carbohydrate-rich treats like muffins, scones, and dense artisan breads. They're a bread supplier to many of the nicer restaurants in the area. Open seven days, (215) 592-0422; online at lebusbakery.com.

Chocolate Croissant, Metropolitan BakeryMetropolitan Bakery
Metropolitan Bakery: A nice mix of homey and fancy, with chocolate croissants living side by side with raspberry crumb bars, cookies, scones and cakes. Everything we tried was wonderful--it seemed like everything had a little something unexpected, some extra spice or garnish to make it just slightly more delicious. Open seven days, (215) 829-9020; online at metropolitanbakery.com.

Old City Coffee
Old City Coffee, Inc.: Coming from Seattle, Old City's dark coffee brews were up to snuff--none of that watered down swill that passes for coffee in so many East Coast coffee places. They also had a small but nice array of quick breads and cookies--many of which were made on site. Open seven days, (215) 592-1897; online at oldcitycoffee.com.

Spice Terminal: Not a bakery, but a great spot to pick up sweet accessories, spices, and garnishes. After ogling over their wares for twenty minutes, we finally settled on candied violets and rose petals--a perfect and elegant topping for our next cake. Open seven days; (215) 592-8555.


Termini Brothers Bakery, PhiladelphiaTermini Bros. 

Termini Bros. Bakery: As you have probably gathered by our recent post about the Ravioli pastry, we're pretty much in love with Termini Bros. Bakery--completely old school (they've been around since the twenties), and full of classic Italian delights like cannoli and butter cookies, but also more American-homestyle treats like brightly frosted cupcakes and layer cakes, as well as the unexpected--but intriguing--chocolate covered bananas. Open seven days, (215) 629-1790; online at termini.com.

For more information on the Reading Terminal Market, visit readingterminalmarket.org.



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Reader Comments (26)

ooooh I was the first fricking commenter, NOW that was cooool

STOP already, I can't take much more!

I gotta get me one of those teeth pops!

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterGirl

It all looks so delicious. I am sad and glad in equal measure that this market is not near me! Sad because I won't get to eat any of the lovely things, glad because I won't go bankrupt or explode!
It's a tough call though.....

I know you focus on the sweet side of baking but I'm surprised there wasn't a stromboli mention in your post.

When I was in Philly last spring, this folded pizza was still a stand by in the city.

June 25 | Unregistered CommenterDana McCauley

WOW! Yummy :), thanks for blogging about this...I'm about to move to the East Coast in a little over a month, so I'll be sure to stop by and visit these places! I actually like the dessert-on-the-go idea, though I bet it is difficult to package them in a cute way! I bet those cinnamon rolls are delicious, though :D.

June 25 | Unregistered CommenterSophie

What's the story with the topping on that shoofly pie? It looks like a crazy slather of frosting crossed with raw dough...

June 25 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

items i would like immediately:
-one large tub of amish banana pudding
-five large scoops of cinnamon ice cream
-two pieces of each baklava variety

can we arrange that? thanks. :)

June 25 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

Those denture shaped chocolates are hilarious!!!

June 25 | Unregistered Commenterkat

I just started reading your blog and already it looks like I'll be taking a trip to Philadelphia.

June 25 | Unregistered CommenterJulia

Girl, you sure were on a mission while you were here! But did I miss what kind of pie (?) the first photo is?

June 25 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

Bassets rock. Okay, I have one but its also my favorite hat I own.

June 25 | Unregistered Commenternm

That place could be extremly dangerous, if you know what I mean!!!

That pie looks like it weighs 5 pounds!

June 25 | Unregistered CommenterEB

Everything here looks delicious!! I'm actually going to Philadelphia on Sunday so I'll be sure to drop by reading terminal market (: I'll be in Boston, MA for the rest of the week -- any suggestions there?

June 25 | Unregistered Commenterkimbab.sarang

Chocolate-covered onions and denture-shaped chocolates? I'm in awe at the creativity of these people! And the baklava, my gosh, that was quite the display!

June 25 | Unregistered CommenterLyB

Yikes! I always wonder if you actually sample EVERYTHING on these wonderful cakewalks?! I'm planning to head to Philadelphia for a weekend this summer, so I will certainly make a point of stopping in (and sampling SOME items!)

This is a place I would so like to be "accidently" locked into overnight. Imagine the possibilities. I used to love going to the Mennonite and Hutterite farms - they so know what they're doing in a kitchen and on the farm.

June 25 | Unregistered Commentergiz

i must try shoofly pie one of these days... i'm so intrigued by it... so much history in Philadelphia.

June 26 | Unregistered CommenterAran

my wedding cake was from termini. and we get cannolis from them every xmas - you have to stand in line for like 2 hours.

June 26 | Unregistered Commenterjaime

Um, you didn't stop by Brown Betty in Northern Liberties? Please do! Cupcakes, cake, apple brown betties, puddings...sugar attack!

Plus their cake decorator is from Seattle. Bonus points!

June 27 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Obsessive Foodie: Brace yourself--more coming!

Girl: I think they ship!

Caked Crusader: Oh, it's a good one. I am lucky enough to have the Pike Place market, but the Reading Market is really great!

Dana: I do love good pizza and stromboli! Was it a place in the reading terminal? Or is it called stromboli? My mom and I love a pizza place on South Street, but this trip we only went to the terminal.

Sophie: Woo!! Congrats on the move!! I hope you'll love it!

Amanda: I guess the story is it was transported in the car and got a little bit...um...compromised. It was still delicious though!

Grace: Ha!! Look out for the truck!

Kat: Aren't they?

Julia: I hope you do!

Ann: It's a chocolate shoofly pie from Beiler's.

NM: Cool...

Proud Italian Cook: Dangerously delicious, you mean!

EB: It weighed about that!

Kimbab: Hey! Hope you enjoyed the market! I actually got a list of Boston Suggestions recently, here they are:

Lulu's Bake Shoppe - cute but very small in the North End
Trani - Cupcake softserve fusion, not amazing but noteworthy especially because of their product titles. Also North End
Clear Flour Bread - amazing bakery, excellent bet you will love it even though it is in Brookline
Danish Pastry House - Yummy Danish pastry, sadly not easy w public transport
When Pigs Fly Bakery - Awesome sourdough breads in Davis Square
Finale Restaurant - Snobby but delicious sit down dessert place, date place
Party Favors - bakery & candy shop in Brookline.. yummy and often has adorable sugar cookies
Beard Papa's - cream puffs that are oh so good! Super fresh and right downtown
Ivy's & Konditor Meister - both very well known for making cakes on the South Shore in Braintree

LyB: Yes, nice displays, aren't they?

TW: That's why I always bring spies along. It's certainly not just me eating! You'd laugh if you saw how small I am.

Giz: I am so with you, I would love to be trapped here overnight.

Aran: Oh my goodness!! You MUST try it! I'll bet you could make a fine one!

Jaime: Lucky you!!! I'll bet their cakes are awesome, and if their cannoli are as yummy as the "ravioli" I can see why the lines are so long!

Anonymous: Not this time! We just went to the market this trip...always next time!!! :-)

June 27 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

J: this is GREAT to read because when I went to the Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia and all I had was my first EVER philly cheese steak and some Bassett's. Are you surprised about the Bassett's?

P.S. I *think* Trani closed in the North End. I know you didn't ask, but, for the best cannolis, BTW, Mike's Pastry is overrated. Fresher Cannoli finds are at Modern Pastry.

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