Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market

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Market Blog

A blog about what's happening at Reading Terminal Market.

RFP- Spirit & Wine Kiosk Opportunities

The Reading Terminal Market is looking for a few GREAT limited, local distilleries! Please review the RFP in the link below:


Deadline is November 10th. 


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“Seventy Years of Sandwiches from the Spataros,” by Carolyn Wyman

 spataros alexanddom

You can still buy cream cheese and olive or liverwurst and onion sandwiches at Spataro's, though it's not likely more than one out of the hundreds of cheesesteak-focused tourists who visit the stand order them.

"We keep those on to honor grandpa," says Alexander Spataro, grandson of Domenic Charles Spataro, who founded the family business in 1947. Alex, 29, and his father, stand-owner Domenic “Dom” Mark Spataro, 62, will commemorate the milestone with a party from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 13 featuring 1947-era music and food, including miniature versions of their old-fashioned cream cheese and olive sandwiches.

Late stand founder Domenic Sr. actually began working in the Market as a 13-year-old, 15 years before he opened his store. It was an afterschool job at William Troelsch's buttermilk stand to help support his 8 brothers and sisters after his father died. He returned after serving in the Army during World War II, married a Troelsch waitress and took out a GI loan to buy a competitive buttermilk business that ran the 40-foot length of the Market’s Fifth Avenue, now occupied by both Godshall's Poultry and Terralyn soaps. The "Drink Buttermilk and Live Forever" and "Buttermilk Will Improve Your Health" signs that Domenic inherited from George Stevens still adorn Terralyn.

As those signs imply, buttermilk was then all the rage as a health elixir, and Spataro's and the competitive Troelsch and Paulson dairy businesses were the health food stores of the day. In addition to buttermilk ladled out of a 40-quart metal can sitting in an ice-filled barrel, Domenic Sr. also sold fresh-squeezed papaya juice and Savita, a Vegemite-like paste that he dissolved in hot water and served by the cup -- "sort of like vegetable broth except that it tasted more like brewer's yeast. I think we threw away more than we sold," his son recalled recently. His dad  also mixed Savita with mayonnaise to dress minced, raw vegetable sandwiches.

In time, the menu expanded to include less obviously healthful heaping sandwiches of liverwurst, ham and cheese, and corned beef, and sweets like pie and gingerbread. Eventually these buttermilk accompaniments took over.

Dom began helping out at the stand when he was so small "I had to stand on a cheese box to talk to customers." As he grew pushed his father to make changes to keep up with the times, including hot breakfast, hoagies and soda.  "My dad had a great right hook. I had to make him realize that he had a left hook too," he says. After countless go-rounds on the subject of soda, "I finally just bought 50 cases of Coke with my own money. Not long after I overheard a customer complement my dad for bringing it in and he said, 'Yeah, we thought it was time for a change,'" Domenic says, the unfairness still fresh three decades later.

Dom introduced cheesesteaks -- now the stand’s best-seller -- in 2006, which was more than a decade after he intended to. Domenic Sr. didn't so much walk as shuffle, hunched over since breaking his back in a 1975 tree-trimming accident and by 1994 "needed to hold onto things to walk around," his son recalls. "The first day I had the grill set up, he touched the side of it. The next day I turned the gas off." So Dom waited until their stand moved to a new space, now occupied by Flying Monkey, where the grill and the counter where his dad did vegetable prep work were safely separated.

Even with the frustrations and after earning bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology by taking night classes, Dom stayed. "I didn't think the business would survive without me," he explains.

Despite drinking buttermilk almost every day of his life, Dominic didn't live the sign-prescribed "forever." He died in 2012 at age 94 as the Market's longest-tenured employee two weeks after showing up for work at 6:45 a.m. for the last time. Now his grandson, Syracuse University grad Alex is the one pushing the innovations, including a soon-to-debut website and, after years of only 4 employees (two Domenics, a waitress and grillman Walt Lefflbine),  a staff of 15. The longer hours and larger volume of business -- a lot of it from tourists looking for cheesesteaks -- as well as the quicker pace of life and increased competition for people's food dollars from all over the city, necessitated the change from owner-cook to owner-manager model, both Spataros say.

"In the old days we might see one of our regulars four times a week. Now it might be once a month. And before we had a counter with 25 stools. Now we're a takeaway -- people don't have as much time to hang out as they used to," says Dom.

Still, anyone who'd like to chat can find a ready audience.  Dom and/or Alex are there almost every morning kibitzing with customers, fellow stand owners, Market staff and recently, us, about their stand's history and 70th anniversary party plans. It will include a raffle, the aforementioned swing band, cream cheese and olive sandwiches, and miniature gingerbread cupcakes with buttermilk icing made by cross-aisle neighbor Flying Monkey -- but not the actual drink that started it all, which is too sour for most contemporary palates.  With its roots in buttermilk, we all hope Spataro’s lives forever.

Spataro's 70th anniversary celebration, including food samples, a raffle and music, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Fri., Oct. 13, free, Center Court.

Carolyn Wyman is the Market's news correspondent and operator of the Reading Terminal's bi-weekly Taste of Philadelphia Food Tour (

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“A Dozen Reasons Why Even Oyster-Eating Newbies Should Get on Board with OysterFest,” by Carolyn Wyman


Reading Terminal Market’s annual OysterFest has become a destination event for oyster aficionados around the Mid-Atlantic.

The festival might seem less obviously appealing to someone who has never eaten a raw oyster, either because they don't patronize restaurants that serve them, don't find the idea of eating raw oysters immediately appealing or are unsure and embarrassed about how to eat them.

But none of those things need be barriers to your attending OysterFest 2017 on October 6. Read on to find answers to these issues and nine other good reasons why you should attend.

  1. Oysters are delicious. “The freshness, the saltiness – eating an oyster is like being transported to the sea,” says oyster grower and eater Lisa Calvo of Sweet Amalia in Cape May, N.J., one of 12 oyster brands to be featured at OysterFest. Brent Cossrow, vice-chairman of Reading Terminal Market's Board of Directors and partner at Fisher & Phillips LLP (Lead Sponsor of OysterFest) loves oysters' flavor, texture and direct connection to nature. "Even as a child I was captivated by the idea that you would open the shell and there would be the food. It's that simple and wonderful."
  2. Oysters are nutritious, containing lots of protein, iron, omega-3s, antioxidants and vitamins and minerals -- especially zinc -- packed in a mere 9 or 10 calories.
  3. Eating raw oysters is easy for oyster virgins who follow the following simple tips from the experts: Start with small milder-flavored oysters like ones from Cape May then work your way up to the bigger, chewier ones, raised in or near the ocean, with their stronger flavors.

           "Texture is the thing" in a lot of food aversions, according to Jane Kauer, a Philadelphia-based anthropologist (and Market            shopper) who studied picky eaters at the University of Pennsylvania. And some people will see raw oysters as slippery                  and slimy.

           One technique to combat that advocated by neuroscientist Darya Rose of the Summer Tomato blog is to think of foods                  that have a similar texture that you do like: say, the wonderful grilled onions that are put on steak sandwiches at Carmen's            and Spataro's and By George's, or over-easy eggs served at the Down Home Diner or the Dutch Eating Place.

           Still can't imagine yourself eating raw oysters? Picture another person eating them from several different "camera" angles            is a technique drawing on feelings of empathy and identification that has worked at overcoming food aversions for some              hypnotherapy patients. The circumstances in which people first encounter a food can also affect whether they respond to              a foodstuff positively or negatively and Reading Terminal's OysterFest is a fun time with beer.

          The experts are split on the use of toppings like cocktail sauce, horseradish, lemon and mignonette (a sauce of shallots,               vinegar and pepper) that will be available at OysterFest. David Braunstein of Pearl's Oyster Bar, the oyster maestro of                   OysterFest, thinks it can be as useful as cream and sugar is for coffee-drinking beginners in getting people acclimated to             new flavors. But Calvo believes (and Cossrow agrees) that you should "just go for it" more or less plain. As chef/TV food               show host Anthony Bourdain says: "Your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park. Enjoy the ride."

          As for oyster etiquette: Use the supplied cocktail fork to separate the meat from the shell, but simply tilt the shell into your             mouth to eat, so as not to miss the flavorful liquid (so good that it's called liquor). Braunstein recommends chewing even               the smallest oyster once or twice before swallowing, also to extract maximum flavor.

  1. Oyster-eating is not dangerous for normal, healthy people. That old rule about only eating oysters in months with an R in them is related to summer algae blooms and attendant toxins and dates back to when oysters were mainly harvested in the wild. Today most oysters are farmed in an industry that's heavily regulated for food safety. So eating oysters in R months is now mainly important because oysters fattening up for the winter are plumper and tastier. And OysterFest is being held in an R month!
  2. Eating raw oysters could make you seem brave and exciting, at least to people who haven't read above point numbers 3 and 4.
  3. Oyster-eating is sustainable eating at its finest. Oysters actually clean the water as they filter it for foodstuff. Their beds also create a habitat for many other sea creatures.
  4. Oyster-eating could help your sex life. Though the science to support the widely held belief that oysters are an aphrodisiac is scant, oysters do contain a lot of zinc (see number 2), a mineral linked to testosterone production.
  5. Oyster-eating is trendy, almost as much as craft beer, the compatible consumable featured at OysterFest. And who doesn't like beer? Oysters’ current popularity also means that …
  6. There’s no better time or place to enjoy oysters. Cossrow points out that oysters are an indigenous Delaware Valley food now in the midst of an incredible resurgence and revival by artisan growers, many of whom will be at represented at OysterFest.
  7. OysterFest benefits a great cause. Proceeds fund after-school cooking and nutrition programs for kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia and the Strawberry Mansion Learning Center in North Philadelphia.
  8. OysterFest is a great value, considering that the average price of a half-dozen fresh-shucked oysters is $16 or $17 and of a craft beer, $5 to $7, and that OysterFest is all you can eat or drink.
  9. OysterFest is an education. Although West Coast oysters tend to be sweeter and creamier; and East Coast ones, brinier; there are subtle variations in flavor depending on the aquatic environment where they lived and when they were harvested. And so, Calvo says, an event like OysterFest is "a wonderful way to taste a wide spectrum of oysters and figure out what you like” in the company of oyster lovers and grower reps equipped to answer your questions.

OysterFest featuring 12 oysters and 12 craft beers for $50, Fri., Oct. 6, 7-9 p.m.  Tickets are now on sale at

Carolyn Wyman is the Market's news correspondent and operator of the Reading Terminal's bi-weekly Taste of Philadelphia Food Tour (

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“Introducing City Kitchen’s Busy Chef Tess, By Carolyn Wyman”


There’s probably no other place in town where you can find more food experts than at Reading Terminal Market, and the Market’s expertise quotient went up another notch when Chef Tess Connors was hired to manage the Market’s City Kitchen demonstration kitchen in November.  Since joining the Market family, Tess has had a hand in almost every free tasting, cooking class, cooking demo and shopping tour at the Market (both managing guest chefs and often literally standing behind City Kitchen’s stove or counter).


So who is this new public face of cooking education at Reading Terminal Market?


A Staten Island, N.Y. native who has cooked a lot of Creole and Cajun cuisine and has two degrees in emergency management -- meaning she’s well-equipped to deal with the Market’s Saturday afternoon crowds?


Chef Tess looks up from the cabbage she is chopping for that afternoon’s Thursday tasting and smiles at the question. Then she says, “Emergency management looks at food in a scientific way. It’s about food distribution, vendor relationships, food safety and figuring out where the gaps are. All of which is relevant to a big public market.”


This might make Connors sound like an academic or a food policy wonk. But she also boasts a list of hands-on cooking jobs long enough for someone twice her 37 years. It started when she was a toddler helping her grandmother cook a week’s worth of from-scratch meals for the family in a single day, and included stints at the prestigious Mohonk Mountain House resort and Le Bouchon, both in New York’s Hudson Valley, and three years cooking for passengers and crew of the Delta Queen Mississippi paddleboat.


“When you start young, you can get a lot in,” she explains. “But at this point in my life, I was looking for something where I wouldn’t have knife-in-hand 24/7.”


Her RTM City Kitchen position provides that variety in cornucopia abundance. The job encompasses scheduling the Market’s relatively new free Thursday noontime tastings  and sometimes planning and cooking them too. The Thursday of our meeting she was prepping peanut noodle and Asian coleslaw salads designed to highlight the fruits and vegetables but also some of the Asian grocery items at O.K. Produce.


Tess also assists with the free merchant cooking demos that are offered every second and fourth Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., sometimes as sous chef, sometimes just narrating the merchant cooking action, as when Bill Beck did his Mardi Gras food demo and “we joked about how the two New Orleans experts in the Market are both from New York!”


Chef Tess also conducts the free Market shopping tours that take place the other two Saturdays of the month at 10 a.m. (not to be confused with the Market- and food-history-oriented Taste of Philly Food Tours led by yours truly every Wednesday and Saturday at the same time). Chef Tess’ tours are focused on helping people shop the Market’s fresh food purveyors to create at-home meals and cater to the interests of whoever shows up. Since the tours started in earnest in February, they’ve addressed participant concerns about money and prep-time (or lack thereof) and a wide variety of dietary issues.


She shows the time-pressed the many pre-stuffed fillets and roasts and pre-marinated meats at Market meat, fish and poultry stands and points out that a place like Downtown Cheese doesn’t just sell cheese. “They also have olives and crackers. So though you can, you don’t have to go to 17 stands to pull together your cocktail party.”


She also teaches City Kitchen cooking classes, including public ticketed ones offered several times a month. Among upcoming summer ones: a Father’s Day feast of fried chicken and barbecued pork and a shrimp boil inspired by her time in the South.


“Not everyone in a cooking class wants to be there,” she learned while working at the Langlois Culinary Crossroads school in New Orleans. That’s where she also learned “how to make them fun for the people that got dragged along,” by telling stories, offering helpful kitchen tips or just giving permission to not work/just hang out.

Early Philly food favorites include pizza. Generally speaking, she’s been impressed by “the authenticity of the Italian food here” versus in the South. And yet, Chef Tess is not a fan of the city’s defining Italian sandwich.


Speaking of the cheesesteak’s mushroom, steak and pepper variations, she says, “It seems to me to be a case of trying to get a lot of variety out of very limited options” [i.e. bread, meat, onions and cheese]. This is something to straighten her out about when you see Chef Tess in the Market.


Meet Chef Tess at City Kitchen, Avenue D and 8th Avenue in the Market, from noon-1 p.m. this and every Thursday for a free sample at Tasting Thursday (today of grilled Giunta’s sausages); at the Father’s Day cooking class from 1-3 p.m. June 18, (to reserve and buy tickets for this and other City Kitchen classes); on the next shopping tour at 10 a.m. July 1; and at the next cooking demo (featuring summer barbecue ideas from the Head Nut and Giunta’s) at 11:30 a.m. July 8. Or contact her at 267-534-4707 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Carolyn Wyman is the Market's news correspondent and operator of the Reading Terminal's bi-weekly Taste of Philadelphia Food Tour (

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Insider's Shopping Guide Now Available!

We have put together a short guide that shares insider tips and services provided my the merchants of Reading Terminal Market that you may have not previously known exist. Did you know that you can purchase dry ice from Bassetts Ice Cream, or that Valley Shepard Creamery can put together a small curated cheese box for you? Get these and many more tips within the new guide! 

Grab one at the Recipe Card Rack (next to Philbert the Pig) or at the Welcome Center to learn how to make your Reading Terminal Market experience exceptional!

Click on the image below to download a copy of the guide
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