Jennifer Fisher with Beiler's much Yelped-about blueberry fritters
Yelp and TripAdvisor are fast replacing restaurant reviews as the places for advice on where to eat and what to order when you get there. The problem, especially for a place as popular as Reading Terminal Market, is the amount of time it takes to sift through all these websites' posts to come to a consensus or find knowledgeable commenters with other-than-obvious specific food suggestions.
And so we did it for you, boiling down about 500 of the most recent 2216 posts about Reading Terminal on Yelp and the 1,059 on TripAdvisor to render up some of the best tips and most delicious dishes other people have enjoyed that you might also want to try.
Generally speaking, Yelp's website attracts youngish locals in their 20s and 30s; TripAdvisor, more one-time visitors with some suggestions ("shop the Market early on the weekend to avoid the large crowds") which you probably already know and so will not repeat. Yelp's "review highlights" feature pulls out the most frequently mentioned words in all the reviews and the number of times they appear. By this measure, DiNic's (at 163 mentions), Bassetts (71), Dutch Eating Place (65) and Beiler's (60) are the Market's most popular stands. This story also contains advice from Yelp and TripAdvisor user ratings of individual Reading Terminal stands.
And now, on to the recommendations (beginning with those most-often-Yelped stands).
DiNic's: While practically everyone recommended the roast pork sandwich, a sizable minority of Yelpers suggested trying the brisket ("more juicy and flavorful," according to Brian L.). One tip from a TripAdvisor commenter: Sitting at the counter "usually" results in getting your sandwich faster than standing in line.
Bassetts Ice Cream: The mix-in-heavy WHYY Experience, Moose Tracks and Guatamalan Ripple (in that order) were the favorite flavors on Bassetts Yelp page.
Dutch Eating Place: Go for breakfast, specifically the blueberry pancakes and turkey bacon, and the apple dumplings, say online commenters. Their hot sandwiches (turkey with gravy, open-faced creamed chip beef, Rueben) also came in for a fair amount of praise.
Beiler's Bakery: The blueberry fritter was the overwhelming favorite from the doughnut part of the operation ("I've never felt so strongly about a baked good before," confessed Sarah F.), closely followed by the apple fritters, for their taste, texture and value (although about half-again as big as the doughnuts, they're line-priced at 95 cents each, several posters noted). Favorite doughnuts include the salted caramel, caramel apple, banana cream, Boston cream and coconut custard. A number of Yelpers recommended shopping Beiler's general bakery side during their weekly late Saturday afternoon clear-out-the-case sale.
Little Thai Market: The salmon with broccoli and rice topped with shrimp and curry sauce was a favorite of several online commenters.
Chocolate by Muellers: Although perhaps best-known for novelty chocolate ears, eyes, noses and cheesesteaks, the online love was for their half-peanut-butter, half-chocolate dipped pretzels.
Pearl's Oyster Bar: The French toast, specifically their regular-menu creme brulee and bacon and banana, or pumpkin cheesecake special.
Flying Monkey Bakery: "Not too sweet" whoopie pies and "rich" brownies and other bar desserts (cheesecake brownies, blondies, butter cake) got the most praise on Flying Monkey's individual Yelp page. Beloved whoopies include the creme brulee, chocolate mint, pumpkin and red velvet.
Hershel's East Side Deli: Opinions split on whether to get the pastrami or corned beef Rueben, hence the often-recommended corned beef/pastrami Rueben combo.
Hatville Deli: Corned beef special.
Miller's Twist: Their regular pretzels are "way better than Auntie Annie's," said Crystal E. on February 15. "Better than anything on earth," another commenter countered. Hot dogs wrapped in pretzel and cheese are "to die for," said William F.
Pennsylvania General Store: Hope's Cookies, specifically Wilbur's Peanut Butter (a peanut butter cookie with chunks of Wilbur Buds semi-sweet chocolate candy), Health Bar crunch and the caramel pecan. The latter "tastes like the key to life," gushed one TripAdvisor.
Sweet as Fudge: Lime fruit slices
Market Bakery: At least one TripAdvisor commenter loves their raisin walnut bread.
San Kee Peking Duck: The duck lo mein and the steamed dumplings both have their online fans.
Iovine Brothers Produce: A number of people recommended checking out their back-of-store $1 grab bags of assorted produce, and taking advantage of their 10 percent student discount on Wednesdays and Sundays. (Seniors get the same discount every day.)
Old City Coffee: Last August 15, Von M. raved about their frozen lattes which are "whirled in a blender [to] the consistency of a frappe with almost none of the calories." Other Yelpers praised this stand's Old City Blend and "smooth, yet with body" Poor Richard's beans.
Meltkraft at Valley Shepherd Creamery: Although the over-the-top Valley Thunder was most often-mentioned, many seemed to prefer the more-restrained Melter Skelter (featuring Raclette, pickled green tomatoes and jalapenos).
Tootsie's Salad Bar: Favorites include the kale citrus, quinoa and black bean salads, and the pineapple banana cake.
As for general advice: To avoid "eaters remorse," several people suggested that first-time or occasional visitors scope out the Market thoroughly before buying anything. "Come with friends so you can try lots of different foods," recommended Fioni L. Bring cash as many vendors don't accept credit cards was another tip. Han L. recommended using the "complimentary cell phone charging lockers" (near Philbert the pig) to power up while you shop.
Of course, these are only a select few of the millions of words written about Reading Terminal on the online review sites. Find more recommendations or share your best Reading Terminal ideas with the world at yelp.com and tripadvisor.com.
Carolyn Wyman is the Market's news correspondent and operator of the Reading Terminal's bi-weekly Taste of Philadelphia Food Tour, which Yelper Pallabi G. called "a blast" and "a great way to get ... pointed in the direction of all the best places to try."