Reading Terminal Market

Jay Lloyd / KYW Newsradio

Getaway Guide to Public Markets

Granny carts stuffed with groceries and visitors with cravings navigate the aisles at a global community of public markets.

May 30, 2018 - 11:49 am

By Jay Lloyd

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Granny carts stuffed with groceries and visitors with cravings navigate the aisles at a global community of public markets. Here in Philadelphia, it’s the Reading Terminal Market. It is the classic blend of culinary diversity from South Philly Cheese Steaks to Frenched racks of lamb. Urban tower dwellers do their shopping at historic public markets, while visitors stroll and sample. So why am I thinking about this? Because the immigrant infused Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side of New York will be moving to a new modern building. Will it retain the traditional well worn and bustling environment or will it became a supermarket blend of individual mass market vendors? Who knows? But in a world of public markets, let’s tour a few favorites.


Nothing says "change" in traditional custom like a historic public market with a web page. This New York Market was built in 1940 by popular Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. But it traces its roots back to the early 1800's and several nearby locations. Now it's about to make another move to a modern complex that will include eateries and apartments. It will be a reflection of the dramatic changes on the historic Lower East Side - shifting from tenements, teeming with refugees, immigrants and pushcarts to modern high rise buildings, hip bars, and high end restaurants. Now it's a food source of ethnic diversity that mirrors the Asians, Latinos and Europeans that joined the community. See it soon. It goes away later this year.

Essex Street Market
Jay Lloyd / KYW Newsradio


While dunking in warm milk, do you ever wonder where those Oreo cookies originated? It was a sprawling late 19th century building in what had been Manhattan's Meatpacking District. It was the beginning of the Nabisco empire. Today, the building houses an incredible public market along with food show production studios, offices and dynamic restaurants. While the market is not historic, the neighborhood and building are. The food ranges from traditional New York to global contemporary. Chelsea Market and the nearby High Line have become a pair of must visit attractions.

Chelsea Market
Jay Lloyd / KYW Newsradio


It's not called "Market Street" for nothing. Early Philadelphians were very practical. So, when they set up a clutch of markets along the most prominent street in town, what do you think they called it? When it cozied up to the Reading Railroad and moved inside, the name evolved and so did the market. Today, it's a true Smorgasbord of the regional history and immigrant culture. You find a "Groaning Board" of foods from Pennsylvania Dutch to a fusion of Asian cookery and Latin heat. Next to the Rocky Statue it's the most sought after landmark among my out-of-town and foreign guests. One reason is that unlike many markets where people buy and go. Here you stroll, sit and sample. But you knew all that.

Reading Terminal Market
Jay Lloyd / KYW Newsradio


Sail to Baltimore's Inner Harbor and walk to Lexington Market. Then slurp oysters at a stand that dispenses a harvest from Chesapeake Bay waters. The market itself traces its beginning to the Revolution. Today, it has morphed with the nation into an ethnic blend of food stands and samplings that, like Reading Terminal are a reflection of American migration and immigration patterns - the feast now goes far beyond the Bay - think Jambalaya to Sushi.

Sail to Lexington Market
Jay Lloyd / KYW Newsradio

Memory fades while trying to recall the Pike Place Market on a Seattle waterfront against the backdrop of majestic Mount Rainier. When I last saw it, Seattle was the final outpost for settlers heading to Alaska. It was also the Main port for Alaskan seafood heading to American Markets - those giant King Crabs, Dungeness Crabs, Alaskan Halibut and salmon. The market has transformed to include ethnic specialties and a global blizzard of eateries.


Of all the public markets in all the world, I had to walk into this one - and didn't want to leave. Rabbits, still in their coats hang from a butcher stall overhang, there are fish and shellfish I never knew existed, poultry cut so many ways, it can make a chef's eyes go funny. It's La Boqueria just steps from La Rambla in Barcelona. This is one of the world's most complete and magnificent public markets. Here we provisioned an intimate New Year's Eve fireworks party for two. Just remember, they sell by the kilo (2.2 lbs) and speak Spanish and Catalan. So get your quantity in mind before wading into a scrum of shoppers to order your meats and cheeses, or prepare to invite friends - a lot of them.

La Boqueria
Jay Lloyd / KYW Newsradio