Spending a day in Philadelphia is always on our agenda when we go to the Jersey Shore. It only takes a little over an hour from Atlantic City to downtown Philly. Eve had her heart set on visiting the historic Reading Terminal Market and I was right with her on that.
Growing up my mother always went into town on Tuesdays. Every single Tuesday (except for the summertime when we were at the shore) she went into town to go shopping for bargains. On many occasions I would meet her after school and we would spend a good hour or so at the Reading Terminal Market. The market was established in 1893 and probably doesn’t look much different than it did back then. Only the proprietors have changed. More that 100,000 visitors pass through the Reading Terminal Market every week!
We walked up and down the aisles in awe of the gorgeous produce, meats, fish and baked goods with reasonable prices. I so wish we had something like this near where I live. We bought some great artisan balsamic vinegars and olive oils and mentally tasted dozens of different items but didn’t eat anything. So by the time we had completed our tour we were starving. We knew exactly what we wanted to eat so we headed to Famous Fourth Street Delicatessen for lunch.
I have a long history with Famous Deli because I lived with my parents and grandparents directly across the street from it until I was 9 months old. It opened the same year that my mother and grandparents arrived from Russia – 1923. My Bubbie and Zeyda built a clothing store with their home above it at 703 South 4th Street a few years later. They paid cash, about $2,700, that they saved from Zeyda peddling mens socks from a pushcart and Bubbie working as a seamstress. One earned about $12 a week and the other about $7. These figures sound laughable now but to them they were wealthy beyond belief. They were living the true American dream and the streets here were paved with gold. After all they had spent two years escaping from Tsarist Russia to come here and make a new life for themselves and their family.
As a little girl, Bubbie would give me money to buy rye bread across the street at Famous Deli. I was only about 5 or 6 years old but I can still picture her standing in front of the store watching me cross and waiting for me to return. That rye was still warm from the oven with a really crisp caraway seeded crust and squishy interior. We always had a slice or two with chilled sour cream. A treat I love to this day! So with that memory in my head I wanted some of that special rye bread piled high with hot pastrami, coleslaw and Russian dressing.
Remembering just how huge the sandwiches were I suggested that Steve and I share the Hot Pastrami Special. Brian opted for his own not believing me that it would be too big; even for my 6’5” son. Eve ordered an amazing bowl of Matzo Ball soup and we all shared the mountain of delicious French Fries. We also devoured the dish of pickles and sweet kraut that is complimentary and traditionally brought to the table as soon as you sit down at Jewish delis.
It had been so long since I had eaten their pastrami that I had all but forgotten what great pastrami tasted like. Their is nothing like it in Florida, that’s for sure. It is sliced thinly, spiced perfectly and has just enough fat to keep it moist at flavorful. Piled high between two slices of that amazing rye bread, along with some crunchy coleslaw, creamy tangy Russian dressing and a slice or two of Imported Swiss cheese and you have the ultimate sandwich. Bar none!
Our last stop in Philly was a trip to the Italian Market on 9th Street for a visit to Fante’s Kitchen Shop. To me Fante’s is the ultimate chefs’ candy store. They have two floors of everything you could possibly want to cook or bake. And to my delight Steve surprised me with a cookbook that I have wanted for a very long time Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. Expect some posts soon about cooking from this fabulous book.
After spending a full day in Philly we decided to stay in and polish off all of our leftovers from Chef Vola, JoJo’s pizza and Famous Deli for dinner. A smorgasbord of culinary delights.
Reading Terminal Market
12th and Arch Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Famous 4th Street Delicatessen
700 South 4th Street
Philadelphia PA 19147
Fante’s Kitchen Shop
1006 South 9th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147