For those who know me it should be obvious that my dining style leans toward the finer side – and for breakfast to the eclectic or kitsch. With that noted, my fourth day in Philadelphia would be something different – a trip to the Reading Terminal Market to experience the oft raved about Dutch Eating Place. Having eaten Amish food only twice (and in the distant past) I remembered it to be buttery and filling, down home and unpretentious, but overall natural and quite good.
Having already seen the location on my daily walks through the Market I found the Dutch Eating place without difficulty after a healthy walk from the Italian Village. Arriving only 20 minutes after opening I found a cozy counter spot next to a couple of Pittsburgh natives already indulging on scrapple and pancakes – for those who’ve never been, the seating is entirely counter-facing stools with a “take out” area located to the right. Greeted almost immediately by a polite young girl dressed in traditional Amish attire I was offered coffee which I declined, water was filled, and I was presented with a menu. Throughout the meal my service would be proficient and polite despite the gathering throng of awaiting diners.
Sipping my water and admittedly a little uncomfortable with being elbow to elbow with fellow diners and a line of persons waiting for a seat behind me it did not take long before my order was placed and my first dish would arrive. Never one to shy away from sweets before savories (or no savories at all) my Apple Dumpling would arrive at nearly the size of a softball and when asked whether I fancied whipped cream or heavy cream I went with tradition. Dousing the buttery cinnamon laden orb with sweet cream and taking a bite I was admittedly impressed as the buttery pie shell held up nicely to the steaming apple and cream. I always contest that I don’t eat at “down home” restaurants because I can do better at home, but in this case I’m not sure that is the case.
My second dish from the Amish would be a short stack of the blueberry pancakes. With fresh blueberries from Jersey already in the batter I watched the elder cooks ladle a huge scoop of batter from a large bucket onto the butter laden grill before turning my attention back to the dumpling. Moments later, almost too fast to have been expected, the plate would arrive with two large circumference but somewhat flat cakes topped with a mountain of fresh butter. While lacking fluffiness, the flavor of the cakes was everything I’d hoped and after a heavy pour of rich maple syrup the flavors all melded together nicely. Certainly not the best pancakes I’ve ever had – but probably the best I’ve ever had for less than $4.
Finishing up a solid breakfast and leaving a $10 including a ~40% tip I must admit that The Dutch Eating Place is a bargain to behold – quality fare, quality service, and a clever concept in such an urban environment…certainly better than New York’s attempts at a similar feel (Good Enough To Eat) and, admittedly, down home food that is probably better than I’ve made for breakfast at home in quite some time.
Making my way from The Dutch Eating Place with plans for a walk to (and around, and through) The Eastern State Penitentiary I made an additional mandatory stop – a vacation without a cupcake is frowned upon by my friends and family as it has become a sort of tradition. Having heard mixed things I stopped into Flying Monkey Patisserie where I would be greeted by a friendly young woman. Asking her what cupcake she would suggest (already planning to order the Red Velvet plus whatever she said) she stated the Red Velvet and as such I only ordered one. Paying the $3.00 with tip I have to admit I felt a little strange about the price of cupcakes these days – you could eat a whole breakfast at Dutch Eating Place for that much.
Taking a seat by the Reading Market pig for a traditional “Mike eating a Cupcake” picture I unwrapped the box and noted the cupcake was chilled – being before 9:00am in the morning I’m assuming this also meant it was made the day before. Taking a bite I was mildly impressed by the frosting – cream cheese and expectedly sweet with a tinge of sour. With a good frosting to cake ratio the cake itself just did not live up to its end of the bargain; cocoa and moist to be sure, but more dense then I’d have preferred – and cold.
When it was all said and done this would be my last visit to the Reading Terminal Market (for this trip) and all I can say is that it is without a doubt the best market of its kind that I’ve yet to visit. While not as eclectic as the San Francisco Ferry Market and not as large as Baltimore’s Lexington Market it is the kind of place where there is something for everyone – down home, organic, simple, artisan, vegetarian, carnivore, local, or tourist.