Explore Philadelphia's diverse culinary scene
Philadelphia is known for its diverse culinary scene from famous cheesesteaks to small Italian bakeries, but how exactly did Philadelphia’s gastronomy develop? According to Philly Voice and William Woy Weaver, director of Keystone Center for regional foods, the Blue Anchor was Philadelphia’s first eatery. Built in 1681 by Quakers, the tavern was mostly designed to act as a Wharf and accommodate William Penn upon his arrival to Pennsylvania in 1682 (Baker 2018). The Blue Anchor specialized in Rum and later served as an immigration processing point due to its central location. While the tavern was demolished in 1810, visitors wishing to learn more about Philadelphia’s first tavern can venture to the Atwater-Kent Museum to see some of their jugs used within the restaurant (Baker 2018).
One of William Penn's first actions was to create outdoor markets where local farmers and fisherman all came together to sell their products (Highsmith 1994). As outdoor markets began to cause traffic problems as Philadelphia developed, 1859 led to the birth of the Reading Terminal Market, a tourist attraction today and a large moment for the Philadelphia culinary scene. While the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad company purchased land from Merchants to build new terminals, Merchants refused to give up land providing background to the famous location for the market (Highsmith 1994). Opening in 1893, the market had over 250 food vendors and 100 different farmers by 1913, a testament to the success of the market (Highsmith 1994). The market was innovative, one of the first spaces in Philadelphia with large refrigerative space and provided necessary food supplies to many during the 1940s. In 1944, 97% of the vendors continued their occupation despite widespread uncertainty about the future of America (Highsmith 1944). Today, despite multiple moments of uncertainty for the Reading Terminal Market, its legacy as one of Philadelphia’s most unique culinary opportunities remains for tourists and locals alike.
While the Reading Terminal Market is one of Philadelphia’s most famous culinary destinations, no one can deny the power and beauty of a Philadelphia cheesesteak. The cheesesteak, produced throughout Philadelphia with extensive competition over which sandwich reigns best, was created by brothers Pat and Harry Oliveri (Gambardello 2018). Created in the 1930s, Pat worked at a hot dog stand and asked Harry to pick up some beef (Gambardello 2018). After selling a beef sandwich with onions to a local cabbie, the sandwich shop, Pat’s King of Steaks, was born in 1939 (Gambardello 2018). As other local beef sandwich shops began emerging cheese was not added to this famous sandwich until 1950, when employee of Pat’s, Tony Lorezo, attempted to put cheese on the steak sandwich (Gambardello 2018). Today, people travel far and wide to try the Philadelphia cheesesteak, venturing to multiple locations to see what restaurant has the best.
Cridland, James. “Reading Terminal Market.” Flickr, Yahoo!, 28 July 2018, www.flickr.com/photos/jamescridland/29813037308.
Gambardello, Joseph A. “Philly Cheesesteak: Everything You Need to Know.” https://www.inquirer.com, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 5 July 2018, www.inquirer.com/philly/food/philly-cheesesteak-sandwich-history-20180705.html.
Highsmith. “History of Reading Terminal Market.” Reading Terminal Market, readingterminalmarket.org/about-us/history/.
“What Was Philadelphia's First Restaurant?” PhillyVoice, 21 Feb. 2018, www.phillyvoice.com/what-was-philadelphias-first-restaurant/.