Once in Philadelphia, the first thing TL and I did after dropping off our things was to head to the Reading Terminal Market, conveniently located right next to our hotel. I'd eaten at the market a few times before, and had been wowed by the blueberry pancakes, scrapple, and apple dumplings at the Dutch Eating Place. We arrived too late to consider eating breakfast (plus, we'd already had Chinese buns), but the perfect lunch was just on the other end of the market: a roast pork sandwich from DiNic's.
We decided to split a single roast pork sandwich in order to make room for other goodies, which they nicely gave to us in two separate baskets. I asked for the pork to come topped with sharp provolone and greens, which is the only way to eat such a sandwich. The juicy, garlicky broccoli rabe mingles with the funky provolone and the savory roast pork, becoming a whole that is so much more than the sum of its parts. We were offered little tubs of horseradish and banana peppers to go with the sandwich too, and while the horseradish didn't do much for me, the pickled banana peppers added a welcome bright note of acidity.
We scarfed down our sandwich halves and then moved on to the rest of the market. I had my heart set on a fresh soft pretzel, and we stopped at the first place we saw selling them. Miller's Twist is one of a handful of Pennsylvania Dutch vendors in the market, which are only open Wednesday through Saturday.
I have no idea how the pretzels at Miller's Twist compare to others, but I can assure you that ours was damn good—soft, chewy, salty, and slightly crisp on the outside. We watched a woman dipping our pretzel into a pot of melted butter before serving it to us, which might also account for how delicious it was. Why can't the pretzels sold from hot dog stands in New York City taste like this?
After feeding ourselves at the market, TL and I set off to explore various tourist hotspots like the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Magic Gardens, and South Street.
Along the way we stopped at Capogiero for gelato. I chose to pair pistachio gelato and cilantro-lime sorbetti, and while I absolutely loved the latter, the former was too rich and I got sick of it. I should have stuck solely with the sorbetti—it was tart and refreshing, with a fresh herbal note from the cilantro. TL had a kiwi sorbetti that was equally wonderful.
Our long afternoon traipsing around Philly, combined with how early we'd had to wake up that morning to catch the bus, meant that by late afternoon we were both ready for a nap. Subsequently, by the time we managed to rouse ourselves, it was almost nine o'clock and we still hadn't eaten dinner. Since Chinatown was only a few blocks away, we decided to head to Vietnam Palace for our meal.
We started with an appetizer of stuffed grape leaves, which was quite different from its Mediterranean cousins. Instead of being stuffed with minted rice or lentils, the leaves were filled with marinated beef and grilled. I wasn't sure how to properly eat this dish, but I ended up using the lettuce leaves as a wrapper for stuffed grape leaves, noodles, and herbs, rolling them up summer roll style. Things got messy when I tried dipping the roll into nuoc mam, but it was a tasty way to eat them.
I got a little ambitious with my order of the Vermicelli Deluxe, which came with grilled pork, grilled shrimp, and fried spring rolls. I was already pretty full from the stuffed grape leaves, and the bowl that appeared in front of me was downright gigantic. Each element had been prepared well though, so I was happy to give finishing my meal a shot. Not that I succeeded, but a girl can try.
We didn't do much after dinner—lazed around in our hotel room, mostly—but that was fine with me. Call me old or boring, but chilling out for an evening felt like the perfect way to spend our night.
Day 1: Reading Terminal Market, DiNic's, Miller's Twist, Capogiero, Vietnam Palace
Day 2: Ocean Harbor, Thai Chef & Noodle Fusion