Broad Street Market in Harrisburg

On weekends where my husband and I aren’t traveling around PA, a highlight of Saturday is my walk to the Broad Street Market. I live in Harrisburg’s Midtown neighborhood (Midtown Square if we’re being particular), and the market is just blocks away. There’s something comforting about grabbing my grocery bag and heading to the market to see what’s fresh. I take a list, but like at any market — I’m flexible and ready to buy something spontaneously because it looks enticing. Every week I’m reminded how lucky I am to have the market nearby. Broad Street Market is an important aspect of why I love living where I do.

Millworks stand at Broad Street Market

The Millworks is a great spot to pick up local produce, dairy, breads and more.

Like many farmers markets, the Broad Street was at one time thriving, but fell on rough times. It was hard for farmers markets to keep up with the introduction of the supermarket. The very premise of the local farmers market is the antithesis of industrial agriculture. Many of PA’s markets have been revitalized recently as cities have reinvested and people have embraced the farm-to-table movement. Broad Street is still trying to find its footing after some recent challenges. Sometimes it seems the market just can’t catch a break. A lot of that has to do with “chronic turnover in management” over the last 15 years. According to Jonathan Bowser, President of the Broad Street Market Board, “this has led to the lack of continuity, leadership, consistency, financial stability and vision.”

But I have high hopes for the market. The current management team seems to be making good decisions. I’ve seen more vendors open than close in the last couple months. As we hit the 2015 growing season, I’m optimistic the market can shake off the bad luck and become the thriving retail hub my neighbors need.

The Stone Buiding at Broad Street Market

The iconic Broad Street sign stands atop the Stone Building.

Stone, Wood and Brick

Like its cousins in Philadelphia and Lancaster, the Broad Street Market is one of the oldest continuously operating farmers markets in the country. I actually didn’t realize until starting this site that our state hosts as many historical markets as it does. The Broad Street Market consists of two separate structures, currently separated by a courtyard. The older “Stone Market” building, which features the market sign overlooking 3rd street, was completed in 1863. The rear “Brick Market” building was completed in 1878. In previous years, a “Wood Market” ran between the two buildings. The newer granite courtyard actually shows the location of walls, stairs and other features from the old Wood Market.

As I mentioned, the market has seen some ups and downs. At its peak in the 1920s, the market housed more than 725 vendors. By 1960, that number was down to 300. At this point, by my best guess the market has 20-30 vendors.

(By the way, brownie points for those of you that get the “Stone, Wood and Brick” comment.)

Broad Street Market's Brick Building

The Brick Building holds most of the produce vendors at Broad Street.

Farmers at Broad

Starting up this weekend (May 16) is the market’s outdoor, producer-only farmers market. From May to October, every Saturday the courtyard hosts local farmers and producers in addition to the regular indoor vendors. While many of the indoor vendors sell PA-grown or produced items, all of the vendors selling outside at Farmers at Broad come from within a 50 mile radius from Harrisburg.

According to the market management, the goals of Farmers at Broad are:

  • To give local farmers and producers access to eaters and buyers in Harrisburg
  • To educate Harrisburg residents and other visitors to the Broad Street Market about the importance of locally sourced food
  • To provide healthy and delicious options to their customers and visitors

As you can probably imagine, that’s big to me. On my spring and summer market trips, I make an effort to purchase as much as I can from the Farmers at Broad vendors.

Green Ridge Farms at Broad Street Market

Green Ridge sells local, pasture-raised meats.

The vendors at Farmers at Broad include produce and meat vendors, but more importantly, you can get ALCOHOL! This year there will be cider, wine and beer vendors selling their wares in the courtyard on Saturdays. You can pick up all the fresh, local ingredients you need for a yummy dinner and a local drink to wash it down with! And I can vouch for the beverage vendors: Big Hill Ciderworks, Spring Gate Vineyards and Zeroday Brewing Co. are all worth trying.

You’ll also be able to find artists, musicians, kids’ activities and other events throughout the season.

Looking Local

I mentioned earlier that while many of the indoor vendors sell PA-grown or produced items, not all of them do. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t want them to. If Broad Street only featured PA items, I’d never be able to get the cheap lemons and limes I depend on for cocktails from Peach Ridge Produce. But you’re reading Made From PA, so let’s look at some of my favorite truly local vendors with permanent spots inside the market.

  • The Millworks Farm Stand: Honestly, the Millworks Stand is probably the only stand I am guaranteed to visit each trip to the market. Two main reasons for that: #1 We get our milk here and I need to exchange my empty bottle for a new one, and #2 I know that any produce available here is locally grown, as they only source locally. Oh yeah, and #3 I’m addicted to EP!C Pickles Spicy Dills, which are sold here. Totally overpriced, but I can’t help myself! Shoot, there’s a #4 They also sell Torchbearer Sauces, and I can never have enough hot sauce (check out my Curry Chicken and Vegetables with their Psycho Curry sauce).
  • Fisher’s Bakery: It isn’t a Pennsylvania farmers market without a significant Pennsylvania Dutch presence. You’ll find any number of PA Dutch-run stands at Broad Street, but Fisher’s is the one to head to if you’re looking for baked goods. They do all sorts of things at Fisher’s, but…the donuts. I’m telling you, the donuts.
  • Green Ridge Acres: There are a few great meat counters at Broad Street, but the only one with a focus on selling local, pasture-raised animals is Green Ridge. In a center stall not far from their meat and produce, Green Ridge also runs a bulk food stand. They aren’t all local, but the nuts, spices, and other bulk items are worth browsing. They carry everything from coconut oil to loose teas, hard-to-find grains, and a number of gluten free flours, pastas and other items.
Soul Burrito at Broad Street Market

Soul Burrito is my favorite new lunch spot at the market.

Made From PA Tips:

Watch where you park. There are about 200 free spots around the market itself, but if you go for street parking nearby, be ready to feed the meter. As of last year, parking around the market in Midtown now costs you. If you are hitting the market on a Saturday, however, use the Pango app and code “LUVHBG” for 4 hours of free parking.

Come hungry. The market has great spots to pick up your weekly groceries, but they also have some amazing prepared food vendors. A lot of people swear by the BBQ from Two Brothers, and you can grab a sushi-grade tuna shooter from JB Kelly. My personal Saturday pattern is to pick up a mocha from Elementary Coffee Co., which I drink as I do my shopping, and a curry chicken burrito from Soul Burrito on my way home. (Get the Jamaican Sensation burrito with everything. Trust me)

Do a lap first. While there’s an effort to bring variety to the market, there is some overlap in product between a few of the produce and meat vendors. I’d recommend doing a lap around the Brick building before making your purchases to evaluate who has what, what the quality is, and what is the best price. See my aforementioned tip about coffee and walking.

Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia

Try heading to Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market on a Saturday afternoon, and you’ll be doomed to inch along the surrounding streets at a crawl, cursing the car in front of you that just stole your spot, and wondering at what point you just turn around and go home. When you finally find parking and make it inside, you’ll dodge elbows and shopping bags, wait in long lines and accidentally touch many more strangers than you really want to consider. All this hassle, just for groceries? The produce and sandwiches can’t actually be worth it, right?

Wrong! So, so wrong.

Crowds under the neon lights at Reading Terminal Market.

Shoppers under the neon lights at Reading Terminal Market

Living and working in central PA, I only make it to the Reading Terminal Market on weekends. While the crowds may be aggravating at times, I never regret making the effort. The Reading Market isn’t the oldest farmer’s market in Pennsylvania (that title goes to Central Market in Lancaster), but it is certainly the largest. The market houses more than 80 vendors selling everything from shoofly pies to Thai spices, fresh oysters to locally grown apples. That variety and quality is hard to find elsewhere, and makes fighting your way through the crowds well worth it.

The Monopoly Market

The Reading Terminal Market traces its history back to 1680, when Philadelphia’s farmers and fisherman sold their goods in informal markets near the river around Front and High streets. As these outdoor markets grew and the area expanded, it is no wonder that High Street came to be called Market Street. Eventually the markets were moved into two enclosed markets at 12th and Market streets. The actual Reading Terminal Market building itself was built in 1891 when the Reading Railroad company began construction on a new railroad system at 11th and Market, and agreed to house an enclosed market underneath. The city moved the two existing markets into the new building and opened the Market in 1892.

The Market has seen some rough times, falling into disrepair and disarray after World War II. It was neglected and left to crumble until the mid-80’s when the City of Philadelphia included an improvement initiative for the Market into plans to build the Convention Center. Now the modern Reading Terminal is once again flourishing, packed every week with vendors and patrons.

Customers at the Salumeria counter

Pick up some delicious cured meats at Salumeria

Bringing the Rural to the Urban

The modern Market’s mission statement has 5 main tenants, one of which in particular speaks to me. The Reading Terminal Market considers it part of its mission “to strengthen the historic link and mutual dependency of our rural and urban communities.” That ties directly to what the Made From PA blog is all about – showing how rich and wonderful PA’s food production culture is and that it can be truly accessible to PA residents no matter where you live. That’s why I decided to include Markets in the blog. I want to highlight not only the individual amazing items grown or produced here, but I also want to bring attention to the organizations that are making an effort to bring those products into PA’s cities and towns.

Looking Local

Not everything sold in the Reading Terminal was produced in Pennsylvania. That’s to all of our benefit. You can get exotic teas from the Herbiary or French linens from Contessa. And don’t skip the amazing imported cheeses from Salumeria.

But the Reading Terminal Market is also committed to supporting local producers. Take the following Market policy: “In filling vacancies which may arise in the Market, general preference shall be given to growers and purveyors of local and regional produce.”

And this is Made From PA, right? So let’s talk about some of the PA products you can find at the Market.

  • At Iovine Brothers, they believe in sourcing locally as much as possible and will promote locally grown produce with obvious “LOCAL” signs throughout the market. Iovine buys from local producers like Shady Brook Farms in Yardley and the Philadelphia Urban Creators. Iovine Bros. has a great selection of fresh produce as well as dry goods, and often features specials if you look around the edges of the market.
  • In early 2015, a new charcuterie and butcher shop joined the market. La Divisa Meats cures and ages their own meats and sausages using humanely raised, grass-fed animals from a number of PA farms.
  • And of course, we have to talk about the Pennsylvania Dutch stands. The Market has more than 10 different PA Dutch vendors selling prepared foods, deli items, baked goods and more. Shops like the L. Halteman Family Country Foods sell meat and dairy products that come from their own family farm. They also sell homemade sausages, locally made jams and jellies, honey and Lancaster County produce.
Fruits and veggies on display at Iovine Brothers

My favorite produce vendor in the Reading Terminal Market

And while I can’t vouch that they’re using PA ingredients, you can also pick up any number of delicious prepared foods that are at least produced in PA. Some highlights: the cheesesteak from Spataro, which can challenge the big guys from South Philly, and the chocolate chip cookie from the Famous 4th Street Cookie Company, served warm with tons of gooey, melty chocolate.

Made From PA Tips:

$4 Parking. Parking is at a premium around the Reading Terminal Market. Between the bustle of Chinatown on one side, and the Convention Center on the other, finding a street parking spot can feel impossible. But don’t fear the garages! There are 2 local garages that offer 2 hour parking for $4, if you can get into them. You just need to spend at least $10 at the Market and have your shop vendor validate. Believe me, a $10 minimum purchase won’t be hard for you.

  • 11th & Arch Streets (Expert Parking)
  • 12th & Filbert Streets (Parkway Garage)
Canned goods on display at the Kauffman stall in the Market

Kauffman’s sells Jake & Amos, canned goods from Lancaster County

Grab a Sip. Fighting the crowds and hunting for the perfect ingredients is thirsty work. So while you’re at the Market, make your way to the back and try to find a seat at Molly Malloy’s, the Market’s only bar. They have 24 beers on tap, and you’ll always be able to find a number of Pennsylvania-brewed beers among them. They actually have a pretty decent selection – last time there I was able to get a nice sour beer I enjoy on draft, which is rare.

Get the Pasta. As an Italian American cook, it pains me to admit this, but I don’t make my own pasta. I hope to one day, but for now I look for other Italians I trust to make it for me. If you feel the same way, find By George! along the Filbert Street side of the Market. Look past the neon lights trying to talk you into a cheesesteak (remember, for those go to Spataro!) and you’ll see that By George! sells a number of different types of fresh pasta that are cut to order for you. They also sell a wide variety of sauces to go with your pasta. The diablo is delicious with their fresh fettuccini. And while you’re at it, pick up a loaf of bread from Metropolitan and make a meal of it.