Our contributor explores America’s oldest continuous outdoor market
For both Philadelphia natives and visitors alike, the Italian Market on Ninth Street has inspired breathtaking wonder for more than 100 years. From cooks to gourmands, the Italian Market offers something for everyone — fine dining establishments, an outdoor farmers’ market operating year round, boutique shops, exciting brunch locations to start off one’s day, and, last but not least, the intersection of the two most famous rival Philly cheesesteak houses.
Knowing what is where in the Italian Market may be tricky, but it is impossible to get lost. The Market runs for a little more than a half-mile north-south. For visitors, there are two options. In true Philly style, starting off a lazy day without brunch is heresy. If you were to begin your visit from the north side at Ninth Street and Christian Street, one may also experience the original site of one of Philadelphia’s most iconic brunch locations, Sabrina’s Café. Personally, I recommend the north side if you wish to swing by the Italian Market Visitor Center. If you were to start off at the southern end, swing by Dickinson Street and South Clarion Street (close to Broad Street) to begin the day at Green Eggs Café, another powerhouse in the Philly brunch scene. Simply reach the two locations by getting off the SEPTA Broad Street Line at Lombard South (for northern end) or Tasker Morris (for southern end) stations — from either station, it is a simple walk eastward for six blocks.
It’s hard to miss the Market and the overwhelming sensation of street vendors, ethnic Italian butcheries, and cheese shops. (From the southern side, one may consider the dueling cheesesteak places to be the gateway into the Market as well. Shops not to be missed include Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese, Talluto’s Authentic Italian Food for homemade and specialty pasta, and The Spice Corner for herbs, coffees, and teas. Though Italian stores remain the cornerstone of the Market, over the years the street has diversified to include storeowners offering food and merchandise from all over the world, particularly from Latin America and Southeast Asia.
It goes without saying that there can be no true market without an outdoor component, which is why Ninth Street is lined by a continuous half-mile of vendors selling local fruits, meats, and vegetables. Some vendors offer unbeatable prices for their produce, which helps to explain why on any given day many Philly locals choose to commute long distances to get their groceries here.
The Italian Market is a must-see for any vacationers to Philly from afar, and a great “staycation” for the Philly native. Just don’t forget one thing: cash.