Friday, August 8, 2008

*** CLOSED *** Rick's Original Philly Steaks ~ Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Reading Market)

The Reading Terminal Market is maybe the singular greatest food idea - ever. Enclosed within its walls, are literally hundreds of independent, locally owned Philadelphia eateries, food shops and markets. You'll see Amish ladies working the Dutch kitchens next to African American managed rib places. Everything that is good about the American food experience can literally be found all in one place. The Reading Terminal was an active railroad station only some 25 years ago. Once it closed, the cities' leading visionaries moved the already existing food markets into the terminal itself. To only be able to eat all day long. If I could, I'd do it here.

Rick's is not the only steak sandwich establishment at the RTM (not surprising given it's Philly's most famous export), but his is the most famous and has the purest pedigree. Rick Olivieri is the grandson of Pat Olivieri, the founder of Pat's, which is generally considered the first Philly Cheesesteak place, along with Geno's across the street. Mr. Jose visited those fine establishments back in 2005, while on a business trip.

With all this going in my favor, I felt this would be a safe bet to introduce Mrs. RJG to an authentic Philly Steak sandwich, a food she's only had in bastardized forms in the DFW and Denver areas.

The tide from the evening before at Villa di Roma was still working against me, and Rick's was another swing and a miss. Sometimes a guy can't get a break. And poor Rick can't seem to get good help. Rick himself had to take our order since one of his employees didn't feel like working that day apparently. It looked like Rick fired him right there on the spot. Must be a tough man to work for. Later Rick yelled at one his minions to clean the tables. She did, using the wettest cloth she could find, drowning it in more water, and then leaving all the tables in puddles of water. Lovely. Mrs. RJG was sulking by now. Mrs. RJG said to order it the way I do - which is the Philly way: Wiz wit (cheese whiz and onions). Hey, that's an authentic Philly cheesesteak! When Kraft introduced Cheese Whiz in 1952, it became all the rage to douse your cheesesteak with it. I know it sounds gross, but Mr. RJG likes it. Mrs. RJG did not. At all. So we learned, next time get it with provolone and easy on the onions, eh buddy! As for me, I've had better cheesesteaks at Texadelphia. Sorry Charlie, but one can do a lot better in Philly than this. Like at Geno's or Rick's grandpa's place.

2 comments:

Bob Libkind said...

Thanks for the Reading Terminal Market report. Just want to bring a factual error to your attention. The market didn't start there when the train station above it closed. The original market dates back to colonial times and was an open-air affair on "High Street", which is now Market Street. The market moved into the ground floor of the Reading Terminal when the terminal opened in 1892, and has been there ever since. Above the market is the main floor of the train shed, where the Reading Company's commuter and longer-distance trains stopped; it is now the grand entrance to the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

You can learn more about the RTM's history at website .

Rick's makes a satisfactory example of a Philadelphia cheese steak. Not the best in town, but better than most. He won't be in the market after Oct. 31, the result of a lease dispute and litigation. But that's a whole 'nuther story.

Mr. Jose said...

Hi Bob. Yes, I did know there was a history behind the market prior to the station closing. But it doesn't look like I was very clear about that. I did read about Rick's troubles at the RTM as well, and that's too bad. Thanks for your comments - very informative!!