The Philadelphia Food and Sign Festival

Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia, PA

First off, in answer to someone’s question when I had four posts entitled “The San Antonio Food and Sign Festival,” this is not actually a thing. But it should be. All I’m sayin’.

Second, there’s also no such thing as the Philadelphia Food and Sign Festival (but there should be), other than the one Laura and I created one morning last week when we had the idea to take full advantage of an extra day off during the Columbus Day weekend. There are two places that spring to mind where food and neon intermingle, the first being the Reading Terminal Market, a foodie paradise unparalleled. Truly, if you cannot find it in the Reading Terminal, it’s probably not worth eating.

Inside the Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia, PA

It took us a few minutes of wandering before we felt like we could actually settle in anywhere, but eventually we found a place that stopped us dead in our tracks. Being an admitted cheese snob, I gravitated over to a stand in the back owned by the Valley Shepherd Creamery. They had several cheeses on display, but the one that took center stage drew us in like nothing else could:

Ten Eyck CheeseAs it so happens, Laura’s maiden name is Ten Eyck.

So, after the world’s easiest sale and we had procured the cheesy comestibles, we came to find out that this was not one of Valley Shepherd’s cheeses, but from one of their partners, Meadowood Farms in Cazenovia, New York. Unfortunately, they couldn’t tell us why the cheese bears the name Ten Eyck. Nor is the internet a wealth of information on the subject. Needless to say, we’re very curious why they named a sheep’s milk cheese in the family of manchego with a somewhat obscure Dutch name. If anyone knows, please let us know!

Tommy DiNic's, Philadelphia, PA

It was ten in the morning, we already had breakfast, and yet we still found ourselves in front of Tommy DiNic’s. There was a cloud of people already there for lunch. Cheesesteaks, you say? Well, even though that is the most famous export of Philadelphia, the Roast Pork sandwich is gaining steam as the sandwich of choice, and DiNic’s is one the best. Roast pork, provolone and broccoli rabe. We had to indulge, even though we weren’t terrifically hungry.

Roast Pork Sandwich at DiNic'sI regret nothing.

Termini Brothers has a location in the Reading Terminal, and if you remember this previous post, I had a debt to settle with my lovely wife. I went to the main location on 8th Street a few months ago, had a tea biscuit and got an unexpected tour, but unfortunately I was by myself. For that reason, I had held off on the specialty of the house, the cannoli. I wasn’t about to leave Philadelphia without going by the main location for a pair of his-and-hers cannoli.

Now I Know Why He Left the Gun

Termini Brothers, Philadelphia, PA

First off, the sign was lit this time around, God bless them, so I went to town with a whole series of new shots. Then we went inside, and quite possibly the most delicious smell that exists returned to my life with a vengeance. Now unconcerned with leaving anyone behind, I could graze with confidence. A cannoli each, certainly. Then a container of pizzelles which looked impossibly good.

And then the girl who was serving us said “While you’re waiting for your cannoli,” she said, “would you like a tour?” Well, I had already had a tour previously, but Laura hadn’t, so we went through and looked in on where the magic happens.

Cannoli, cannoli, cannoli

Laura is smarter than me. When she is new to a place, she does what I never think to do, which is ask the person serving you what their favorite thing is. So she directed us to her favorite: a biscotti topped by a banana and raspberry, then the whole darn shootin’ match covered in chocolate. You’ll see that off to the right.


In order of deliciousness, and there aren’t any losers on this list, mind you:

  1. The chocolate-banana-raspberry thing, which I’m convinced is used as currency in certain developing countries.
  2. The cannoli, which would win most normal contests. Had I not had the chocolate-banana loveliness, I may have considered this the most delicious thing I had ever thought to eat.
  3. The pizzelles, which are outrageously wonderful in their own right.

We ate these later, of course, because there was plenty more to do and plenty more day ahead.

A pity we were full, because it was time to cross another place off my to-do list. I had missed out on the Melrose Diner on Snyder in my previous trip, but I couldn’t pass up

  1. A neon diner sign
  2. with a clock in it
  3. and the clock is shaped like a coffee cup

So off we went.

Melrose Diner, Philadelphia, PABy the way, in case you’re wondering, it was about 11:30. I think the Melrose has been stuck at 8:14 for a while…

Melrose Diner, Philadelphia, PA

But this was not all for this day. My word, no. For that, there will come another day and another post. Or two.

The New Jersey Expeditions, Part 2

Autumn arrived, and at the start of it, death visited us on both ends of the spectrum. First it was our 77-year old next-door neighbor, who died suddenly of a heart attack. At the end of the week, my cousin’s son, who was just five years old, succumbed to the ravages of Neuroblastoma after a three-year battle. Under the circumstances, it’s been very hard to write about my adventures in sign-hunting, because in the grand scheme of things, it is so small in the face of life and death.

It disturbed me to discover that I had no pictures of either my neighbor or my cousin’s boy. The latter was more understandable because my cousin lives far away, so I never actually met him, but I saw my neighbor all the time, sitting on the front porch, most often reading the Bible with his gun sitting either on the table next to him or in his shoulder holster. He was built along the lines of a greyhound, and he walked up the street with his long, slender legs. He had a small head and a pointy noise, to boot. He would talk to you in a slow, nasal Philadelphia drawl about pretty much anything and everything, and he was constantly aware of almost all neighborhood activities and passers-by. And I have no pictures of him.

The day after he passed, a neighbor left this on the porch, right in front of his favorite chair.

Flower for Fred

I’ve spent a lot of times taking pictures of places that one day will be gone, but the past few weeks have reminded me that much more, there are people that will one day be gone.

But places are still important to people, and when I was going through New Jersey a few weeks ago I realized that I was in the land where my father-in-law grew up. He has great nostalgia for Watchung, Dunellen, the Plainfields, and he can recall all sorts of stories about old friends and places he’s been, so I felt like I needed to stop by.

First, I caught a glimpse of the Western Termite sign of one of those poor businesses you see only in the northeastern United States that are somehow positioned IN BETWEEN the eastbound and westbound lanes of a major thoroughfare. Despite this odd disadvantage, Western Termite continues to thrive.

Western Termite Control

There were a couple of places I’ve heard my father-in-law mention in stories that I knew were still around. Texas Weiner in Plainfield was the first one to come to mind, and after that, I can’t help but think of the Wienie King in The Palm Beach Story, but that’s my own problem, I suppose. There are a ton of copycats, and nearly every other place in that particular area boasted some form of Texas Weiner, but as far as anyone knows, this was the first.

Texas Weiner I, Plainfield, NJ

The second one is the Dunellen Theater. One night we were talking about old movie houses and he talked about this one in particular, how he had gone to see double features with his cousin Joan there in the 40s, and after he was done talking about it I looked it up on my iPhone and voila! The theater was still there and in operation.

Dunellen Theater, Dunellen, NJ

Dunellen Ninja Turtles?Teenage Dunellen Ninja Turtles?

The Dunellen is one of the oldest in the country, having started showing movies in 1922. Now known as the Dunellen Theater and Cinema Cafe, it was originally Hosford’s Theater when it opened, and later the Dunellen Cameo, having already changed to the name “Dunellen Theater” by the time my father-in-law was watching movies there.

It was good that I got a chance to go by, and I hope this will be a nice trip down memory lane for him. I wish I had had the time to stop in for a Texas Weiner (is it different from a regular one? I guess it must be…) or to watch a movie in this hallowed old place, but at the very least I can spark some memories in those that have.

In the meantime, here’s a portrait I DO have, of my father-in-law with my sister-in-law Rachel: