It’s been almost two weeks since the tragic fire at Eastern Market, and customers are already getting antsy for South Hall staples: Crab cakes, homemade turkey sausage, "bluebucks" (blueberry buckwheat pancakes from Market Lunch). Last Saturday, a few of the displaced vendors set up shop beneath awnings along Seventh Street. Being present for a grieving Hill community that first weekend was important for many vendors, but without solid refrigeration, the outdoor stalls can only work for so long.
The "cheeseman" Mike Bowers had a limited supply of cream, milk, buttermilk, and cheddar sitting on ice. He'll be around again this weekend, and hopes to build a temporary home across the street (but even that will take at least four months). For the Glasgow family of Union Meat Company, working with bags of ice isn't an option. They need room for storing and cutting the prime cuts of beef. The Glasgows pointed out that "the Chicken guy" of Capitol Hill Poultry can probably work out of his truck with ice chests. But with meat, preparation and preservation demands a higher level of maintenance.
Butcher Juan Caneles will turn his Salvadoran Tortilla Café, on Seventh Street facing the Market, into a makeshift delicatessen. Starting today—if he gets his act together, he says—Caneles will sell individual sausages and other meats, and will continue to do so on a weekday basis. He'll be around this weekend, and encourages customers to ring up Tortilla Café with special orders. His selection of sausages—the turkey, wild boar, bratwurst and others—will go fast. He can't promise the half-smokes, but will make room for rotisserie chickens and BBQ subs, along with his homemade guacamole, empanadas, and salsa.
The outdoor awnings work for some of the Grand Old Hall vendors—but not many. On Monday of this week, Mayor Fenty met with city council members, nearby residents and vendors to sketch out a transition plan. While nearby Hine Junior High's playground is an option, refrigeration still poses a huge problem. Especially for the unforgettable Market Lunch. The pulled pork sandwich and "brick," a greasy breakfast sandwich with crisp bacon, a fried egg, thinly sliced potatoes, and cheese, may not see the light until the South Hall re-opens. Ward 6 council member Tommy Wells said 18 to 24 months, but his chief of staff was more optimistic last Monday, hoping for just a year.