Market Lunch is now open in a temporary location across from the Eastern Market building (Eastern Market suffered a terrible fire earlier this year). Crab cakes, eggs and grits, potato salad make for quick hits of old-time atmosphere and down-home food.
• Hours: Wed-Fri 7:30 am-2:30 pm, Sat 8 am-3 pm, Sun 9 am-3 pm
• Price: $ (Average entree $10 and under)
• Atmosphere: Outdoor Seating
• Cuisine: Seafood, American, Barbecue, Crabs, Diner, Southern/Soul
• Neighborhood: Capitol Hill
• Nearest Metro: Eastern Market (Blue and Orange lines)
Tom Glasgow knows he’s lucky. After the April fire that shuttered Eastern Market’s historic South Hall — and with it Glasgow’s popular Market Lunch — he and other vendors swiftly relocated to a vast tented hall across the street. “There are lots of things I like,” Glasgow says of his current, brightly lighted digs at 306 Seventh St. SE. His pleasures include a new convection oven for baking rolls, a larger griddle for making pancakes and a charbroiler for crustier hamburgers.
“It’s like a luxury hotel here,” the 51-year-old counter man exults, then quickly turns nostalgic. “But it’s not home.”
“Home” is about two years away, if you can believe the city’s estimate for remodeling the 1873 building. But if Market Lunch, which Glasgow started almost three decades ago, doesn’t look like its old self these days, patrons can rest assured that all of its familiar flavors are in evidence on the chalkboard menus — and in the eating.
The deep-fried, creamy-centered crab cakes still bite back with mustard and pepper; the pancake choices still include Blue Bucks, made with blueberries and buckwheat; and the Brick continues to pack fried egg, melted cheese, golden potato slices and crisp bacon in a lightly toasted bun — a whopper of a breakfast sandwich the fast-food chains can only dream of achieving.
Market Lunch’s long, 30-seat communal table survived the fire nearly intact; a few scorch marks remain. “We’re going to leave them as a reminder,” says Glasgow, a near-constant presence at the counter, where he cheerfully barks out orders to his crew and banters easily with customers. (I’m playfully cautioned that my order is too big for one person to eat; I assure him that I’m hungry.)
The cast of characters gathered around the stool-ringed table on this recent early morning includes two cops, three construction workers, a gaggle of women who appear to have been out for a power stroll and a couple of men in suits. “The best grits I’ve had since I left the South,” a Washington worker bee announces to no one in particular when he launches into his breakfast order.
A friendly conversation with a stranger ensues, and suddenly the “new” Market Lunch feels very much like the old.
–Tom Sietsema (Oct. 17, 2007)