Eastern Market: Almost Back to Normal

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As reported in May, a tragic fire burned down Washington's historic Eastern Market hall, leaving Mr. Bowers, the cheese man; Jose Canales, the butcher; and the entire vendor gang homeless by day. Alternatives were limited since meat-slicing and dairy-refrigerating didn't translate well on folding tables outside. Plus, the sadness of it all was too overwhelming for many to bounce back.

But it's been five months since that horrible 2:30 a.m. wake-up call, when neighbors watched their second home go down in flames. Since then, the community and entire city has fund-raised enough to open a temporary hall across the street, which opened a month ago and is starting to feel more and more Eastern Markety inside.

The fishy smell from Southern Maryland Seafood is permeating the hallway again. Union Meat is busy grilling half-smokes. Blue Iris Flowers has deep autumn reds and oranges in bouquets of mums and chrysanthemums. And, as of last Saturday, Tom Glasgow, the familiar face behind Market Lunch, the dineresque spot for grubby breakfast and lunch, finally reopened (the last vendor to move back). His brand-new chalkboard menus had all the old favorites: "blue-bucks" (blueberry and buckwheat pancakes) and the brick sandwich (egg, potato, meat, and cheese). Even Market Lunch's long communal table was back, which Glasgow himself salvaged from the aftermath.

Inside, facilities are generally cleaner and fresher, but with less aged brick and moldy charm. The mood feels chipper—especially with a recent delivery of pumpkin and cider. But memories of the fire haven't disappeared. Thank-you letters to supporters are posted on Union Meat's glass beef case, signed by owner Bill Glasgow. Market Poultry dons a framed photo of Mayor Adrian Fenty at the temporary hall's opening day last month. Across the street, construction is clearly underway at the historic hall, which might take a couple years.

Sure feels good to say welcome back, EM. We missed ya. Any Capitol Hill neighbors out there reading? Perhaps Shannon and Jason of our previous post?

About the author: Erin Zimmer, Serious Eats's Washington, D.C., correspondent, is a just-graduated Georgetown gal following her nose about town as Washingtonian magazine's Dining intern and Best Bites blogger. She got her start as the Hoya campus paper's food columnist, and since entering "real person-hood" has ached for her dining hall's omelet station.

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