Hill Eateries Give Back to Market

Posted May 16, 2007 at 4:45pm

The long-standing Capitol Hill restaurant Mr. Henry’s once had a secret ingredient for its chili: freshly ground beef from Eastern Market. But when a fire wiped out Canales Quality Meats — and the rest of the market’s South Hall — Mr. Henry’s owner Alvin Ross was out of luck.

On Monday, Mr. Henry’s and several other Capitol Hill restaurants will give back to their neighborhood market by donating some of their proceeds to the Capitol Hill Community Foundation, which already has raised more than $230,000 for the owners and employees who once worked in South Hall.

“In many instances these vendors have seen if not one, sometimes even two generations grow up,” said Diane Scott, a Capitol Hill resident who organized Dining Out for Eastern Market. “When something happens to a member of the family, you take care of them.”

Ross was the first to sign up. His restaurant will donate 50 percent of the profits from dinner on Monday. Other participating restaurants include Finn macCool’s, Trattoria Alberto, Cafe Berlin, Sizzling Express and Tunnicliff’s Tavern. All will give anywhere from 25 percent to 100 percent of their profits from Monday night’s dinner to the CHCF (more information can be found at www.diningoutforeasternmarket.com).

“One thing about this is supposedly this is for the employees, which I’m all for,” Ross said. “A lot of the owners are insured … but these poor employees, they’ve got nothing.”

Capitol Hill residents have concocted various ways to raise money in the weeks since Eastern Market erupted into flames: T-shirts, bar crawls, yoga classes — even lemonade stands. Most of the money has gone to the foundation, which will commit all donations to helping the market’s displaced vendors and employees. Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) has promised to dig up the millions of dollars needed to rebuild the market, which was seriously damaged in an April 30 fire.

The CHCF hasn’t yet decided how to divvy up the donations — at this point, money has been spent only on scales to replace the ones ruined in the fire. But vendors also are looking forward to a temporary structure that will sit on the Hine Junior High School yard and provide a space for all the businesses that operated in the South Hall. City officials hope to get it up and running — with plumbing, electric and refrigeration — in a few months. It’s expected to cost anywhere from $1 million to $1.5 million.

In the meantime, the Canales family has started selling some of their market meat at their restaurant, Tortilla Cafe. And other vendors have taken to the streets on the weekends, selling their meats and candy alongside the outdoor merchants. But residents are determined to get the old market up and running again, Scott said.

“Not only is it a building, but also the vendors really have became like a family to all of us on the Hill,” she said. “It’s where we see all our neighbors and socialize.”