Dish of the Week: The Market Lunch’s fried green tomato Benedict

Media Credit: Sabrina Godin | Photographer

The Market Lunch's fried green tomato eggs Benedict combines a brunch favorite with a Southern classic.

The Market Lunch has been a staple food joint inside the historic Eastern Market since 1978, serving customers fresh seafood and homestyle meals like omelets and sandwiches.

The hall-style building of the Eastern Market, located at 225 Seventh St. SE near the Eastern Market Metro stop, is filled with vendors selling goods like flowers, vegetables, fruit, cheese and meat. Every weekend, an outside market lines the perimeter of the building with merchants selling everything from art and clothes to specialty drinks and foods.

The Market Lunch sits near the back of the venue with chefs shuffling near the cashier to shout the next order and customers retrieving their cafeteria-style meals at the end of the counter. Three massive chalkboards hang above the cashier displaying an extensive breakfast and lunch menu. Breakfast is served from 7:30 to 11 a.m. Tuesday through Friday, and lunch continues until 2:30 p.m.

While waiting in a lengthy line at 9 a.m. – opening time on Sunday mornings – I skimmed through breakfast options like ham and cheese omelets ($10.95) served with ground yellow grits or potatoes and toast; bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches on house-made rolls ($5.95); or short stacks of pancakes ($6.25).

The stand also serves a long list of specialty items featuring regional classics from New England – like Johnny cakes, crab cakes and seafood – and from the South – like grits, fried chicken and barbecue sandwiches. The day I visited, the specials menu featured blueberry Johnny cakes – cornmeal-based pancakes that originated in Rhode Island – in stacks of two ($6.25) or three ($7.95).

Customers can also choose from fresh seafood to add to breakfast platters. The “fish breakfast” platters are served with two eggs, ground yellow grits or potatoes and toast with seafood options like rockfish, fresh fried local oysters ($13.95) and whiting fish ($11.95).

I struggled to choose a dish from the expansive menu, but I eventually found one meal that reminded me of my childhood growing up in the South: the fried green tomato Benedict ($12.95). The plate includes underripe tomatoes that are battered, fried and salted. I was intrigued by the combination of fried green tomatoes and eggs Benedict, a dish usually paired with Canadian bacon or meat.

The fried green tomato Benedict comes with two pieces of a house-made yeast roll topped with the fried green tomato, over-easy eggs and hollandaise sauce. You can choose between a side of grits – which can be made buttery, extra cheesy or spicy with jalapeño – or potatoes on the side.

The underripe tomato was bitter enough to balance out the rich sauce and buttery roll. The Benedict is built on two halves of a buttery toasted roll made daily in the market’s kitchen, and the rich, runny yolk from the eggs along with the lemony hollandaise sauce soaks into each bite.

If you’re not a fan of eggs Benedict, The Market Lunch incorporates fried green tomatoes in several other meals. You can order a fried green tomato sandwich ($6.95) during lunch that can be served as a side for a platter or a la carte ($3.75), or in a BLT with egg and avocado ($7.50).

If you visit during lunch, choose from several seafood platters like soft shell crab ($15.95) or crab cake ($16.95) platters that each come with two sides. The Market Lunch serves fresh sandwiches like the North Carolina BBQ ($7.25) and fresh cheeseburgers ($6.95) that each come with two sides including fries, fresh vegetables and baked beans.

Next time you’re in the Eastern Market, stop by The Market Lunch for a bite in between shopping. The lunch counter has mastered the recipes of a few old-time favorites like the fried green tomato and incorporates its own twist on classic breakfast and lunch dishes.

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