Co-owner Jeremy Black held open the door of The Federal House Bar & Grille on Thanksgiving, welcoming guests in from the cold.
“Happy to be here,” one man told him.
“Make yourself at home,” Black replied.
In the freezing cold on Thursday afternoon, people filed into the Market Space spot where a buffet of Thanksgiving staples — plus the fixings — was provided.
It’s a normal day at The Federal House, in the sense that staff are prepping and cooking food for hundreds. It’s an abnormal day because no one is paying for the food.
Their purpose was to provide a free meal to the Annapolis community — particularly folks who have no where else to go or nothing to eat.
“It’s a tough season not to have a place to go,” Black said.
He and his wife Heather, who own the restaurant with other partners, want to make the Thanksgiving feast an annual tradition and hopefully grow it to involve other downtown businesses. Black envisions it expanding to include a winter supply drive, so people can come in from the cold and get the food and clothing they need to stay warm all in one place.
This first year drew about 150 people who ate their meals in the restaurant or took the food to go, Black said, and he hopes to draw even more in the future.
“For me that was super successful,” he said. “I’m very proud of the people that volunteered their time today.”
The restaurant prepared more than 300 pounds of food for the occasion. That included 16 turkeys, eight hams, green bean casserole, stuffing, cranberry relish, corn pudding, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, rolls, corn bread and apple pie. Black said half the food they cooked was donated by Sysco Eastern Maryland.
“Nobody is going to be hungry when they leave here,” Chef Cherron Robinson said.
Robinson, who grew up on Clay Street, said he shared the word in that community about the Thanksgiving Day feast and promoted it online. He worked until 10 p.m. Wednesday prepping and came back at 5:30 a.m. Thursday to keep working. He said he’s been smiling all morning, happy to provide for his city.
“The city needs it,” he said.
Robinson wasn’t alone in the kitchen as other employees joined him in cooking the feast Thanksgiving morning.
“This is my home away from home, this is it right here,” server Traci Wilson said.
Cook Doreen Hedd said they’re showing the unfortunate the fortunate.
“It reminds them that somebody does care,” she said.
Darius Green of Annapolis said his sister told him about the event, and he decided to come check it out. He brought his 5-year-old nephew Chaz, who was about as tall as the buffet line was high.
While the restaurant hopes the event will become a tradition for the Annapolis community, Jeremy and Heather Black know it will become a tradition for their family.
Black said he wants to teach his children that there are people in need in this community, not just in cities, and teach them to give their time and volunteer. Both of his step-daughters Hayven Applefeld, 11, and Taylor Applefeld, 14, were serving food at the buffet line.