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Jacques Kelly: Fells Point's Broadway Market is back in business

The first returning tenants are back in business at Fells Point’s reopened Broadway Market. The full inventory of new merchants, stall keepers and restaurants promised for the pair of market structures remains some months away. But the initial pair of small, traditional vendors arrived as their fans and customers called out: “Welcome back.”

Vikki Powers, who operates a compact diner, started serving breakfasts and lunches Tuesday. Across an aisle, Sophia Para had her homemade sauerkraut and Polish sausage ready Friday morning. All morning long her food purveyors dropped off packages and exchanged greetings, all in Polish.

The building is now marked by a nicely crafted, old-fashioned — bare light bulbs — sign that proclaims “Broadway Market” against a dark background. The sign reminded me more than a little of the old Cloverland Dairy Prevas Brothers billboard that once beckoned market customers — and a similar sign “Recreation Pier” on the Sagamore Pendry hotel just down the street.

The ancient brick market house at the corner of Broadway and Fleet street has emerged thoroughly cleaned, refreshed and much more attractively lighted. Its designers opened its whitewashed brick arches and polished its masonry floors.

Relax — it’s not over-restored. Maybe 150 years of market clutter have been carted away, including some outdated 1970s interior treatments from many mayoral administrations ago.

The market’s return was a chance to get back to an essential Baltimore experience. There are tables and chairs to consider the view across the way to the surviving rialto of intrepid South Broadway shops. An old business neighbor remains — Super Linens — which Southeast Baltimore people will forever call Goldenberg’s.

Sophia Para, born Zofia in Zakopane, Poland, has been in the market for 33 years. Not as many Polish-speaking customers walk to her shop as they once did. The surrounding neighborhood has spent the last 50 years in a gradual change from Old World European to the 21st-century urban mix of one-bedroom apartments and avocado toast on the menu at local restaurants.

Sophia’s Place European Deli is where your memory of another time in Baltimore gets refreshed. Para, the owner, bought the old Broadway Market stall that once belonged to Castle Farms. Castle Farms, from Frederick County, was known for its butter, buttermilk (five cents a paper cup), various consistencies of cottage cheese and butterfat-rich ice cream.

She does not replicate Castle Farm; she offers her cabbage rolls, sausages, pierogies and other Polish delicacies.

“My sauerkraut is my mother’s version,” said Para, giving a few culinary clues that involve caraway seeds and onions.

Vikki Powers took the Fleet Street corner spot for her Fell’s Point Deli. She explained that her counter cafe once belonged to her aunt, Theresa, and she intends keep up the urban diner menu. By design, she keeps this an unpretentious place for a stack of pancakes, eggs or a bowl of chicken noodle soup.

Workers at another Broadway Market mainstay, Sal's Seafood, were getting that stall ready for opening later this month.

A construction crew remained busy at the southern pavilion of the pair of structures that make up the Broadway Market complex. The three veteran tenants are opening first while a new crop of market merchants will begin fitting out their designated locations.

And that south pavilion, a wooden structure that opens on to the Fells Point Plaza (800 block of S. Broadway) promises to inject a lively food hall presence. It’s an open-plan culinary/retail formula that has clicked at Remington’s R. House and the Mount Vernon Marketplace on Park Avenue. The Cross Street Market is also in the final stages of its food hall reconfiguration. The old city markets, where our grandmothers bought their buckwheat flour and scrapple, are now in the craft beer and burrata business.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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