A couple weekends ago, I spent 45 minutes waiting in a line that would never move for a sandwich I would never eat.
The sandwich in question — a Wagyu beef cheesesteak — sounded like worthwhile endeavor. But it was probably not the cheesesteak that inspired most of the hundreds of people who choose to stand outside and brave the day’s unseasonably cold temperatures in a queue spanning the entire block-long glass and brick facade of Union Market. The more likely draw was the man who was ostensibly preparing the sandwich, Kwame Onwuachi, a competitor of the most recent season of Bravo’s Top Chef and, that weekend, the host of a pop-up called Philly Wing Fry, staged so as to promote his soon-to-open, much-anticipated restaurant Shaw Bijou. Evidently and much to my surprise, mine is not the only household that still watches Top Chef.
I really enjoy eating sandwiches. Even more, I enjoy eating sandwiches with other people. Over the past year or so, my sandwich-eating and -writing activity has been significantly slowed by other, far more important life priorities. I’m out of the loop, and I’ve missed the eating and the writing. I resolved earlier this year to make time to pick it back up. The Wagyu cheesesteak, with its buzzy celeb chef angle, seemed like a suitable opportunity to have a nice lunch, write an easy blog post, get some retweets, and feel like I was back on top of things.
Nonetheless, as I stood in place nearly an hour after the posted open time, with the chef still glad-handing other would-be customers, and with a single meal yet to be served, I started to ask myself what I was doing there. I didn’t start this blog to become a food scenester. I have no desire to snap a selfie with a minor reality TV star. I do not aspire to conquer Eater’s Heat Map. I’ve never been to Rose’s Luxury. That’s not what this blog is about.
The day took a marked turn for the better when I jumped ship and joined my family inside.
Some friends of ours recently took a trip through Italy, and I got to hear all about it. I introduced my wife to the glory of kolaches. We picked up a baguette and a bottle of Cotes du Rhone for our dinner that night***. I drank a truly brilliant oatmeal stout, and after everything else, I got my sandwich: a Red Apron Butcher Beef & Cheddar, which is quietly becoming one of my favorite sandwiches in the city.
The highlight, though, was watching my ten-month-old son drool over his mom’s meatball sub. While I don’t begrudge the folks who stuck around to eat at the celebrity chef’s pop-up, that is exactly what this blog is about.
*** Union Market is, admittedly, a bright, shiny monument for the yuppie takeover of Northeast DC. I hate myself for how much I love it.