It’s official: Bostonians love to eat — and shop for food.
The proof? Visitors gobbled up 30,000 warm cider doughnuts from the Red Apple Farm stall in its first five days at Boston Public Market.
It’s just one of several eye-popping figures Liz Morningstar, the market’s CEO, shared with me over lunch last week at the region’s first year-round indoor food market.
Here’s another one: Since the Boston Public Market opened July 30, over 500,000 visitors have checked it out, which means it will probably blow past its projection of 1 million people a year.
Morningstar also tells me that sales are strong, generating more than $3 million in the first three months. The original estimate: $8 million annually. Already, three vendors plan to expand.
The concept of an indoor food market by the MBTA’s Haymarket Station isn’t exactly new. In fact, some may ask: Don’t we already have one and isn’t it called Quincy Market?
When you show up at the new market, housed in a state-owned building, you finally get it. The place is not a food court, nor is it one giant farm stand.
There are 38 vendors selling locally sourced products, from lettuce to honey to beer. A third sell whole foods such as produce or meats, another third offer specialty items, and the rest sell a combination of both.
They are a mix of family-owned businesses and first-time entrepreneurs. The average age of an owner is 41, and about 38 percent of the market’s businesses are women-owned. The smallest vendor (American Stonecraft) occupies 60 square feet, while the biggest (Red’s Best) takes up 800 square feet.
And so far, it’s not a tourist trap. This European-style food emporium is drawing a decidedly local crowd, with about 90 percent of its customers from Massachusetts.
But one of the biggest unknowns was what would happen to Haymarket, a collection of outdoor fruit and vegetable stands that set up outside the T station every Friday and Saturday. Turns out the two markets are able to feed off of each other.
“It’s an awesome testament to what it means to have a district,” said Morningstar, 40, over freshly made orecchiette from Nella Pasta as we sat at one of the tables scattered around the market.
This was, technically, our second course. I couldn’t resist trying a cider doughnut, as the smell of fried dough greets everyone at the main entrance. Or maybe it was our third course. We also sampled creamy mozzarella from Wolf Meadow Farm, a cheese so fresh that it’s made with milk that was in a cow the day before.
Before running Boston Public Market, which has been set up as a nonprofit, Morningstar was a political director for Deval Patrick. It was his administration that made the final push for the market and provided $4 million in funding. Morningstar had to raise another $10 million for the design and build-out.
Her world of food and politics has mixed well. Patrick has been by for lunch and to shop, Morningstar notes, as have Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren. Markey liked the doughnuts.
“I came upon him last week standing anonymously, eating a bag of cider doughnuts,” Morningstar recalled. “He was really funny about it.”
Lunch Break is an occasional feature by Globe staffers eager to run up their expense accounts in pursuit of a good meal and a chance to sit down with Boston’s movers and shakers.