It was with great anticipation that Dan Sauer and Wenonah Madison, of Aquinnah, finally opened the doors of 7a Foods in West Tisbury last week.
The opening was met with lots of support and appetites. Excited murmurings, “this place is awesome,” and “this is my second time here today!” filled the air as patrons enjoyed breakfast and lunch sandwiches on the benches outside and summed up their first 7a experience to one another.
Inside, guests huddled by the pastry counter, sneaking a peek into the kitchen. Friends and well-wishers tried to catch a glimpse of the chef, Mr. Sauer, who was quite busy, making nearly 500 sandwiches on his first day.
7a, which refers to the planting zone that includes Martha’s Vineyard, has one simple mission: to provide wholesomely good “farm to takeout” food and unique products while showing the Island community that they need not travel far to get it. The business is located where the former Back Alley’s was, next door to Alley’s General Store.
Working together, for this husband and wife team, comes naturally to Mr. Sauer and Ms. Madison. “We work well together,” Ms. Madison says. They met when Mr. Sauer worked garde manger (a specific station in a kitchen) and Ms. Madison was a waitress at La Cucina, which used to be in Edgartown under acclaimed chef Marco Canora.
After La Cucina, the couple moved to New York City where Ms. Madison designed clothes for Target and Mr. Sauer helped Chef Canora open Tom Colicchio’s restaurant, Craft, and later Mr. Canora’s own restaurant, Hearth.
In 2005, Mr. Sauer and Ms. Madison returned to her hometown, Aquinnah, where they planned on staying for one season while Mr. Sauer took over the kitchen at the Outermost Inn. Six years, two kids, and their own business later, Mr. Sauer and Ms. Madison are happily at home on the Vineyard.
The idea for 7a Foods was born during Mr. Sauer’s time as chef at the Outermost Inn. He relied heavily on the garden and played an active role in planting, maintaining, and harvesting it. “He really grew to love that process, taking a seed and eventually creating a dish around it,” Ms. Madison says of her husband’s craft.
In 2010, Ms. Madison and Mr. Sauer officially launched 7a Foods, starting with a small farm in Aquinnah, a table at the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market, “and a lot of dedicated local eaters,” Ms. Madison says, then laughs.
After months of remodeling and renovating Back Alley’s, Ms. Madison and Mr. Sauer excitedly opened the 7a Foods market.
Ms. Madison has tirelessly scoured local markets and producers in search of gems that would otherwise be unknown on the Vineyard, like the goat’s milk caramels from Big Picture Farm in Vermont. The products they carry “couldn’t just be local,” she tells me, “they have to be delicious too.” Check out the beautifully packaged Mast Brothers Chocolate, from a small handcrafted chocolate factory based out of Brooklyn, N.Y. The founder, Rick Mast, was an employee of Mr. Sauer’s for a brief time at the Outermost Inn and 7a is proud to carry their decadent bars in maple pecan, grand cru, and more.
Even the drink cooler was stocked with care. There’s Coke, Sprite, and orange soda for the traditionalists, but you’ll also find coconut water, kombucha, and Spindrift Soda, a company that uses real fruit such as blackberries and grapefruit.
For breakfast, 7a Foods serves made-to-order breakfast sandwiches on an English muffin or homemade biscuit with choice of cheese, onion, spinach, tomato, and breakfast meat, including homemade sausage. The bagel and lox comes with cream cheese, red onion, and a delicious caper-lemon relish, for $7.95.
For lunch, just deciding on a sandwich is a feat in itself. Check out Marco’s Meatballs, a recipe inspired by Mr. Sauer’s mentor, made with local meat and ricotta topped with Parmesan cheese served on a sub roll, for $8.95. Or try one of Mr. Sauer’s veggie sandwiches with marinated eggplant, roasted red peppers, feta cheese and pesto, served on Ciabatta, for $6.95.
The prepared food case will continue to carry to-go goods and is currently stocked with North Tabor greens with radishes and a mustard vinaigrette as well as 7a’s clear broth chowder — $5.95 for a pint, $8.95 for a quart.
Ms. Madison and Mr. Sauer are extremely excited about their coffee selection, brought to you by Stumptown Roasters in New York City, where, other than 7a, is the nearest you’ll find another cup of this coffee.
In the pastry case you’ll find some of baker Scott Booth’s masterpieces. Don’t miss the oatmeal raisin cookies or blueberry muffins, which Ms. Madison calls, “incredibly good.”
Though they are up and running, 7a is just getting started. In July, customers will be able to treat themselves to homemade ice cream served by the scoop. Mr. Sauer and Ms. Madison are currently working on serving to-go dinners, which might include a whole roasted chicken from the Good Farm with garlicky spinach and potatoes.
7a Foods is open daily from 7 am to 5 pm (kitchen closes at 3 pm). Visit them at the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market on Saturdays from 9 am to 12 noon where you can pick up some shitake mushrooms or podding radishes, and get Mr. Sauer’s expert advice on how to prepare them. Ms. Madison is a social media whiz, she’ll keep you up to date on all things 7a on Facebook, Twitter, and on their blog at 7afoods.com. Or, call 508-693-4636.