First came the smoke, now comes the toast.
Last weekend, a hungry crowd greeted the first weekend for Sandwiches by ShakeDown, with people gathering eagerly around the newest food stand in Harrisburg’s Broad Street Market.
Many long-time fans came to see—and, more importantly, taste—the latest concept by Chris and Sarah Heilig, who ran the much-loved ShakeDown BBQ in Grantville for eight years.
What would these long-time purveyors of smoked meats put between two slices of bread?
“I’ve been looking forward to this ever since I heard they were opening in the market,” said customer Maggie Ricketts, before tackling the Ranch Hand, a staggering roast turkey, bacon and cheddar concoction and one of the stand’s five signature sandwiches.
As he geared up on Thursday morning for his second long weekend at the market, Chris Heilig said that he’s been pleasantly surprised by the reaction so far.
“It was a good, positive response,” he said, as he sliced fragrant blocks of provolone cheese and chopped up heads of lettuce. “Everyone who got our food seemed to enjoy it.”
Most customers last saw the Heiligs last year in their then-usual place, behind the counter of ShakeDown, which had become an out-of-the-way pilgrimage for fans of smoked brisket, pork and chicken.
Chris said that they tried to make the business work, but the remote location was difficult and running a small barbecue restaurant was taxing.
Meanwhile, they fell in love with the Broad Street Market, spending more and more time there. They were impressed by the ever-larger crowds and by the market’s renaissance over the past few years.
“We wanted to have a more centralized location than in Grantville,” Chris said. “The revitalization of the market was very attractive to us.”
So, they jumped at the opportunity after learning that a stand would be available—the former Mel’s BBQ in the stone building. But they wouldn’t be serving barbecue there. They wanted to do something simpler and more manageable, opting for sandwiches.
“We came in here and thought—what does the market need?” said Chris, adding that he welcomed a break after years spent in front of his enormous, 1,000-gallon smoker.
The couple, he said, ate a lot of sandwiches outside of work, so they set to create an interesting, yet simple menu. They tested concepts on friends and family before coming up with five signatures sandwiches, including two carryovers from ShakeDown BBQ—the Ranch Hand and the VooDoo Chicken Salad.
For those who don’t eat meat, the stand also offers a vegetarian sandwich and a couple of salad choices.
“We like to eat healthier, too,” Sarah said.
Despite the couple’s emergence in the Broad Street Market, ShakeDown fans may still be regretting the loss of their favorite barbecue joint. For those folks, Chris is urging patience.
Shakedown is partnering with Zeroday Brewing Co. to open a restaurant next year at the new Susquehanna Union Green, a mixed-used town center development beginning to rise in Susquehanna Township. Chris wouldn’t state exactly what he plans there, but he left a tease.
“Let’s just say that we’re not done with wood-fired cooking and smoking,” he said.
He added that they’re considering hauling out the old mobile smoker for a future 3rd in the Burg or two once the weather warms up. In the meantime, they’re settling into their new lives in the Broad Street Market, where several friends already have stands.
“It’s so cool to be part of something like this,” Chris said, looking around the market, as his fellow vendors began to prepare for the long weekend ahead, with more big crowds to feed. “The energy here is more our speed.”
Sandwiches by ShakeDown is located in the stone building of the Broad Street Market in Harrisburg. For more information, visit their Facebook page.