I was pretty apprehensive to move to what I’d always though of as the “other side of the Mall.” We’ve lived in Dupont and Cleveland Park, and I’ve had my eye on Mount Pleasant for a while, but when Z told me we’d be at Navy Yard, my heart sank. People keep telling me this is the next “up and coming” part of DC. I’ve yet to be totally sold on that. Although living just blocks from the ballpark makes for an easy commute to work on the Hill and an ideal summer for Z, the biggest baseball fan I’ve ever met, there’s not much to do here … or so I thought. The truth is, there’s some really great stuff in Southeast and Southwest DC that I’d neglected because they were “all the way out there.” (Having to change Metro lines just once on a Sunday, when half the trains are single-tracking due to construction that never seems to end, can be a deal breaker in this town. At least it was until Capital Bikeshare showed up …) Now, I’m seeing all the things I missed out on and learning to love this part of the city in spite of myself.
One of those things is the Main Avenue Fish Market. Just a short bike ride away from our apartment, I find myself stopping by the Wharf a lot searching for something for Sunday dinner. Unfortunately, they do sell some fish here that are essentially a middle finger to the environment, but with a little information you can walk away with some delicious, reasonably-priced, sustainable goods from the Chesapeake and environs.
Running continuously since the 1800′s, this little strip off of Maine Ave. hosts the oldest fish market in the country. Vendors sell all manner of fish, shellfish, and crustaceans from barges bobbing in the Potomac. You’re not coming here for the looks, but the people are nice — especially if you know what you want, talk fast and flash a smile — and the fish is fresh. It’s open seven days a week, but really gets going on the weekends when the stalls are overflowing with fish and a produce stand sets up shop too.
If you’re not in the mood to cook, there’s lots of prepared food — think boiled shrimp, crab, and all kinds of seafood fried any which way you want. Take it home or just walk it over to the nice little deck and watch the boats go by.
Not surprisingly, one of the main draws is blue crab, a local favorite and the Maryland State Crustacean. These guys were going a mile-a-minute, out-performing the shutter speed on my camera …
My last visit was on Father’s Day, and judging from the bushels being carried off, there’s no question as to what District dads were dining on that evening. One of these days I’ll go in on a bushel with some friends. Until then we’ll have to make do with our annual summer pilgrimage out to our favorite crab place (more on that soon).
The catch of the day was Atlantic croaker, a “best choice” according to Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. They had a bunch already prepared, but I wanted them head and tail on, which makes for easy roasting (and ensures you get delicious fish cheeks). When I asked if he could scale them, he shook his head, “Whole fish, sweetheart.” Point taken. A little on the smaller side, I picked up two.
Although I’d love to tell you I took it home and took care of them myself, scaling fish is messy business not suited for apartment kitchens. So, I took them to the cleaning shack, where for $1.40 they made quick work of it and I was on my way.
As predicted, the fish took very little doctoring and cooked in a flash — a perfect meal for a lazy Sunday. We seasoned them with what we had on hand plus some fresh cilantro I picked up in the way home and a dip with fish sauce and lime.
These days, fish night ensures another captive audience as well …
Main Avenue Fish Market
1100 Maine Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024
DC like a local (Part I): Things to do and see
DC like a local (Part II): District Eats
Welcoming Fall with a Backyard Oyster Roast
Maine Ave Fish Market (Hungry Travels)
New Kid in Town: Main Ave Fish Market (DCist)
Catch of the Day at Main Avenue Fish Market (Where the Beltway Ends)