At this point it probably comes at no surprise that I love to cook. Whether I’m trying something new or scrounging through the pantry for what we have on hand, I love bringing things together to make something gratifying — or that’s the plan, at least. If not, thankfully we get 3 chances a day to eat something delicious!
It’s still up in the air where in the District we’ll settle for the time being. But, between the great fish market, and the subject of this post, Eastern Market, I’m increasingly convinced that Capitol Hill is the place to be for those who love to tinker around in the kitchen.
The market itself has a permanent, indoor portion, which is open Tuesday through Friday 7am-7pm, Saturdays 7am-6pm and Sunday 9am-5pm. On the weekends, vendors selling produce, herbs and flowers, furniture, assorted knickknacks, and local art set up shop all around the market. They’ve just started hosting an outdoor market on Tuesdays as well from 3pm-7pm, which has a nice selection but isn’t nearly as crowded.
One of my favorite indoor vendors is Canales’ Quality Meats. This charming, family-run operation specializes in beef and pork, with a great selection of cuts and quite a few deli meats sliced to order. Their domestic prosciutto is a favorite pizza topping at our house. Also, check out their a huge selection of pork, lamb, chicken and rabbit sausages. There’s a lot to choose from, including some authentic Portuguese sausages, but my recommendation is to go for the ones they make on site.
I’m always game for getting friends together to fire up the grill, and their house-made habanero tequila chicken sausages are my new favorite excuse. They manage to be red hot without drowning out the flavor of the meat. At a recent grill out, a friend was passed one of these on accident. His ears turned bright red and he immediately broke out into a sweat. Consider yourself warned. These aren’t for the heat-averse.
Other good bets include Southern Maryland Seafood, a nice substitute if you don’t have the time to get to the Maine Avenue Fish Market. Capitol Hill Poultry has some great chicken. The Redskins-themed Market Poultry, sells rather puzzling “turkey chops,” and has a decent selection of duck, turkey, and wild game.
Shopping for produce here when the outdoor market isn’t on will really do a number on your wallet but if you’re looking for specialty items, this is one of the only places in the area. Eastern Market Grocery carries bocarones and a great selection of olives, including bright green, buttery Castelvetranos that keep winding up in my bag despite my best efforts to avoid impulse buys. I haven’t tried their pasta yet, but it’s on my list.
Another one of my favorites is Capitol Hill Produce, which specializes in Asian groceries, but is a one-stop-shop stop for anything from rice noodles to San Marzano tomatoes to tamarind to tahini. They also make their own kimchi, which I’m sure would pair extraordinarily with the bulgogi on sale next door (which I suspect they have a hand in as well).
But, if you’re feeling peckish — and you get here before 2:30 or 3pm — you can grab lunch at Market Lunch. The lines can be long during peak hours, but they’ve got something for everyone, from seafood to blueberry pancakes.
Outdoors, stop by and see Grandma. She’ll be in her chair, overseeing her stand and dealing with money matters. It’s no frills, but there’s some good deals to be had. She’ll call you “babe,” and I’d recommend you be on your best behavior with some “yes ma’am” and “thank you ma’am.” She sells bags of assorted produce for a steal. Pick one, get creative and you’ve got dinner.
And, Eastern Market isn’t without controvercy. Walking around the neighborhood, you’ll see “Save the Flea Market” and “Right Size Hine” slogans on lawns, in windows and on car bumpers. A proposed zoning and development project at the now closed Hine Elementary, whose parking lot forms a huge portion of the weekend market, has become a contentious issue. Opponents argue it’ll drastically reduce the outdoor space allotted to vendors, and consequently the number of stalls that can set up shop here. In addition, may argue that the current proposed project exceeds the scale that was originally promised Eastern Market residents when the school was originally closed. Proponents counter that it will bring business and a greater sense of continuity to the area. Personally, I’m not convinced. But, when it comes to things I like, I’m generally fiercely resistant to change. So, I leave it to you to decide.
225 7th St. SE, Washington, DC, 20003
Closed Monday. Outdoor markets on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday.
I’m sad to report the loss of our resident cutie pie, Magnolia — lover of kale and probably the biggest fan of market day, especially if fish were involved. We’d set the bags down and she’d feign apathy until she saw her chance — a flash of black scampering across counters and tabletops, performing shocking feats of agility to investigate its contents and make away with what she could. Market days are already not quite the same.
DC like a local (Part I): Things to do and see
DC like a local (Part II): District Eats
Washington DC: 10 Favorite Bites at Eastern Market (Serious Eats)
The Foods of Eastern Market (Washington DC Food Tours)
Eastern Market and Barracks Row Neighborhood Guide (Washington Post)