Exotic Foods of Eastern Market on Capital Hill

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I moved to Capital Hill in 1990. On Sundays I would stroll down to Eastern Market to wander through the artist stalls and buy some vegetables. From time to time, I would feast on pancakes at outdoor tables that were always crowded. It was the thing to do in the neighborhood. The crowds would annoy me but I felt a part of it. It was my market.

The building itself was built 1873 and frankly, it looked like it. It was old and dingy. Some of the vendors looked like they had been there that long as well. It was dark. I didn’t buy much food there although when I did the people were always friendly and helpful. I mainly stuck to the outside with the fresh vegetables, the honey, the fruit.


Down at one end of the building people set up tables and sold their wares. Jewelry, vintage clothes, handmade scarves and hats, paintings, drawings, old postcards. It was fun to browse and get to know the artists hawking their wares. They were interesting, colorful people who obviously loved what they did.

Although I only lived on the Hill for about a year, I went back often to look for unique gifts and wander the neighborhood.

In 2007 there was a fire in the building and the market closed. It upset me because I thought for sure it meant the end of something very special. To my surprise, they planned to rebuild and restore. It opened again better than ever two years later.

This past weekend my son and I went to have a look and maybe do some Christmas shopping.  The artist stalls had quadrupled spilling into a parking lot across the street. It was more commercial and attracted people from all over the area. It wasn’t the intimate experience I remember. But I still met some artists who were happy to talk about their work.


What struck me the most was the building. I went inside just to show my son what was in there not thinking we would linger. He told me to slow down. He wanted to look at everything. The building was light and airy and clean and welcoming. The stalls were filled with interesting exotic foods hard to find in grocery stores. We ended up spending our money on our stomachs instead of gifts.

We bought lamb chops, ground lamb, crab ravioli, lobster ravioli and an Appalachian Cheese we had never heard of. The fish stall had rainbow trout, octopus, and whole fish. We saw long pig’s feet and short pig’s feet, pig’s ears, pig’s skin, veal shanks, and buffalo. We could have taken home duck, rabbit, or venison. It was a chef’s delight.

I did buy a couple of gifts for people but that would not be a reason to go back. Not for us, anyway.  We could go back for the food.

Eastern Market is at 225 7th Street SE, Washington, DC. Closed Mondays.



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