Offering a veritable rainbow of fresh and live seafood, the Maine Avenue Fish Market in Southwest D.C. is the epitome of authenticity. From the lulling sound of the river to the catches of barracuda, octopus and still-kicking crab, the Wharf, as regulars call it, offers the necessary ingredients for any seafood dish or unique getaway.
Darlene G. Perry, a self-proclaimed regular who drives 20 minutes from Upper Marlboro, Md., to get fresh fish at the Wharf vowed, “This is where we get all our food for picnics, lunch and cook-outs. It’s the best spot for seafood because it’s so fresh.”
The market at 1100 Maine Ave. is also a popular place for quick cooked meals, selling steamed, spiced shrimp at the raw bar as well as “famous” crab balls and Manhattan clam chowder at Jimmy’s Grill. These are accompanied by an abundance of non-fish items like watermelon and steamed corn on the cob.
Ginna Lindberg from Georgetown said she always comes to Jimmy’s for crab cakes. On this particular trip she brought her parents, visiting from Sweden, who both chuckled and said the weather at the Wharf reminds them of home.
Businessmen who work in the area are also regular customers at the market, stopping by on their lunch breaks. Christine Simpson and Manny Majno ventured to the raw bar at the suggestion of fellow co-workers and both deemed it a “good local spot.”
Tucked between the river’s edge and a freeway overpass, the market doesn’t have an ideal location, but it has resided there for more than 200 years and has remained even as the city was built up around it.
The owner of the Captain White Seafood City stall, Mark White, said the market is so historic that “George Washington himself used to shop here back when the boats came in with fish every morning.”
These days the boats have become a permanent fixture on the Wharf. Though the stalls still float on water and fresh fish is sold directly to customers on the landing above, fishing boats from Chesapeake Bay and the Carolina coasts are now responsible for bringing in the catch.
Clarence Goodman has worked at a stand on the Wharf since 1971. He calls the pier a landmark and said that people choose to shop at the Wharf over convenience stores because, “This isn’t a Safeway, Shopping Warehouse or Giant Supermarket. Our food is strictly from the coast and shipped right here.”
For anyone who may have dismissed D.C. as purely a commuter city, housing only college students, businessmen and politicians, the fish market is one locale that shatters those images. The lively commerce between customers and fisherman is proof that local community life exists in the city; you just have to search – or in this case fish – for it.