Thursday, June 29, 2006

Touring the Market: Unlocking the Possibilities

This is really just a slightly reworked (and shortened) version of the handout from the market tour.

About the Market
The Capital City Market is DC's own wholesale food district. One of the things that makes this area so unique is that it is almost exclusively dedicated to the wholesale business of selling products for restaurants & small food stores. This area goes by two names, the Capital City Market, & the Florida Market (more common today). Many of the buildings in the market were constructed in the 1920s, but they were not always part of the market.
Before, the area was used by Sidney Hechinger for his building deconstruction and materials sales business. When the Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis Interurban railroad closed in the late 1920s, Hechinger moved his business there, which is the site today of the Hechinger Mall. At one point, some of the buildings served as barracks for US soldiers.
Some parts of the market are more recently constructed (such as over by Kang's & Wang's, which were built in 1986). Many of these establishments are family owned & primarily serve small businesses in the city, although the convenience and critical mass of businesses attracts people from Virginia and Maryland as well. Though DC had other market areas like this one, few are in existence today (Eastern Market being one).
With the construction of the New York Avenue metro station, and the huge increase in developer interest in this area, many people have begun to raise questions about the market's future. One proposal mentioned in the Washington Post (see A Developer Peddles A New Vision for An Old Market) came from a man (Mr. Choi) who owns some land (and a business -Kang's) in the market. His vision for the area involves the building of a YMCA, an amphitheater, housing, a medical clinic and other things in the area (a movie theater and a bowling alley have also been mentioned) . He has stated that he does not wish to displace the existing vendors, but rather to incorporate the market into his overall plan. It is, however, unclear where the businesses (many of which are small family run affairs) would go during the more that five years between demolition, and completion of construction. Other visions for the area have focused on highlighting the existing market & creating development that builds on the unique strengths off the area (the introduction of restaurants & a small culinary school). Recently one of the older buildings here, the U.S. Beef building (located at 4th & Morse), was demolished. My Choi plans to erect an 11 story office building on the site.

Stops on the Tour
-This is a large market, so we haven't included every vendor/shop on the list below. We've tried to assemble ashort list of place that sell to the public & and are likely to appeal to retail customers. After you have visited the places below you'll have a good grounding in the area & be ready to explore a bit more on your own.

* Bathrooms are available in the DC Farmers Market building*

Young's Deli 325 Morse St. NE 202-543-1417 M-Sat 5:30am-4pm
(Korean & America food)

Sam Wang's 300 block of Morse St. NE 202-544-5163 M-Sat 6am-3pm
A market selling a variety of fresh vegetables & fruits (including many more "exotic" items)

U.S. Beef 300 block of Morse St. NE 202-543-8320 M-Sat-6am-4pm
A variety of unusual cuts of meat are available. Also sells chicken, fish & pickled vegetables.

Kang's Farm 350 Morse St. NE 202-546-1911 M-Sat 5:30am-4pm
The closest the market comes to a general grocery store. Kang's offers a variety of fruits & vegetables, but you can also get small or large quantities of spices or staples such as brown rice. Kang's also boasts the fish room which offers a variety of seafood, including live crab. Unfortunately, because most of the market is not open on Sundays, Kang's does not get fresh shipments of fish on Saturdays. Customers seeking to purchase fish/seafood are advised to do so earlier in the week, rather than on a Saturday.

Obeng International 300 block of Morse St. NE 202-544-8255 M-Sat 7am-4pm
West African food galore. Here you can purchase a variety of spices and staples, or you might prefer to visit the butcher counter, where meats are custom cut.

Best Equipment 413 Morse St NE. 202-544-2525 M-F 8:30-4pm Sat 8:30-3:30
Anything and everything for the commercial kitchen (& at prices you won't believe)

Caribbean Crescent 1280 5th Street NE 202-547-3101 M-F 6:30-4:30 Sat 7am-5pm
Despite the name this place sells mostly Indian & Middle Eastern foods. You can find a variety of lentils, curries, and some flat bread to go with them.

Photo by Ken Firestone (used with permission all rights reserved)
Mexican Fruit 1309 5th Street NE 202-431-1644 M-Sat 6am-5pm
A bit like an outdoor fruit stand. Bins of fresh fruits & vegetables await you outside this storefront.

DC Farmers Market T-TH 7am-5:30pm, F & Sat 7am-6:30pm, Sun 7am-2pm
This is an indoor market packed with vendors selling mostly food, but there are a few who deal in sunglasses, cds, or other goods. The various vendors offer all kinds of meats, fowl, fish & fruits & vegetables. The meat selections extend far beyond what you'll find at Safeway of Giant, and you will not find grocery store prices here.

All African
A Pan-African food selection. They butcher smoked goat on the premises.

Friends at the Market (flea market)
Featuring its own dj, this market offers all the fun of a typical swap meet. You never know what you'll find. A variety of old tools (both electric & manual) can be found here.

Everything Italian is at your disposal. An excellent deli counter completes this little shop that holds much more than you would believe from the outside. Wines, cheeses, sausages, pastas & more are on offer. Litteri's also makes some of the best sandwiches in town. Pre-packaged (but fresh) sandwiches are available by the register.
Also see:
The Insider's Market -Washington Post
Where to Shop -Washington Post (a map of the market)
More on the Florida Market -Rebuilding Place
Meat Deals -Rebuilding Place
Aargh on the Florida Market -Rebuilding Place
Bib Bim Bab at Young's Deli -Tour of Florida Market Area as Blog Meet-up? Rebuilding Place
Sausage Fest -Daily Candy (on Litteri's)
Market Time -A Capital Life

Don't miss this proposed legislation that threatens the market:
Proposed Bill Before the Council


YL said...

Thanks for the post, Inked -- this is exactly what I was hoping to learn. I spent 2 hours in the area searching for the rumored Italian deli, and was too embarrassed to ask anyone.

jaime said...

I enjoyed this past tour (thank you!) and one of these days will get the pics off my camera and post them. Looking forward to next month.

BeyondDC said...


My photo backlog currently stands at about 400... ha

npm said...

I'm pretty sure the picture you labeled Sam Wang's is actually the produce room of Kang's Farm. (The world wide web: enabling picky corrections since 1994.)

inked said...

Good catch. Thought the text is from the hand-out, the photos are not, so that was a quickie mistake on my part & not one commited to paper.

Rob said...

Great post. There's an article in the new Hill Rag: