Maine Ave. Waterfront - The Wharf
- Lori S Mar 1, 2002 11:57 AM
Was wondering who has had a quick, cheap, carry-out lunch at any of the seafood vendors here?
My main concern is getting there in my lunch hour - what's the fastest, safest or most direct way to walk from the nearest Metro stations, which I gather are at L'Enfant Plaza or Smithsonian?
Lori, I don't know about lunch or prepared food but this is, by far, the best place in the entire D. C. area to buy seafood. In fact even the public fish market in Jessup can't even begin to compare.
For example, lump Carolina crab meat is $22.00 a pound while the same is $36 at Fresh Fields and $38 at Sutton Place. Across the board, shrimp is priced 15 to 25% lower and, occasionally, you'll find FRESH Carolina shrimp available. This is the ONLY place in the D. C. area that carries fresh shrimp at any time. And one of the few that sell head-on shrimp.
For fresh fish-of an incredible variety-you can buy it and then have it gutted, scaled, fileted with the head and frame back to make a stock with. From crawfish to conch there is simply nowhere in the area as good for variety, freshness and price.
I probably drive from Reston down here at least once or twice a month just to shop.
Funny though. I actually haven't eaten anything there since I was a kid, a long, long time ago!
re: Joe H.
While I've never eaten there either, I used to shop for seafood at The Wharf often when I lived in Rosslyn. The handful of "barges" always offered a very wide selection of seafood, including many types of whole fish, softshell crabs, shrimp, crawfish, etc. They are also happy to accomodate any particular requests as Joe mentioned. And I have to agree, the prices are always significantly lower than some of the suburban retailers (but don't get me started on the rip-offs at Sutton Place Gourmet!). Unfortunately, I often came away with the impression that the quality and freshness of the "imported" seafood, like tuna and swordfish, was inferior to some of the better seafood retailers in the area, especially Cannon's Seafood in Georgetown. What does everybody else think?
I also have a question about the wholesale market in Jessup. Has anyone ever been there? Is it worth going? Are they open Saturday morning? Especially for a good butcher? I had a heck of a time finding a fresh ham in town (finally had to special order it from the Amish Market in Germantown. 20lbs @ $2.50/lb.). I'd like a resource for fresh veal, especially kidneys, sweetbreads, calve's feet, tongue, and lamb shoulder, etc.
Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
The wholesale market in Jessup has only one retail facility and it is very small. It's inventory is probably a third of any of the individual "barges" at Maine Avenue. I went there looking for fresh shrimp which are almost impossible to find in D. C. After driving from Reston (a long, long way for fresh shrimp or fresh anything else!) I was so disappointed that I actually laughed at my foolishnish for doing it. I went straight to Maine Avenue and found Carolina shrimp about 25-34 count with their heads on and fresh. But I should note it is unusual to even find these at Maine Ave. Prices? Maine Avenue was cheaper. The problem is that the wholesalers in Jessup that have the real variety and wholesale pricing do not make themselves available to the general public. On the other hand I've been at Maine Avenue and frequently noted refrigerated trucks that seem to have driven directly there from the eastern shore, Carolina, etc.
In all my years of going there I have only bought fresh fish (widest variety in entire Metro area), shrimp (usually frozen, six or seven different sizes), scallops (yes, they have fresh diver scallops), clams, mussels, oysters, crabs, crabmeat (worth it for this alone, $22.00 for lump, sometimes from Crisfield along with backfin and claw) and a few odds and ends. I have never bought geoducks (which they have), lobster, tails or meat, crawfish (which they have), dungeness crab, scallops in shell and other sea "things" which are unusual for this area. But for that which is "native" or relatively nearby they are the best you will find here. Try a four pound rockfish and a three pound grouper and then taking them to their gutting shack where they will do it while you wait. There are probably eight or ten stations for doing this. When you get the filets back along with the heads and their frame you have as fresh of filets as you will find and the basics for an incredible stock. Cannon is excellent of course but more expensive. I also do not feel that it has anywhere near the variety. The Cannon in Great Falls is actually frighteningly expensive by comparison.
Having said all this I totally agree with your specific comment about tuna. I do a filet mignon of tuna and if I go to Maine Avenue for it they just look at me with a blank stare. Cannon in Great Falls knows exactly what I'm looking for and they cut it to order. At Maine Avenue it is prepacked and portioned and just not what I'm looking for. I think you're right on with your comments about it and swordfish. But like some of the other examples above these are the exceptions.
Overall there is a real downside to Maine Avenue: it gets really, seriously crowded on Saturdays with as many as 500 or 600 people vying for position at the counters of the barges.
Used to go over there when I was working at the Navy Yard a few years ago. Used to get an awesome fish sandwich: A filet about a foot long between two slices of bread. Take a roll or extra bread if you go. You could also get shrimp and and oysters, as I recall.
Can't remember the nearest metro--I don't believe there's anything really close. But it's worth the effort for the food.