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Restaurant Supplier in DC area that allows the public?

I'm tired of paying high prices for cheap gizmos at Sur La Table, and those linens stores. Are there any restaurant supply places open to plain old cooks like me?

I know there's a place on Eisenhower Avenue in Alexandria, but they require you to be a professional in order to even get in the door.

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  1. Not in DC, but in Glen Burnie there is a place if you're ever in the area - I think it's called Wagner & Sons next the the Anne Arundel County Farm Store on 8th Avenue between B&A Blvd and Rt. 2

    1. Three Brothers Restaurant Supply is what your looking for - professional grade cooking supplies at low prices (it's also a good place for ingredients). You might even combine the trip with a visit to El Tapatio just 2 blocks down the street. Shellfish soup and goat tacos are standouts.


      Three Brothers International, Inc.
      4811 Kenilworth Avenue, Suite 2
      Hyattsville, MD 20781
      (301) 779-2146

      1. Best Supply (413 Morse NE) in the Florida Avenue Market is terrific. 202-544-2525
        Pots, dishes, glassware, cleaning supplies, etc. Great prices.
        Keeps wholesale hours but worth the trip.
        While you're there, explore the Market. Lots of vendors willing to deal with the public. There are other shops selling dry goods, Asian foods, produce, fish, poultry, meat.
        Litteri's Italian Market is at 513 Morse, NE - terrific prices on olive oil, pasta, wine, cheese.
        DC Farmers'Market building has stalls selling a wide variety of things including African and Caribbean products, halal meats.

        This is DC's historic food wholesale market. It is being threatened by a development plan pushed by Mayor Williams and approved by the city council. The plan is being opposed by merchants, preservationists and many neighborhood groups.

        1. Is there parking near the wholesale market? I am hesitant to drive into the city if I don't know I can park- but I'd love to go!

          1 Reply
          1. re: dcish

            Most of the stores have spaces right in front of them. There are a lot of big trucks earlier in the morning as it is a real wholesale market but fewer as the day goes on.
            I've been shopping the Market since the 70s and love it. Especially when I entertain and want to buy in bulk, but I make regular small purchases there as well. We're all terrified of losing it to development.
            Many of the big suppliers have moved out of DC. Some of the city flower wholesalers are nearby. You generally do need a license to shop the flower market however.

            The market is safe although it may be a bit overwhelming at first. Figure out how to get there - mapquest or something - it's literally within sight of the US Capitol Building and near Union Station.

          2. You'll find a parking space, don't worry. There's always room, and if you're not familiar with the Market, just relax and don't mind getting lost or confused - you can't go very far, and everything is within sight. Nice people, too.

            Like the poster said, do NOT miss Litteri's - by far a true Italian market, just like the one my Nonno owned about a hundred years ago. Check out their cheese and cold cuts in the back, and the guys who work there - real characters who love giving tasting samples to people who aren't familiar with the goods.

            You are going to get what you want, I'll bet, but, boy, are you going to have fun!!!!

            1. "Can't even get in the door..."? Well, these places mostly want to keep the "I want just one and is it organic?" shoppers at bay, so you'll need a business card, tax resale number, something like that to get into Restaurant Depot but it's well worth a shot.

              You'll be in the company of teensy/medium restaurants and mom-and-pop carryouts, everybody and their dog has a home-kitchen catering business from which they can come up with enough ID to get a membership card, and in my case my tax resale number isn't even for a food-related business (I sell stuff online) - as long as you don't need a lot of "whiny grocery store shopper" hand-holding, and pay cash or credit card or BUSINESS check, they're pleasant and helpful even to a $20-$100/visit shopper like myself. http://www.restaurantdepot.com/ 4700 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria (look for the Federal Express sign). Decent selection of equipment, all the food a person could want (those cryovac-sealed cuts of meat keep a LONG time if you need them to) - I get buckets of decent BBQ, deli ham and cheese (gotta slice it yourself), pitas, spices, some nice breads and rolls, 50-lb sacks of onions and flour, huge bottles of Clorox Clean-Up, wonderful big rolls of plastic wrap, boxes of foil sheets, and on and on. And when you go would you please STAY THE HECK OUT OF MY HANDICAPPED PARKING SPOT unless you've got a handicapped tagh (nobody else does, sad to say.) Oh, yeah: there's a changing but surprisingly diverse selection of Indian spices and staples.

              Or you could buy your equipment (no food to speak of here) at Superior Products - You can order online http://www.superprod.com/ or go to the store (very near Restaurant Depot) 5701 General Washington Drive Alexandria, VA 22312 (703) 333-5878 - very nice people indeed.

              1. Well, I guess that's just it. Not everyone has a tax resale number. I own a business, too, but I don't sell any tangible goods (web design), so I can't just pull one of them out of my ear. But thanks for the 411 on Superior Products.

                (And I'll promise to stay the heck out of your handicapped spot.)

                1 Reply
                1. re: davefaris

                  So give Depot a call - I'll bet a business card will do it - can't hurt to ask.

                  According to the website, "We are not open to the public. All you need to become a member is your Certificate of Authority (business license), or proof that you represent a non-profit organization." Didn't say a food-related business license.

                2. There used to be a place near Lee Highway and Shreve Road but I haven't heard about them in years. I suspect they're no longer there. I think the Eastern Market place is probably your best bet.

                  I have a Restaurant Depot card and go there every couple of months, but about the only thing I ever buy there is real charcoal. It's half the price of Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, and it's where the little rotisserie chicken places buy it.

                  Their hardware section is kind of sparse, mostly oriented toward large servings and storage rather than cooking. And the stuff is pretty expensive, by home kitchen standards. If you want a pot big enough to cook yourself and your walker in, you can find it there. If you want a 20 quart stock pot, you'll find a better selection (including some of better than "restaurant quality") at the linen or gourmet cooking stores.

                  Mostly what people buy there are big cans and bags of non-perishable foods, or large quantities of meat. I got about 20 pounds of ribs there once when I had a rib party, pretty good quality, and a bit cheaper than regular grocery store price, but not as cheap as grocery store on-sale price. But I don't need 5 gallong cans of olive oil or tomatoes.

                  If you want to take an exploratory trip, they'll let you in (but you can't buy) without a card. And as someone mentioned, it's not all that hard to get a card. Everybody has a business. <g> But I can tell you that it's not a good place for someone with limited mobility to shop. They don't have grocery store shopping carts, they have flatbed push-it-yourself carts that are hard to maneuver, but work fine for stacking cartons.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: MikeR

                    I definitely disagree about RD's prices for cooking equipment (pots and pans, utensils, etc.) They have good quality, professional grade (NSF label) items and prices much cheaper than any of the yuppie stuff you'll find in the linen stores. I recently re-outfitted my kitchen with stainless three ply made in China cookware (Winco "brand" there, but same stuff sold elsewhere under other brand names such as Update) for incredibly cheap prices (<25 for small pots with covers, < 40 for bigger pots and saute pans). The stuff is good. They also carry Volrath SS pans made in the USA for good prices--e.g. $40/60 for "gator grip" fry pans. My daughter works for Crate and Barrel and even with her employee prices she bought this because C&B can't touch this stuff for quality/value. BTW these items are much better quality than anything sold by Best Equipment, although I have gotten many kitchen things there too over the years.

                    1. re: MikeR

                      Agree/disagree, MikeR...

                      I'm relieved that I'm not the only person with mobility issues to go there, but I find that (for me at least) it's not that hard to get someone to "would you please shoot me over one of those things, thank you?" ... maybe it's the sight of a guy with a cane holding onto his car with a deathgrip that makes people kind enough to comply. They call 'em "U-boats" and I can at least manage to get through the place hanging onto one pretty hard. But amplifying my earlier (bemused) comment about the several handicap-reserved spaces, I asked as nicely as may be to the manager once: "I know I'm a long way from being your biggest customer, but is there anything you can do about people without tags taking up the handicapped spots?" His friendly but sad reply: "We try, but they just pay no attention - we call the police sometimes, but the last time we did, the cop was standing there in the middle of writing the ticket when someone else without a tag pulled right into the space." [*sigh*]

                      As to the hardware supply being "sparse," I will agree ... much better selection and somewhat better prices at Superior Products closeby. I bought a nice 10-inch Teflon skillet as a Christmas gift (they had a million of em and they'll outlast my lifetime for sure) but not a 10" lid in sight, nor a 12" lid for me. But their knife selection is good, and [folks, this applies to glassware from all restaurant-supply places] the glassware is practically unbreakable (are you sick of "disintegrating glasses" from consumer stores?)

                      As for the cookware being more expensive by home kitchen standards ... "home kitchen standards" are IMO miserable. Half the public puts up with paper-thin metal items ("but why does my food buuuuuurnnn?", they whine) and the other half of the public buys overpriced "prettyware" like Calphalon, when the stuff people use who cook daily and constantly for a living is heavy material, generously sized (and standard-sized so it often stacks, take THAT, Tupperware!) and selected with absolutely no regard to how pretty it is. It wears for a lifetime and cooks like a dream.

                      As to the foods, I agree that it's pretty hard to use a case of anything, or a 50-pound bag of anything (well, except onions) but #10 cans of many items are perfectly usable and you can almost always buy those "by the each," and a block of mozzarella or blue cheese freezes in quarters pretty well - the spices in 1-pound dispensers get used (you'll pay little more for a pound of paprika than you'd pay for 2oz at Giant, and if you don't use it all before it's too tired to use, you'll still have saved a bundle) - likewise, a $15 roll of 18"-wide plastic wrap 2000" in length, compare that to the piddlin' $3.50 rolls at the grocery ... the choice seems clear.

                      Anyway, I think you were effective at encouraging people to visit ("Everybody has a business. <g>") as long as they recognize that they won't get their hand held, but they will get some bargains if they shop selectively. I find that even when I need a little extra attention ("Would you please reach one of those over here past that impassable pallet of masa" or "who do I see to price this pack of meat?") I get friendly help, maybe 'cause I know how to talk to a fellow working stiff like myself.

                      1. re: wayne keyser

                        They do also sell onesies of items such as butter (I bought much Pluegra made by Keller), cottage cheese (Friendship 4 lb, but it keeps well), those spices, stock bases, and many others.

                        Obviously RD won't substitute for the grocery store, but it is possible to get home-sized quantities of many useful things. And as you pointed out, even if you have to throw some away at the end you are still often better off than buying at the grocery.

                        I recently bought a gallon jug (3 lb.) of cinnamon sticks for $7.95. Take that, Spice Islands. Bam! What the heck--use 'em to stir coffee.

                    2. Apparently there have been annual discussions on this topic since this thread... so for anyone else who lands Google here first, let me summarize:

                      Best Equipment & Supplies is the agreed-upon favorite actually in DC. They keep wholesale hours but are open Saturdays. Good prices, if a little cramped. Link with map below.

                      Others mentioned here:
                      Restaurant Depot - This place is clean, has wide isles, and a large inventory, but they definitely restrict access. Alexandria.
                      Three Brothers International - Not sure what it was like in 2006, but it's now mostly a bulk Italian food store - they don't really sell tools or equipment. Hyattsville.

                      Other threads discussing this issue (though no other places are mentioned):
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/488820 - 2008
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/427289 - 2007
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/426787 - 2007

                      Best Equipment Corp
                      413 Morse St NE, Washington, DC 20002

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: ledroitpork

                        Restaurant Depot: all you need is a business license (of almost any kind)

                        Superior Products has all the equipment (small and large) you'll ever need, and they don't care who comes in the door. Frying pans, tableware, pots, all sturdy enough to run a tank over ... my idea of heaven.

                          1. re: superkatie

                            Waaaaay back behind Marlo furniture in the business-park area off 395

                            5701 General Washington Drive
                            Alexandria, VA 22312
                            Phone: (703) 333-5878


                            1. re: wayne keyser

                              http://www.fortessa.com/scripts/silve... is the link for Fortessa's outlet store in Sterling. Fortessa is one of the largest distributors in North America-this is their ONLY outlet store. This is a HUGE find. Among other items they are the North America importer and distributor of Schott Zweisel, IWC, Rosenthal and many others. This is where you will find the unusual plates that Maestro, Komi and others use for their spectacular presentations. Superb prices on stainless, crystal, etc.

                              1. re: Joe H

                                I went to Fortessa today. WOW. The outlet store had some fascinating china pieces (it made me think of some of the items used on Top Chef). Then, the clearance room. They have an exchange program for some hotel restaurants (Ritz Carleton for one) - when the hotel buys new dishes, Fortessa takes their old stock and sells them at $1/dish. I bought some Villeroy and Boch and some Rosental. I also bought some flat ware at $1/pound. Nice spoons. This is definitely a place to visit. I also picked up some ruby red bud vases (50 cents each) that I will use for little flower bouquets at Christmas for neighbors.

                      2. Though this thread has lain dormant for some five months now, I will add my own reply because this is the first link that comes up when googling "restaurant supply washington dc".

                        I want to assure any googlers like myself out there that Best Equipment Corp at 413 Morse St NE is an awesome place! I read about it here in this thread, and despite the many positive recommendations, was skeptical. Shame on me. I got all the little (and large) odds and ends that I've been wanted in my kitchen at an unbelievably low price. I'll never shop at that national chain for berthing, washing, and other housewares, whose name I shall not mention, ever again. Go to Best; you will not be disappointed.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: saintsfan342000

                          Do you know the hours of operation? Or a phone number where the store can be reached?

                            1. re: ChristinaMason

                              Best Restaurant Supply is open until 3:30pm, for those who may be wondering. I found their stock a bit lacking, esp. in terms of quality cookware or attractive servingware and glasses, but that's just me.

                        2. Restaurant Depot will allow you to get a free membership if you have spending authority for a non-profit organization (e.g. church, association, charity) I used to work for an association. I walked in with my business card and copy of the tax exemption certificate and signed up. No questions.