Eastern Market DC
Spending an afternoon at a market is one of my favorite ways to explore a new city. I highly recommend visiting Eastern Market if you are in the Washington, DC area. For some of my other market and festival recommendations, check out my posts on the Iowa City Farmer’s Market, Madison Farmer’s Market, Chicago’s Division Street Festival or the Buenos Aires San Telmo Festival. Scroll to the bottom for essential details on Eastern Market DC.
“No pictures,” the artist immediately snapped.
“Okay!” I cheerily replied, wondering whether he thought I would steal his ideas and recreate his masterpieces. While my voice revealed, “I come in peace,” I immediately shifted attitudes and began scanning each wooden board to see if I truly could mimic his style. Sure, I concluded. But, I’m not one for overly complicated DIY projects anyways.
Relatively new to the city, our spirits were high and ready for some artisan exploration. We had immediately turned the corner out of the landmark metro stop to enter Eastern Market DC, a bulky camera dangling from my shoulder. Since I had taken the initial steps to approach the artist’s stand, attracted to the red, white and blue painted wood, I imagined what our new friend had been thinking.
The last standing public market in the city, Eastern Market was originally built in the late 19th century to attract residents and urbanize the area. It is one of the few weekend staples that bring together locals and tourists alike, all ready for a taste of cultures from around the world.
I returned to a state of admiration and kept on walking, camera back in hand, ready to snap.
As Aviva reminisced about how much the neighborhood had changed since she was last here, I focused my lens on the hot apple cider, realizing I was no longer mourning summer, and finally appreciating the current state of the seasons.
I trailed behind them, watching the lighting on each vegetable and eyeing the rainbow of cabbage and cauliflower. I’m grateful for my company’s patience and accomodating slow movement. We find our first set of intriguing jewelry. Flat, texturized shapes with dainty gold bands, miniature elephants and metal leaves ready to wrap a small finger. My camera no longer exists and instead, I begin to try on each piece that speaks to me. Without looking up, I hear, “everything is 50% off the marked price”. I glance at Anuj who innately understands my smile.
Slipping the cold metal onto each of my fingers, I have trouble deciding. I land on a bent arrow, enamored with its misdirection. Satisfied, I admire the addition to my collection as I grab hold of my heavy friend again.
“Are you from Israel?” I ask after eavesdropping the artists conversation with her previous customer, feeling familiar with the Middle Eastern accent.
“Turkish,” she shoots a glare with that declaration, and begins to proselytize about how American movies ruin culture and people with accents must hustle harder to earn cash in this city.
Smile and nod.
“Your jewelry is beautiful,” attempting to repair my glaring mistake, before slowly moving to the next stand. We meander through the different artists, chuckling at hand-made witty cards, political cufflinks, and wooden cutting boards.
“Where are you from?” The woodmaker pointedly asks.
“Well, they live here,” I respond, unsure of what to disclose about my current state of nonresidence.
“But, I asked you – where are you from?” He prods, flashing teeth that tell stories of his past.
“I’m here visiting, but I don’t actually have a home right now,” I explain, attempting not to overshare.
“Welcome to the club.” And shakes my hand.
Unsure of what to say next, we thank him and walk away. Our silence revealing hunger growls, we head inside, ready for our first snack.
Anuj and I had been to Eastern Market DC before. We arrived a bit before 6:00p last time, realizing our poor timing as we watched the last standing exhibitors pack up. The indoor market had still been open, so after a quick stroll and a few pictures, we walked out with a warm chicken empanada. This was the reason I knew I had to return.
We raved to Aviva about these pockets of delicious. But like most things, one must experience for his or herself to become a believer. As we each devoured our buttery South American treat, puff pastry crumbs covering our scarves, I saw the look of affirmation. As her eyes widened, she didn’t even need words to express how she felt about this part of our extended meal. I myself was inebriated with the sweet and savory combination I was experiencing.
We turned to exit through the back to head to an extension of the outdoor market, when we noticed a pair of smiley blonde pigtails playing with the door.
“FINGERS! FINGERS! FINGERS! We screamed in unison, experiencing similar flashbacks from our time in the classroom. Running out unscathed, our heart beats return to normal.
After a few minutes of slammed finger stories, the Flea Market peaks our interest. I find a woman selling smooth jade bracelets. A famous Thai smile begins gifting me recommendations for my impending time in the region. Impressed by the diversity of the items and sellers throughout the day, this is the type of interaction that reminds you that all it takes is warm words and a friendly gesture to connect with a stranger.
The next twenty minutes find us admiring vintage jewelry, antique signs and international souvenirs, finally stopping for the asking price on an old metal globe.Our expectations shattered by the steep number, we head to pick up a slow drip coffee, the only item that we can afford. We’re reminded that the East gets the West coast’s hand-me-downs as we discuss the many available slow drips in San Francisco versus the nation’s capitol.
As we remove our scarves exiting the premises, I’m reminded why markets are my first point of contact with a new place: they are storytellers for their cities.
Want to go?
Location: 225 7th Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
How to get there: Take the orange, silver or blue line metro to the Eastern Market stop
Price: Free to enter
Other info: Indoors is open during the week with some produce, meat, fish and cheese. Outdoors open on weekends with artisan vendors and farm fresh produce. Outdoor market closes up around 4ish. Flea market on Sundays.
What’s your go-to way to explore a new city?
Latest posts by Emily Moyer (see all)
- Off the Beaten Path: Eating Through El Pitilall - August 17, 2015
- Go Local: Taco Tour with Vallarta Eats - August 10, 2015
- Going Deeper: Advanced Adventurer with Roctopus Dive in Koh Tao - June 1, 2015