The historic Maine Avenue Fish Market has been the District’s go-to for cooked and raw fish for decades, but things are changing as development at the Wharf continues across the boardwalk and brings new restaurants, residents, and places to play.
Today, two businesses man the upgraded stalls at the Maine Avenue Fish Market: Wharf Captain White’s Seafood City, which has been around for 45 years, and Jessie Taylor Seafood, a mainstay since 1939. The long-running Virgo Fish Market recently closed.
Maine Avenue Fish Market represents America’s oldest, continuously run open-air retail seafood market and it’s been around since the 19th century. The Southwest anchor is a local source for scallops, oysters, swordfish, blue crabs, red snapper, clam chowder, and so much more.
Navigating the stalls — and the large crowds on the weekends — can be treacherous waters for newcomers, so here’s a guide to the must-try dishes at the Maine Avenue Fish Market.
Jessie Taylor Seafood: Customers can’t get enough of the crab cakes at Jessie’s Cooked Seafood. The crab cakes are seasoned with Old Bay and fly like hotcakes — scarf them down without any condiments, because they’re perfectly good on their own. Also worth trying: the shrimp tacos, which comes with two pieces of breaded shrimp, lettuce, tomatoes and tartar sauce all wrapped in a flour tortilla.
People flock to Jessie’s Cooked Seafood for all things crab, especially the steamed crabs, which are served with or without Old Bay seasoning, and the crab legs. There’s also the Louisiana cajun crawfish, which comes precooked in J.O. Crab Seasoning, a blend of custom spices and salt from J.O. Spice Company in Baltimore. The guys at Jessie Taylor will heat up the crawfish for customers who buy at least a half a pound. The crawfish is delicious on its own or with cocktail sauce on the side.
Captain White’s Seafood City: The Chincoteague Salt oysters and the Chesapeake Bay oysters are a monster hit at the eatery’s two raw bar stalls, which serve them with lemon slices. The Virginia clams from Hog Neck Bay, Virginia taste like they jumped from the ocean to the plate.
At the fish bar, customers come for the lobster shrimp but they also can’t get enough of the large shrimp, which vendors steam on site for 10 minutes and sprinkle with Old Bay. Get there on a weekday or very early over the weekend, because during peak times, customers often spend at least 45 minutes waiting in line.