The Maine Avenue Fish Market is a sight to behold, but you’ll certainly smell it before you see it.
You’re also likely to hear it before you see it, as this fixture in the southwest quadrant of Washington, D.C is rarely without a jostling crowd. The market has been in operation since 1805, making it the oldest continuously operating open-air fish market in the United States. (The distinction of second-oldest belongs to the Fulton Fish Market in New York City, which opened 17 years later.)
The majority of the seafood sellers here have been shilling shellfish along the waterfront for decades, if not for generations. In the early days, the seafood at the Maine Avenue Fish Market was served directly from fishing boats alongside the pier. More recently, the goods are trucked in and visitors are attended to from docked barges.
Over the years, the wares on display have expanded to suit Washingtonians’ ever-more cosmopolitan tastes. Local favorites are now displayed alongside Chinese octopus and Chilean sea bass. If it comes from the sea, it’s likely available at one of the brightly colored stands lining the dock. However, most visitors are still lining up for Chesapeake Bay classics: blue crabs, oysters, and shrimp.
The Maine Avenue Fish Market is famously full-service. Most vendors will cook the seafood to order, tossing customers’ favored crabs into massive vats of boiling water. You can also elect to have your seafood seasoned. And in true Chesapeake Bay fashion, “seasoned” means one thing and one thing only: a heavy-handed dose of the ubiquitous Old Bay.
Know Before You Go
The Maine Avenue Fish Market is located under the I-395 overpass and open seven days a week. The largest selection of fish is displayed over the weekend.