Being a native Washingtonian, I have been coming down to Maine Avenue as far back as memory allows. For the most part as a child, the trips were to eat in the sit-down restaurants with my parents. My germ-phobic mother would never consider actually buying the products in the fish market and taking it home to "smell up the house." But being more adventuresome than either parent, I started frequenting the Fish Market when I was on my own.
Once again on Saturday, the hot weather and the chance to visit with Best Friend, another child of the Potomac, thoughts of “hummmm, got crabs?” came to mind. Although a fixture in the Baltimore/Annapolis/Eastern Shore area, Washington has a surprising lack of crab joints in which to indulge. So off Hubby and I go to Maine Avenue. I tend to frequent Jess Taylor’s stand, as I remember that it is still owned by the actual family of watermen. (Pruitt’s has been sold, I have been told, to a Korean business man with no saltwater in his veins.)
The price of crabs this year in sit-down crab joints is high, so if you don’t want to pay $75 a dozen, go to Maine Avenue. On Saturday in the first of June, I paid $35 per dozen. Maine Avenue should always be attacked by no fewer than two people; one person to stand in line and procure the food, and another in the car circling the block. There is a decided lack of park spots and traffic control is aggressively enforced by DC Blue Finest. Do not abandon your car, or your crab order could be rather expensive when factoring in the parking fine. Have The Driver drop you off and then back off further down the street to await The Shopper’s mobile phone call. Other than a few picnic tables and the curb on which to sit, take your crabs somewhere else to enjoy.
I like Jesse Taylor’s – they have a two part system. Go to the stand to the right, pick out your victims, I mean your crabs, and a runner will then take them to the stand on the left. If you don’t want to wait for the crabs to steam, they have pre-cooked crabs available on at the left-hand stand. All other fish, shell fish, corn on the cob, lobsters and so on, are also available.
Be forewarned: It is organized chaos on the weekends. If the sharp smells of the fish trade bother you, then trade places with The Driver and let him stand in line. It is noisy, filled with people and yes, it smells like a dock. Which it is. But, you will be able to visit with people you have never met before, as everyone is happy to wait for crabs.
Jess Taylor’s folks box up your crabs and place the box in a plastic bag so your car is pretty safe from crab juice. Tip: bring a cooler to further minimize the smell of crabs in your car.
Remember to tip your hard working Crab Guy. These people work HARD and a cold beer at the end of the day is welcome.
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