- The nearest stop is at the New York Avenue Metro Station (Red line)
- Bring some cash as not all shops will take credit cards.
- Bring a shopping bag or two as not all shops will give you bags.
- Don’t wear a nice dress and tall leather boots unless you enjoy the cat calls of meat market workers and a lot of uncomfortable staring. (i.e. Dress casual)
- Do bring a friend and a sense of adventure.
- Don’t be intimidated by the unusual surroundings, but do be aware and do ask questions. People are helpful.
In my search for Italian flat beans for my paella party, I found this interesting DC market just off of Florida Avenue near Gallaudet University. It’s a run down looking in several square blocks of buildings that look quite derelict, but there’s a bustle of people working and a few shoppers who obviously know what they’re doing, so if you’re looking for a special ingredient, this is a great place to start.
I took the Metro to the New York Avenue station and walked to Florida crossing at 4th. This side of Florida isn’t pretty and I didn’t know the area, so I started to chat with a man crossing the street. He’s traveling to Sierra Leon next month and was shopping for a cheap suitcase. I ran into him three times today and he explained that as in his country, you have to haggle here. He went to each shop selling suitcases, looked at them, asked the price, then told them he’d be back. He’ll find the best/cheapest one, return, and haggle some more before making his purchase. We split just after a doorway with steam flowing out of it and a flat of bean sprouts.
Many of these shops are wholesale shops, so you’ll see flats of boxes and vats of soy sauce, but there are many small markets that are happy to sell to individuals. On 5th there’s a great Halal grocer who carries large quantities to spices and several varieties of tahini. Walk around to 4th and you’ll find a tiny Mexican grocer with cactus leaves and fresh produce. At the end of Morse, there’s a huge rectangular complex with a handful of shops including one that specializes in African foods and another that carries South American.
I could see by the curious stares and occasional whistles that a single white female is not a normal occurrence here, so next time I’ll bring a friend. At first, I felt very conspicuous and slightly nervous. On 5th, I almost turned around and left instead of looping around to see the entire market, but looking back, that was silly. Everyone was kind and helpful.
I passed an interesting snack truck walking down Morse and took a picture. A man smiled and explained, “that’s a hood truck. It goes into the hood and brings cheap food to people.”
People are very friendly and willing to tell you about ingredients that you may not know. In the African shop they sell dried fish and the largest yams I’ve ever seen. A woman and her husband were buying them by the arm full. In the South American shop, they have smoked goat which I’ve now heard is delicious. Next time I’ll ask how to eat it.
There are a couple of places to eat other than the Subway on the corner. Near the African shop on Morse, there’s a tiny Korean restaurant that also sells tamales. It seems strange until you go inside and see the Korean man cooking and the Spanish-speaking woman managing the register. The food is good and the portions are huge. I ordered the beef bulgoki, but its wasn’t very spicy. If you like spicy Korean, tell them. On the opposite end of Morse near the Subway is A. Litteri, an Italian food store with a deli selling sub sandwiches and other goodies to eat.Florida Market 500 Neal Pl NE, Washington, DC 20002
A. Litteri is well-known with a reputation for having just about everything you could need for Italian cooking and it nearly does. It doesn’t; however, carry produce, so my Italian flat beans were still elusive, but for wines, pastas, cookies, and other Italian specialties, this is definitely the place to go. The staff is very friendly and helpful, there’s a freezer with prepared foods that look delicious, and the deli can make a 6′ sub with all sorts of Italian meats including sopresatta.
Washington, DC 20002 (202) 544-0184 http://www.litteris.com