Never mind the museums lining the National Mall or the halls of power in and around the Capitol. An authentic taste of Washington, D.C., says native daughter Twanda Williams, requires a trip to the Maine Avenue Fish Market on the city’s Southwest waterfront.
“This is the hottest spot in D.C., trust me,” says 47-year-old Williams.
On a breezy Sunday morning in August, customers are lined up – sometimes 20 deep – at floating barges from which fishmongers hand up baskets of oysters, clams, Maryland blue crabs, red snapper, catfish and more. Others wait at Jimmy’s Grill for fish tacos, crab cakes and fried clams. Jimmy’s bakers also turn out pecan cheesecakes, sweet potato and coconut cream pies and triple-layered strawberry cake.
Washington’s fish market, which locals like Williams call “the Fish Wharf,” has operated continuously since at least the early 1800s. It was moved a short distance following redevelopment in the 1960s and 1970s. More planned waterfront development is expected to maintain at least traces of the market’s comfortably grungy character.
Williams began coming to the wharf at age 9, when her mom “turned me on to cod and black bass,” she says. Now she brings her own daughters: Sally, 30, and Sunaya, 10. Sunaya carries a teacup Yorkshire terrier named Chip (the Williams’ other terrier, Chocolate, stayed home).
Williams, a private nurse, comes to the wharf at least a couple of days each week for seafood. On this day, her purchases will include jumbo shrimp for grilling or for jazzing up tuna macaroni salad topped off with Miracle Whip salad dressing, she says.
And, before any family reunion, graduation, birthday or other celebration, Williams stops by to stock up on crabs or whatever’s in season.
The wharf, she says, “keeps our family happy and knitted (together) on all occasions.”
– Text by Carol Guensburg
– AFR video by Daniel McCollum
Home cook Twanda Williams of Washington, D.C., embellishes a classic tuna macaroni salad with grilled or steamed shrimp and chopped green bell pepper. The following recipe, adapted from FoodieCrush, skips the canned tuna altogether for a higher-end dish.
- 3 cups uncooked medium-sized shell pasta
- 1 pound bay shrimp or larger cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 3 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
- 8-10 sweet pickle slices, chopped
- 3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 6-8 tablespoons pickle juice
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cook the macaroni shells according to the package directions, drain and let cool. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, shrimp, celery, green onions, pickles and eggs. Toss until well combined.
Place the mayonnaise in a small bowl. Thin it with the pickle juice, adding a few tablespoons at a time, to taste. Add this dressing to the macaroni mixture, stirring thoroughly to combine. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper.
Make the salad ahead of time and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to 1 day before serving.