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Fearless Critic restaurant review

Tue–Sat 7:00am–6:00pm
Sun 9:00am–4:00pm

Features Kid-friendly
Bar None
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx

Capitol Hill
306 7th St. SE
Washington, DC
(202) 543-7470
Eastern Market
Your eyes will rapidly outgrow your stomach at this treacherously tempting market

“A trip to the market” can mean many different things to different people. To those at South Hall in Eastern Market, it means an opportunity to buy your food in a purer, more personal form. If you’re willing to make the trek, you will be rewarded with hard-to-find wares and great prices. You’ll also have the opportunity to make friends with the merchants who will pleasantly tip you off to what is the freshest.

In butchers’ stalls where huge cuts are laid out, old-school, on trays, you can find some of rarer meats (ducks, goat, rabbit, bison) that are a headache to find elsewhere. Butchers make their own sausage in endless varieties like chicken and apple (sweet and mild) and chicken, habanero, and tequila (daringly spicy and acidic). Their stuffing has a hearty, smooth texture and the casing pops gleefully in your mouth when you bite in.

The pork products are a meat lover’s dream. The best bacon in DC is at Eastern Market: peppered, smoked, skin on, thick and thin. It barely shrinks when cooked because it hasn’t been pumped full of water, and gives off clear fat you will be tempted to reuse. Pancetta, jamón serrano, and other cured meats are fresh and cheap. Cracklings and organs are sold by the bucket and signs advertise that “if it’s on a pig we sell it.” On the off-chance you decide to make head cheese, you’ll know where to start.

Bowers Fancy Dairy Products is a jewel for dairy lovers. Whether you’re curious about local goat cheese in various stages (the lightly-aged crottin is sharp, full, and slightly sour) or blue cheeses from around the world (Spanish cabrales is stinkily delicious) or odder combinations (try the mottled jade blocks of sage in mild cheddar) the staff at bowers is knowledgeable and generous, slicing huge samples for you to taste. Fresh butter is sold by the block and awesomely cheap. It smells milky and sweet and holds excellently in pastries. Slather it on sour and chewy loaves from the baker next door.

Several items at South Hall are overpriced. Produce looks beautiful but costs more than it would at Whole Foods (go outside in the summer and buy them from farmers’ stalls) and handsome fresh pasta is appetizing but on the expensive end. Eastern Market is a joy for those who are serious about where they buy their food. Ingredients this good will make a great cook out of anyone.

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