Road Trip

Shop Around at the Capital City Market

Sunday, September 30, 2007

WHAT: Capital City Market.

WHY: Jamaican hamburgers, Korea Row and superhero style.

HOW BIG: 1 million square feet.

You just can't find good oxtail these days. Or can you?

Capital City Market, a historic shopping area in the shadow of Gallaudet University in Northeast Washington, contains an eclectic mix of goods that are hard to find on standard supermarket shelves. Built in 1871, Center Market evolved into Union Market and then the current Capital City Market, whose earliest buildings date to 1929. The market covers an astounding 1 million square feet of commercial space. Known for its low prices and wide selection, the retail complex attracts shoppers of all distinctions, including restaurant chefs, store suppliers and foodies with global tastes.

Initially, the market's size and state (slightly dilapidated warehouse units) might seem a little intimidating, but focus on the retail -- while keeping an eye on the zigzagging forklifts -- and you'll be shopping like a pro. The area is anchored by the D.C. Farmers Market structure between Fifth and Sixth streets NE, where butchers sell exotic cuts of meats (beef tongue and oxtail, for example), vendors stock underground go-go CDs and Washingtonians make a meal out of fresh vegetables and fish, pork rinds and pig's feet. In addition, on weekends throughout the year, an outdoor flea market doubles the shopping opportunities with new and used clothing, jewelry, music, books, DVDs and more.

But don't shut that wallet yet. Additional warehouses to the south and west contain specialty stores. There is an entire row of Korean businesses along Morse Street, and nearby, Mexican, Jamaican, Chinese, Italian and Ghanaian merchants import their cultures with foodstuffs, cleaning products and cosmetics. Although some businesses are exclusively wholesale, many welcome individual shoppers as well. Ergo, you won't have to buy a whole case of oxtail.

-- Jon and Monika Youngs

© 2007 The Washington Post Company