It had such promise. A 20th-century food market where an 18th-century one had been. After several incarnations, including life as an automobile repair shop, the Market House was restored through the efforts of a group of Georgetown citizens, but not without many problems that seem to have carried over to the market itself.

Market House, designed to offer upper-crust carryout food, never fulfilled its promise. By the day it opened, the promised mix had changed and there were a number of fast-food operations. Within six weeks Hudson Brothers' produce stand had pulled out; within three months Landsdowne Caterers had left. Crustie's Bakery is gone now, too. Today most of the carryout food seems to be deep-fried . . . and greasy. And most of it is meant to be eaten on the street, not to be taken home for dinner.

The busiest stand sells the greasiest food: Zeppole's Fried Dough, with or without cinnamon and powered sugar, offers, at $1.25, a doughy and sometimes only partially cooked piece of dough that has been deep-fried and has absorbed plenty of grease in the process. Their paisano, a mixture of squash, green pepper, mushrooms, onion and swiss cheese in a deep-fried pocket of dough, at $2.25, had little taste.

Other temples of grease include Tempura House, which offers a combination platter of yakitori, tempura vegetables and steamed rice for around $3; the Peking Duck with a special on Szechuan beef, Peking noodles, sweet and sour pork, fried rice and an egg roll for around $4. The Peking noodles were acceptable. The Green Onion offers Vietnamese food, including greasy spring rolls at $1.50.

At Shatzkin's Kosher Deli there are cheese blintzes of no particular interest; dry, stuffed derma; knishes and assorted other Jewish foods that might be described as delicacies in other hands. The chopped chicken liver in our sandwich tasted as if had gone bad.

On the other hand, Cannon's sells not only its fresh fish to take home and cook yourself, but a couple of fried seafood platters of crab cake sandwiches. The crab cakes, at $2.95, were described by their tasters as "pretty good."

Lumps Que Ltd., which earlier had shown some promise as a source of reasonably good barbecue, seems to have slipped. The sauce for the ribs was neither rich nor flavorful enough. The minced pork barbecue had a slighlty spicy aftertaste but was very sweet, as was the potato salad.

Innsbruck's Strudel offers nonnoteworthy slices of cheese strudel at 85 cents and chocolate chip cookies for 75 cents.

Perhaps the best food at Market House was Chipyard's cookies; a dozen traditional chocolate chip, chocolate chip with walnuts, oatmeal-raisin or peanut butter are $1.90.

One carryout item we didn't try may be the single reason to go to Market House: The place that sells beef will charcoal-broil your steak for $1.50 "while you wait." Hours of individual stalls vary. Prices also vary.