Hours: Open Tuesday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with breakfast served until 11 a.m. Closed Sunday.
Atmosphere: Busy market.
Price range: Breakfast ranges from $1.50 to $2.75 and includes grits, pancakes, French toast and creamed chipped beef. At lunch soups range from 60 cents to $1.25, sandwiches from $1.85 to $2.50, hot platters from $3.25 to $5.50.
Credit cards: None accepted.
Special facilities: None.
One recent Saturday we spent a marvelous afternoon touring Capitol Hill. Not the obvious places; just mentioning the Hill had the children rolling their eyes and groaning, "Not the Senate and the Supreme Court again." But when we proposed a swim at the Capitol East Pool, lunch at the Eastern Market and a visit to the Museum of African Art, they brightened considerably.
After swimming, with wet and tousled hair smelling faintly of chlorine, we headed to the Eastern Market. Outside, a dozen trucks backed to the curb displayed their produce on tables and tailgates: baskets of apples, cartons of brown and white eggs, crates spilling with potatoes, kale, collard greens and cabbage. One vendor gave the children free cups of apple cider.
Inside, a swarm of shoppers obstructed the aisles. But the line at the carryout lunch counter moved quickly. While we waited for our orders and scanned the U-shaped counter for spare stools, the children spotted a family leaving one of the few tables and ran for it. Trays in hand, we sat down to the feast.
We started with a bowl of clam chowder ($1.25) and a cup of navy bean soup (60 cents). Both were excellent: the bean soup thick and rich, the chowder creamy, but made from a base of vegetable broth so pungent it almost overpowered the clams.
The children chose fried chicken breast sandwiches ($1.85) and french fries (75 cents). The chicken, moist inside but crisp outside, came with lettuce and tomato in a soft sesame seed roll. The fries, coarsely cut and unpeeled, were exceptionally good.
I had the fried oyster platter ($3.25); my friend tried the crabcake platter ($3.75). Homemade bread and fresh vegetables, normally included with the platters, had run out by the time we arrived for lunch, so we substituted cole slaw and french fries.
The heavy breading spoiled my six oysters somewhat. But the crabcake, tasting slightly deviled from pepper and dry mustard, was delicious.
For dessert we tried the pies and a coconut bread pudding (90 cents). We rated the apple pie best, the pecan a close second and the cherry a definite third, as its glutinous cornstarch-thickened syrup betrayed the canned origins of its filling.
The children did not like the pudding because its yellow custard reminded them of scrambled eggs, but I enjoyed it and finished it willingly. Unaware that people were eyeing our table, we lingered over coffee until a busboy began to clear away the cups and plates from under our noses.
Lunch for four cost us $19.88, including one Coke, two coffees and tax.
A five-block walk brought us to the Museum of African Art, a branch of the Smithsonian, located in the house where Frederick Douglass lived between 1871 and 1877. Its collection of masks, sculptures and woven fabrics used in funerary rituals illustrates African beliefs about the afterlife.
After leaving the museum, we went to Grubbs Pharmacy, on the corner of Fourth and East Capitol streets, for ice cream cones. Over the black marble counter of the soda fountain, we were served huge scoops of Breyers' ice cream for 60 cents -- probably the best deal in town.
Capitol East Pool: 635 N. Carolina Ave. SE. 724-4495. Open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Hours change because of swimming classes, so call before going.
Museum of African Art: 316-332 A St. NE. 287-3490. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.