Take a stroll through most farmers markets around Washington, and you’ll find much more than fruits and vegetables. The farmers market has become an outdoor dining destination, more community linchpin than produce stand, bringing together flower vendors, soap makers, jazz buskers, coffee roasters, pastry bakers and hungry shoppers.
If you find yourself in the latter group, it’s a good idea to grab a bite while you pick up your leafy greens. Here are 10 great things to eat and drink at D.C.-area farmers markets.
Dragon Creek Seafood’s crab cakes at the USDA Farmers Market
$11. Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the USDA, 12th Street and Independence Avenue SW.
The USDA Farmers Market is meant to be a model for farmers markets across the country, but few of them will have anything like Dragon Creek. Follow your eyes and nose to the market’s only seafood stand, where owner Bruce Wood serves crabs caught the day prior on the Northern Neck. He presses scoops of crab meat mounds, dusted with Old Bay, on a griddle and then places them between buns. The resulting sandwich is simple and flavorful, packed with meat and little filler. Pair it with a serving of coleslaw, then make your way to the USDA’s public garden, where you can borrow a plaid blanket and turn your lunch break into a picnic. — Fritz Hahn
Qualia Coffee’s pour-over coffee at the White House FreshFarm Market
$2.50. Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 810 Vermont Ave. NW, between H and I streets NW.
Qualia owner Joel Finkelstein had been petitioning FreshFarm for years for a permanent spot at one of its markets, arguing that local coffee roasters added significant value to an imported agricultural product. This year, he finally got the green light: In April, Qualia set up a stand at the market by the White House. As if to trumpet his rightful place, Finkelstein has erected a tent with a three-word manifesto: “Coffee as Produce.” You can buy ready-to-drink coffee two ways: brewed hot on site via pour-over into carafes or prepared as an iced coffee from cold-brew concentrate ($3.50). Either way, you’ll immediately understand the vital role that a quality roaster plays in buying, roasting and brewing coffee to standards that exceed Starbucks. — Tim Carman
Red Zebra’s mozzarella, tomato and basil pizza at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market
$9. Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at 20th Street NW between Massachusetts Avenue and Hillyer Place. Also at the CityCenterDC and White House markets.
The Dupont Circle farmers market has no shortage of good eats — you can even start your morning there with buckwheat pancakes. Pass the benches by the Metro station, though, and you’ll likely catch several market-goers clutching the same thing: Red Zebra pizzas. Choose from the four or five selections at hand — the wood-fired oven typically delivers a breakfast variety with bacon, potatoes, cheddar and an egg. The mozzarella pie, however, is a classic, with a slightly sweet sauce and a lightly charred crust. — Emily Codik
Lydianne’s Soft Pretzels’ Philly cheesesteak pretzel at the Dutch Country Farmers Market
$3.60. Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 9701 Fort Meade Rd., Laurel. 301-421-1454.
The Pennsylvania Amish prefer a modest lifestyle, but when it comes to sustenance, they’re downright hedonists. You’ll be tempted by countless eats at the Dutch Country Farmers Market in Laurel: fried chicken wings, buttermilk blue cheese, barbecued ribs, spicy pickles and other treats. One favorite is a salty mashup of a Philly cheesesteak and ballpark snack at Lydianne’s Soft Pretzels: Homemade dough is stuffed with a gooey filling of steak and cheese, then baked until you have a golden log that tickles every possible pleasure center in your brain. For something sweet, wander to JR’s Candies and Bulk Foods and order a square (or 10) of homemade fudge ($9.99 a pound), including flavors such as rocky road, red velvet cake and orange creamsicle. — Tim Carman
El Taco Loco’s chicken and rajas tamales at the Baltimore Farmers Market
$3.50. Sundays from 7 a.m. to noon at the Baltimore Farmers’ Market and Bazaar (JFX) at Holliday and Saratoga streets, Baltimore.
If you get to the massive downtown Baltimore farmers market later than 10 a.m. on a busy Sunday, there’s a good chance you’ll miss out on some of the most tender tamales around. That’s because Mariel Garcia arrives each week with 120 of the chicken and rajas variety crafted by her mother, Porfiria Romero. “She has the know-how and patience to handle the masa,” Garcia explains. “I’ve tried, and I can’t come close.” Unadorned, they travel well. But warm from the pot and topped with a green mole, hot sauce, crema and fresh salsa, they demand immediate inhalation. — Bonnie S. Benwick
Yoga in a Bowl’s vegetable kati roll at Capital Harvest on the Plaza
$10. Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Also at the White House and Bethesda Central markets.
Thank Liz Chabra for bringing more Indian street food to Washington. Chabra sells three varieties of kati rolls at her stand, the name of which nods to her background as a yoga teacher. The veggie features spiced potato patties, Chabra’s own tamarind and cilantro curries and seasonal vegetables from local farmers, including greens, asparagus and tomatoes. It’s all contained in a fenugreek paratha (flaky flatbread) that Chabra also makes. A little messy to eat, but so worth it. — Becky Krystal
Black Pearl Tarts’s smoked salmon tart at the Petworth Community Market
$7-$8. Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Ninth and Upshur streets NW. Also at the USDA Farmers Market.
Eating at the farmers market feels like a treat when you’re munching on Black Pearl Tarts’ delicate pastries. Owner Christina Marie Chambers — with the help of her “default sous chef,” husband Tim Chambers — turns out about 200 of the concoctions weekly in Union Kitchen: Ivy City. The savory and sweet menu, featuring varieties such as the Rhubarb Orange Crumble, changes with the seasons. A standout is the Smoked Salmon, in which a rye crust houses a mixture of cream cheese and sour cream, topped with radishes, carrots, fennel and Ivy City Smokehouse salmon. It’s almost too pretty to eat. Almost. — Kara Elder
Filling Good’s beef onigirazu at the Downtown Fairfax Coalition Community Farmers’ Market
$5.50-$7.50. Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through at least July at 10500 Page Ave., Fairfax.
At her Filling Good stand, Joyce Chan sells a version of Japanese onigirazu that’s like a sushi burrito but smaller and more sandwich-like. Wrapped in nori with a layer of sushi rice, the onigirazu come with one of three fillings: bacon, avocado and egg; bulgogi beef; and chicken teriyaki. The beef onigirazu, pepped up with Sriracha and miso tahini, is made crunchy with sprouts and carrots. — Becky Krystal
Bonaparte Breads’ chocolate almond croissant at the Fairlington Farmers Market
$3.95. Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 3308 S. Stafford St., Arlington. Also at the Shaw, Baltimore Museum of Industry, Columbia Pike, Brookland, Columbia Heights, Chevy Chase, Glover Park, Vienna, Falls Church, McLean and Annandale markets and their shop in Savage, Md.
Bonaparte Breads are a familiar presence at almost a dozen markets throughout the region, and deservedly so. Their handcrafted pastries, made with high-fat European butter, would not feel out of place in Paris. The chocolate almond croissant, a variety of the bakery’s signature item, is generously spread with egg-white-lightened almond paste on top and in the middle, where you’ll also find two veins of dark French chocolate. — Becky Krystal
Panorama Bakery’s salmon quiche at the Bloomingdale Farmers’ Market
$5. Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at First and R streets NW. Also at the 14&U, White House, Petworth, Marymount and Southwest D.C. markets.
It can be hard to look beyond the croissants, macarons and kouign-amanns sitting at the Panorama Bakery stand, but if you’re craving something savory, the salmon quiche fits the bill. Each hefty slice is filled with generous layers of Atlantic salmon and spinach, bound with milk, heavy cream, eggs and Parmesan cheese. The quiche is sturdy enough to eat with your hands on its own. Paired with a green salad, it makes for a fine post-market lunch. You did buy salad greens, right? — Kara Elder