We Love Food: Market Lunch

Photo courtesy of
‘Market Lunch’
courtesy of ‘katmere’

Whenever I mention Market Lunch to people, and I do often, I always get the same response: “Oh, I’ve heard that place is so great–but I’ve never been.” I don’t know if it’s the lines that scare folks away, or the Soup Nazi-esque ordering system, but don’t be afraid! It’s a quintessential Washington experience that no one should miss, and a great meal to boot. My trips to Eastern Market are almost always wrapped around meal time to make sure I can take advantage of all that Market Lunch has to offer.

It’s true, the lines are long, especially for breakfast. It’s routine to see folks waiting in line while reading a book. A LONG book. But the line moves quickly (unless you’ve got a confused newbie in front of you, grrrr) and you have some time to chat with your fellow Washingtonians while you wait. Once I met a man in line who said he ate the famous Brick sandwich every Saturday morning for ten years. I didn’t ask him how many bypass surgeries he’d had as a result–sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Photo courtesy of
‘Eastern Market Lunch – Breakfast Brick’
courtesy of ‘CathyLovesDC’

And the Brick is what breakfast is all about. It’s a homemade biscuit with your choice of meat (mine is always sausage), eggs, cheese and that which makes it what it is–the fried potatoes. It’s called the Brick because that sucker will sit in your stomach all day, but it is well worth it. There is another school of thought with the Market Lunch breakfast–those who love the “blue bucks.” To the layman, those would be their famous blueberry buckwheat pancakes. They are made essentially just of butter and fluffiness, but folks are downright obsessive when it comes to these pancakes. I’m still partial to the Brick though. If I’m waiting in that line, I want something that will stave off hunger for at least a week. It ain’t pretty, but it’s love.

Photo courtesy of
‘Breakfast Over’
courtesy of ‘Rory Finneren’

Though they are known for their breakfast, take the name literally sometime and try it out for lunch. Whereas you’re able to get breakfast favorites in the morning, lunchtime is all about D.C.’s culinary specialties. Crabcakes, soft shell crabs, fried oysters and fried whiting sandwiches are just a little sampling of what the chalkboard menu has to offer. If they’re in season (go now! they are!) you must try the softshell crabs. They’re flash fried in a way only a Eastern Shore girl like myself could love and served up either on a sandwich, or in platter form. If you’re there and you’ve waited in line, spring for the platter. The fries are heavenly and the potato salad will leave you speechless.

Photo courtesy of
‘a taste of the Chesapeake’
courtesy of ‘philliefan99’

There are things to keep in mind when eating at Market Lunch, especially for the first time. First–cash only. I can’t tell you the weight of the epic eye rolls you will get from the diners behind you in line if you try and pay with a card. Second–know what you want. See above, re: eye rolls. Third–there is little to no seating. The coveted seats at the long table go quickly and are only available to those who are physically eating and no doing much else. I prefer to take mine to go and sit out on the grass in the shade. Fourth–breakfast is not served on Sundays. Everyone learns that the hard way.

So go, don’t be nervous, you’ll thank me. Just don’t go Saturdays around 10:30am, that’s when I go. One more person in line and I just may lose it.

Ashley Messick

Ashley is a born and bred Washingtonian who left for college but came running back to the District as fast as her little legs could carry her. By day she is a Capitol Hill brat, but by night she is a lean, mean, eating machine. It’s her goal in life to steal Anthony Bourdain’s job…by whatever means necessary. Contact her at Ashley (at) welovedc (dot) com or follow her on Twitter.

7 thoughts on “We Love Food: Market Lunch

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  3. I usually visit Market Lunch when I’m hungover and I have never had the Brick on a homemade biscuit. It’s on a soft sandwich roll. I don’t think a biscuit could hold up to all that egg/cheese/bacon/potato-y goodness.

    If Market Lunch served biscuits with sausage gravy? Well, now, that would be just one more tasty reason to visit.

  4. The moment I truly realized I wanted to move to DC was at Market Lunch. I’m originally from North Carolina, but after high school lived in Boston for six years, New Mexico for five, and had just moved to Dallas and hated it. There, in front of me on the Market Lunch board: Eastern NC bbq sandwich and collard greens. I ordered, I devoured, I loved, and I knew … DC would be how I’d get home without having to actually move home. Two years later, I figured out how to get here for good, and here I am!

  5. May I suggest going to Market Lunch for lunch during the week? There are short (often no) lines, you can get all the same food (no breakfast of course) and a seat. I get that some people love the breakfast, and there’s no getting around the lines for that – but the Market on weekdays is really where it’s at. I do a lot of my shopping there anyway since it’s so close to home, so it’s easy to grab a fried softshell sandwich without the headache of the weekend crowds.

  6. I’ve never been because the food seems so heavy– I really have no desire to eat something that sits like a brick in my stomach!