People are staying closer to home these days, but there’s still lots to do in the region. 9 ½ Hours is a feature with suggestions for local day trips.

Broadway is a spine running north-south on the East Side of Baltimore, connecting the harbor piers of Fells Point to the dome of the original Johns Hopkins Hospital.

At each end are two distinctive city public markets, dishing out food, drink and groceries for residents, workers and visitors, much as they have since the 18th and 19th centuries.

Broadway Market to the south and Northeast Market at the north are bustling, inviting and authentic – packed with local food stalls and devoid of chain stores or marketing.

Baltimore Fishbowl recently spent 9 1/2 hours exploring three of the markets on the west side. This installment focuses on Broadway Market and Northeast Market.

Baltimore’s six public markets are owned and managed by the Baltimore Public Markets Corp., which took control of all the markets in the 1990s and spent considerable money and time modernizing its holdings, with varying degrees of success.

Despite differences in quality and selection, a tour of the markets is a nourishing way to explore the city’s history and neighborhoods while savoring slices of old and new Baltimore.

Northeast Market

Northeast Market was founded in 1881 just as the area around The Johns Hopkins Hospital was being developed into one of the world’s foremost medical centers. An original wooden market was replaced with a massive brick building in 1955, and more renovations took place in the 1980s.

More recently, the market, located at 2101 E. Monument St., received exterior renovations and the addition of seven stalls in 2013, with funds from the Baltimore Public Markets Corp. Johns Hopkins, and the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition, Inc.

With no-frills shopping and reasonable prices, the market serves mainly as a destination lunch spot for the many hundreds who work for Johns Hopkins Medicine, blocks away.

Along the narrow passageways, fried chicken and fish are a common sight, along with sausages, hot dogs and barbeque.

The long lines tell you which shops have earned the most ardent followings. Ronnie’s All-Day Lunch, for example, is clearly a favorite for fried chicken.

Attracted by another long line at the far end of the market, we sampled the lake trout dinner at Shore’s Fish Market and Carry Out, which according to its signage has been family owned since 1943. For $10, we got two enormous slabs of freshly fried fish, a slice of white bread, and sides of macaroni and cheese and collard greens. We weren’t disappointed with the freshness of the fish, the hint of red pepper heat in the crisp batter, or the friendliness of those in line with us.

While the public market owner says it is focusing on fresh foods and vegetables, there aren’t many choices. Monument Produce is considered a quality farm stand with fresh vegetables, herbs, fruits and eggs, with greens coming in daily.

Other stalls sell Korean and Chinese food, and there’s a bakery. Reviewers on Yelp rave about the smoothies at Belly Buster’s Deli.

Be prepared to take your food and go. There are currently no open seating areas inside the market due to the pandemic.

Broadway Market

Broadway Market, at 1604 Aliceanna Street in the heart of Fells Point, dates to 1786, making it one of the oldest markets in the city. In early days, the market yards were equipped with stalls and barns for the livestock the farmers brought into town to sell. Because the market is close to the water, farmers came by boat and ferry to sell their goods.

The market has always been part of the public life in the neighborhood. At one point, a civic hall was built as the second floor of one of the market buildings, but it was destroyed by fire.

The market spaces fell into disrepair over the years, and underwent an extensive renovation that was completed in 2019. Leading the overhaul was the Atlas Restaurant Group, which helped redevelop both the market sheds in partnership with the corporation.

The north building features an eclectic mix of vendors and an industrial, clean design. Lines form for Connie’s Chicken and Waffles, and the Taharka Brothers Ice Cream is deservedly popular. Thai Street offers explosively flavorful and delicious fare, including a truly irresistible pad see ew.

Leaving the north building, a wide patio beckons. The entire south building is the purview of The Choptank, an Atlas Group restaurant.

There’s as much outdoor and patio seating around the south building as inside, and it’s a popular weekend brunch spot for residents of the city’s bustling waterfront neighborhoods.

Thanks to Atlas and investments in the the property, Broadway Market has reclaimed its spot as a a vital neighborhood amenity in the heart of Fells Point.