Something magical is hiding behind the walls of this whitewashed warehouse in northeast D.C. Union Market is home to 45-acres worth of vendors offering mouth-watering dishes. With more than 40 local vendors to check out, even the pickiest of eaters can find something to nosh on.
The market was originally opened during 1931 as an outdoor space for local vendors to sell fish, meat and produce. But during the 1960s, the city banned the outdoor sale of meat and eggs, which forced the market to close as shoppers turned to indoor grocery stores for their needs. Workers built a new enclosed space for vendors in 1967, which began to fall into disrepair during the 1980s. Today, Union Market is a hidden gem of the foodie movement, with smaller food stations as well as sit-down restaurants that cater to every palate.
Forget making a beeline for the first station that calls to you. Union Market merits a full walkabout, and I guarantee you’ll find yourself wanting five different things for lunch. Whether it’s caramelized tofu tacos at Takorean, or pork butt and collared greens at The BBQ Joint, you’ll be grateful for the trek with all the calories you’ll take in.
I finally settled on lunch at Panorama Bakery after seeing their array of mouth-watering French tarts. Vanilla custard tart topped with fresh berries? Yes please. For more substantial food I ordered a crepe with ham, parmesan cheese and scrambled egg, which the lady made right in front of me. It’s a good thing the sneeze guard was up, because I was practically drooling by the time it was ready.
After lunch you can get some shopping done at small boutiques inside the market. (Can you say souvenirs?)
Check out the funky home decor items from Salt & Sundry, where you can pick up table linens, vases or hand-crafted tables made from reclaimed wood. Plus, where else can you find that papier-mâché moose head that will set off your den perfectly?
You can also find books for adults and kids alike. Start your little one on the classics at an early age, with kid-friendly lit like Pride & Prejudice or Moby-Dick board books from Salt & Sundry. For small press works and books by local authors, check out Upshur Street Books.
And whether you’re a certified sommelier or just looking for a fun Friday night, Cordial Fine Wine & Spirits has you covered. This place literally has walls full of reds and whites, and selections from specialty craft breweries or mass-market brands.
You can check out the full list of vendors at the Union Market website, and if you’re setting on visiting certain shops, be sure to check their hours, which can vary daily. Union Market is located at 1309 5th Street NE in Downtown D.C., and is open every day except Monday. Otherwise, this happening food hall opens at 11 a.m. during the week, with a special early opening at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. If you’re looking to avoid the busiest crowd of locals, wait until 1:30 when the lunch crowd starts to clear out. Union Market closes at 8 p.m. every day.