A Guide to Washington DC's Union Market
Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping. — Bo Derek
Since opening in 2012, Union Market has been the place to try new outposts from some of the city’s favorite chefs and established restaurant owners or discover cutting-edge food and drink concepts. Most days you can find food lovers there buying ingredients to cook dinner, attending free wine tastings, or slurping fresh local oysters and beer. Shop for weekly menus and special dinners or relax and let someone else do the cooking – this is your guide to the stores to explore and eateries to try at Union Market.
Light-filled and airy, Union Market marketplace is the centerpiece of the Union Market District, a unique redevelopment project by EDENS, a community-oriented residential and commercial developer. This groundbreaking 25,000-square-foot open concept market is home to more than 36 local and regional food and drink vendors, eateries, rotating pop-ups, and a busy calendar of activities for all ages, plus craft fairs, festivals, and seasonal celebrations.
Where to shop
Wine, beer, and spirits
There’s no proper meal without the right drinks, and it’s easy to find almost anything in one place, Cordial Craft Wine, Beer, and Spirits. It carries small, craft beer and wine from lesser-known regions around the world. Bes sure to also check out fantastic liqueurs and spirits, like Dolin vermouth and dry spiced rum, from the Cotton & Reed craft distillery.
Bakeries and delis
Whoever said, “One cannot live by bread alone” never had a pan levain, brioche, or baguette from Lyon Bakery. It’s always ready with fresh long loaves, rolls, boules, and sliced sandwich bread. Pair their preservative-free bread with the smoked egg salad made by Neopol Savory Smokery – it’s mind-blowing.
Savvy cooks know to stop at Cucina Al Volo for their handmade, fresh, Bolognese-inspired pasta and sauces using locally sourced meat and produce. Take home the lamb ragú or spinach-and-ricotta ravioli (no need to divulge who made it).
Hooves, wings, and fins
Harvey’s Market is a carnivore’s dream. This family-owned butcher shop has been in business since 1931 and is run by two top-notch professional butchers that only sell hormone- and antibiotic-free beef, pork, and poultry. Their meat comes from environmentally responsible farms, which they personally inspect.
There are no endangered fish species at The District Fish Wife, only sustainably sourced, clear-eyed fresh fish and just caught seafood. Wild or farmed, everything sold at this vendor is clean and smells just like the sea.
Flora and fines herbes
Almaala Farms was part of the old Union Terminal Market, and their small, family-owned farm on the Eastern Shore supplies them with vibrant, seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables. They are known for their peaches, grapes, okra, and tomatoes; what can’t be found at their stall can be supplemented at the Sunday farmers market.
For the best most aromatic spices, dried herbs, and other seasoning ingredients, chefs and home cooks shop at Bazaar Spices, which sells rice, flour, lentils, herbs, spices, and botanicals that can both heal and add intense flavors to cooking.
Dairy and dessert
Don’t leave Union Market without buying the richly gratifying all-natural ice cream from Trickling Springs Creamery in Amish Country Pennsylvania. Served by itself or with a decadent pie from Dangerously Delicious Pies, it’s sinfully good.
Where to eat
The importance of Masseria, one of DC’s first Michelin-starred restaurants, can’t be ignored. Yes, it’s hidden away in a dreary warehouse area, but behind the walls is chef Nick Stefanelli’s stunning new restaurant. Make a point of sitting outside when it’s nice out. The seamless transition from the outdoor space to the restaurant is almost as much a draw as the tasting menu-only restaurant. The name “Masseria,” a country house in Puglia, Italy, says it all – with dishes like agnolotti with chestnuts or beef and fegato d’oca foie gras with dates, the menu is a delicious reminder of the region’s cuisine. Splurging on the chef’s table menu will surprise and delight with each truffle-laden treat.
Rappahannock Oyster Co.
Rappahannock Oyster Co. put Union Market on the national radar thanks to the quality of the oysters and wildly positive reviews when it first opened. The Croxton family, owners, has been in the oyster business since 1899. Try all four of the pristine, flavorful, and slurp-worthy bi-valves they farm: Rappahannock River Oysters, Olde Salts, Stingray Oysters, and Barcat Oysters. Just be sure to order a dozen of the half shell to taste the merroir of each one without being distracted by other flavors.
Good espresso takes time, and caffeine aficionados know it’s worth waiting in line to have a cup of coffee from Peregrine Espresso. When the water is at the exact right temperature and pressed over finely ground beans at 15 atmospheres of pressure, the result is a perfect cup of espresso with a creamy, almost sweet crema – so silky the masterpiece dare not be defiled with sugar granules.
Buffalo & Bergen
This New York soda shop throwback is ideal for a full breakfast with authentic New York bagels, but don’t stop there. Go for a “bit of the dog” and have a towering Lox’d & Loaded Bloody Mary: Ketel One vodka and a delish spicy Mary concoction, garnished with an everything bagel loaded with lox, cream cheese, capers, and red onion. Lunch and dinner are just as fun at Buffalo & Bergen. Definitely order an egg cream, chow down on a knish, or try a bagel sandwich.
We don’t see much south Indian food, especially the street food, in American restaurants; diners are more familiar with the cuisine from the north. DC Dosa is changing that, and it’s an excellent addition to the mosaic of food vendors at Union Market. Try a dosa (a thin crepe made with finely ground rice or lentils) filled with intensely flavored curried potatoes or grilled vegetables.
Francophiles dream of Paris and its delectable desserts, and now Union Market has Panorama Bakery to remind everyone just how special the bread, pastries, gateaux, and Viennoiseries can be. French pastry chef Damien Le Tyrant is happy to tease memories of La Belle France with a raspberry tart or chocolate treat.
Union Market is not just about food.
Think of Union Market as a gathering place – the larger district also includes satellite craft, culture, culinary, and creative enterprises that draw thousands of Washingtonians, suburbanites, and tourists each week. Take advantage of the Sunday farmers markets; catch up with rotating artists, makers-in-residence, or latest home goods at the West Elm +S3 Active at Lab 1270; or stay the day, go to an event at Dock 5, and enjoy landmark independent films at Angelika Film Center Pop-Up.
How and when to get here
Union Market offers plenty of free parking, it is also accessible by the NoMa-Gallaudet U Red Line Metro station a few blocks away, by bus, and via Bikeshare. Here are directions and more details.
Weekends are very busy from around 9am until closing, so be prepared to deal with lines and crowds.
Weekdays are popular for lunch but also offer a chance to take the time to browse and explore the market, sans all the noise and crowds of the weekend.
Wednesday through Friday pick up in the late afternoon as people come by for happy hour and dinner, but it’s still possible to find a place at one of the restaurants – just call ahead to be sure. There is always something going on at the market.
Union Market, 1309 5th St NE, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 877 775 3462
Hours: Tue–Friday, 11am–8pm; Sat–Sun, 8am–8pm
(2017: open Mondays, December 5, 12, 19)
Note: Not all vendors are open all days and hours, so call in advance to see what is open.