A decade ago, the eastern half of this city wasn’t exactly tourist friendly. This is reaffirmed every time I tell someone who has lived in the DC metropolitan area for a long time I live in SE and that last year I lived in NE near the New York avenue metro. When I pronounce those words, their eyes grow wide and their stunned look makes me feel like a) I barely got out alive and b) I am super hardcore because I spent a year walking home from that metro at night and lived to tell the tale.
But the truth is that the eastern half of this city has been pretty gentrified. As the tenant of one apartment complex we looked at said, “Once they put up a bunch of dog parks, we knew that the neighborhood was yuppie for good.” But hey – yuppie means awesome brunch spots and specialty cupcake shops, to which I am not opposed.
The funny thing about this shifting process is the desire to retain a remnant of the former self, but fancied up and nostalgized (yes, I just made that a word) of course. We want something to look authentic even if it is falsely so. This is similar to how I want my home to look like it is full of quirky and original pieces that have drifted their way into my possession while I’ve been living a wild and mysterious life, but really it is all from Ikea.
All of this rambling brings me to Union Market.
Near Galludet University there are a couple street blocks of markets. Not the pretty Eastern Market type, but actual stalls where restaurants and chefs come to purchase food. This area is gritty, grey, looks like the scary parts of Taken, and defines the flavor and history of this neighborhood. Yet as this neighborhood is getting nicer and nicer, there is a glaring lack of brunch spots – a true travesty in D.C. existence.
The one day, pressured by the influx of hipsters in maiden braids and Warby Parker glasses (Attention World: it stops being awesome for you to have five pairs to choose from if you carry them around and force everyone to look at five almost identical pairs of oversized Harry Potter glasses so you can decide. They all look the same, and that same is you looking like a librarian, which has suddenly become The Thing To Do.), someone had the great idea to take one big warehouse and turn it into an indoor market of food stalls, flower shops, and a couple other vendors. Outside there are chairs and umbrellas, places to play cornhole, and FREE PARKING. (Yes, you read that right.)
What it is: Indoor market with lots of food counters where you can get everything from bagel sandwiches to fresh oysters to Korean BBQ tacos.
Where it is: 1309 5th St. NE
Why you should be excited: Imagine yourself at Eastern Market. See how much fun you’re having? Now imagine that same scene, but it is summer. See how much fun you wish you were having but you can’t because you are slowly sweating into a puddle on the ground that dogs will lick up because they are dying of thirst. Now imagine how awesome it would be if you could have all the market-y goodness and atmosphere (ok, minus some of the actual market stalls… but plus better food!) in an awesome air-conditioned, repurposed warehouse. And imagine if you could have free parking for said weekend destination without driving around the block nine million times. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Also, I had a French toast bagel with syrup that was so good that I want to drag each of you personally down there so we can share one. Or two, because I actually want my own.