• Hanifah Jones

Is Union Market Worth the Hype?

Hi, my name’s Hanifah and I love food, especially food halls. From Reading Terminal in my hometown of Philadelphia to Old Biscuit Mill in Cape Town, South Africa – if there’s an aesthetically pleasing collection of stalls selling a variety of goods, I’ll be there.

Throughout my time in DC (and hours of scrolling through #dceats on TikTok), I’ve heard raving reviews about Union Market. It’s been on my list for months and I finally made the time to check it out. My friend and I wanted to celebrate the one-year anniversary of our relocation, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity.

But before I dive into my experience, let’s get into some background information:

According to its website, Union Market (originally Union Terminal Market) was founded in 1931 and included over 700 vendors. After the city banned the outdoor sale of meat and eggs in 1962, a new indoor building was built in 1967. Located in the heart of NoMa, a neighborhood in Northeast DC, the building is surrounded by wholesale buildings that allude to the neighborhood’s industrial past.

Since then, Union Market has continued to grow and is now considered to be a DC staple. In 2013, it was voted one of the “5 Best Food Halls in America” by Bon Appétit.

I went on a lively Saturday afternoon and came with an empty stomach, ready for the food that awaited me. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted, but I knew I wanted to try something new.

When it comes to food halls, I always want to try as many things as possible. My tried and true technique is to get small servings of diverse foods so I can really get a feel for the different options. I decided to try cheeseburger dumplings from this cute shop called Laoban Dumplings and a fish taco from The District Fishwife, along with fresh ginger lemonade (a chaotic meal, but so worth it).

Laoban Dumplings

There are indoor and outdoor seating options, but we opted to sit on the rooftop. Hi-Lawn offers picnic tables and a green space area for seating. I didn’t know the rooftop picnic tables required reservations, so we ended up soaking in the sun on the green space.

Courtesy of CNN

I enjoyed everything I ordered, especially the cheeseburger dumplings! They were juicy, flavorful and an amazing fusion of American and Chinese cuisine. My friend ordered gumbo and gave the dish high praise. Once we finished our food we walked around and played a few rounds of ping-pong.

So… was it worth the hype? Absolutely! There were so many stalls that caught my eye (DC Dosa, Immigrant Food and Takorean to name a few) so I’ll definitely be coming back. We also stumbled upon a Latin marketplace called La Cosecha a few blocks down and I HAVE to try that. Moral of the story, be on the lookout for more food-related content (and let’s ignore the fact that this is my first blog post in eight months, that’s a story for another day)!