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Seattle has Pike Place Market. New York has Chelsea Market. San Francisco has the Ferry Building. But D.C. hasn’t boasted the same kind of iconic culinary emporium, at least in recent memory. There’s Eastern Market, but its relatively small space has only one sit-down spot, and much of the produce isn’t grown locally. Enter the new Union Market, which aims to be D.C.’s top destination for the locavore and foodie sets. The 25,000-square foot space off of 5th Street NE is an homage to Union Terminal Market, which opened in the area in 1931. Before developer Edens bought it, the market building was home to no-frills meat and produce vendors.
Now, it’s a high-end food oasis—stocked with signifiers of gentrification, from artisan bread to artisan lettuce—only blocks from H Street NE, another area that developers have helped transform into a stomping ground for D.C.’s disposable-income classes. Helping to give the market foodie cred is Richie Brandenburg, a former top gun for José Andrés at Think Food Group. As director of culinary strategy for Edens, Brandenburg brought in vendors and helped design Union Market’s slick, minimalist look. The place is packed with well-known vendors like Red Apron Butchery, Peregrine Espresso, Rappahannock Oyster Bar, and Bergen & Buffalo soda shop from mixologist Gina Chersevani. New York-based chef John Mooney will open a contemporary American restaurant there next spring. Mooney’s menu will take locavore dining to a new, perhaps inevitable, level: It’ll be sourced with ingredients from Union Market’s vendors as well as a rooftop garden, where he plans to grow vegetables, fruits, and herbs.