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There are two Union Markets. The first, under the big white sign and filled with artisanal foods, is the one most of of us are familiar with. The other is where you’d actually shop for groceries – in the nearby Caribbean, African, and Italian markets of the surrounding area. Today’s review is for the first, but stay tuned for Part II, which will focus on the Other Union Market.

We visited on a bright Saturday a few weekends ago for what I like to call Gastronomical Walkabout, during which we embarked on several rounds of exploring and sampling until we couldn’t eat any more.

Our first stop was DC Empanadas, the popular food truck that has a spot in the market. Two vegetarian fillings were available – a three cheese called Speedy Gonzales and a spinach and feta. We went with Speedy Gonzalez and thoroughly enjoyed the oozy queso blanco, asadero and mozzarella filling. The empanada shells here are also outstanding, crispy and reminiscent of samosa shells. We would like to see more vegetarian options on a given visit but hopefully we’ll get to try others next time, like Mama Sophia with eggplant and marinara or Tio Asher with black beans, tofu, corn and chipotle. Our only other complaint is that they’re a tad expensive for what you get – $3.85 a piece, and I could easily eat 3 when hungry.

Speedy Gonzalez

cheesy Speedy Gonzalez

Our next stop was another food truck offshoot, Takorean. The caramelized tofu taco with napa slaw is pretty spot on, topped with lime crema, sriracha, cilantro and sesame seeds, all wrapped into a crispy double tortilla. Same futile complaint regarding prices (is $3.85 for a few bites the only price available?) but now I’m starting to sound like my dad.

Caramelized tofu taco

All Things Olive shared a series of samples of salad oils and sent us off with a fruity bottle. Next we tried pickled okra and crunchy kosher dills at Oh! Pickles, then grabbed heads of smoked garlic at Neopol to throw in with potatoes for a mash made in heaven.

It was time for a break from all that eating, so we headed to Suburbia, an outdoor bar by the folks at Buffalo and Bergen serving up frozen blended cocktails from….an Airstream trailer. Blackberry margarita and Piña colada were both refreshing, and even better when blended together. We sat back, kicked our feet up on cute little grills, and watched people play lawn games.



NOTE: Apparently after this coming weekend (July 6-7) the Airstream is hitting the road! Hurry up and check it out if you haven’t already, because who knows when it’ll roll back into town.

We headed back in for some small batch ice cream from Trickling Springs Creamery, then continued tasting and buying at Righteous Cheese, another vendor with knowledgeable and patient staff, and Lyon bakery for bread because duh.

Our food tour was pretty darn thorough, although we kicked ourselves for not getting some Peregrine coffee or catching tastings at Cordial. I guess there’s always next time. We do need to come back to get our knives sharpened anyway…

Also, if you haven’t heard, the Market will be showing movies starting on Friday July 12, drive-in style. We’re curious to see how the logistics play out (car spots can be reserved but there are also spaces for walkers and bikers) but it looks like fun and the line-up is solid.

1309 5th St NE (NoMA-Gallaudet Metro)