If you’ve ever been to Union Market, chances are you know all about the old-timers that have been around for a while and receive plenty of chatter among those in the know. And while places like Red Apron, TaKorean, Righteous Cheese and District Fishwife will always be among our favorites, we challenge you to try something new the next time you’re hanging out at D.C.’s ultimate food hall. Here are a handful that we recommend:
Many people enter Union Market and make a beeline straight for the back to Trickling Springs for an ice cream scoop. But there’s another cool summer treat equally worthy of your attention—a Burmese dessert called falooda. The dessert, which traditionally includes noodles and a signature pink hue from rose syrup, is already a pretty wild blend of colors and textures. Co-owner JoJo Law-Yone goes even further than the original, lending intriguing twists that result in options like our current obsession, the Lovebirds falooda. It’s an intricate layering of coffee jellies, condensed milk, basil seeds, rice-noodle pudding, Dolcezza espresso gelato, Burmese milk tea and espresso-covered chocolates. It’s the ice cream sundae of our dreams.
It might be Ethiopian food, but it’s also fast-casual, so you know the drill—choose injera pockets or a rice bowl, choose one to two proteins, two to three veggies and then go crazy with the free toppings and a dressing. For proteins, we loved the lamb shoulder and marinated yellowfin tuna but will have to return to try the berbere chicken. Vegetables are stewed Ethiopian style, with options like red lentils, yellow split peas or a blend of beets and potatoes. Toppings like injera crisps and pickled shallots provide flavor boosts and crunch, and sauces include the white honey sauce and the parsley yogurt sauce. And don’t worry, the people behind the counter are more than willing to guide newbies.
Hidden along the row of Union Market stalls that sit farthest from the entrance, this under-rated gem is well worth seeking. The menu is stocked full of Southern staples like po’ boys, gumbo, étouffée and shrimp and grits, but we cannot stress the importance of trying the brown butter bourbon bread pudding—no matter how many veggies you have (or haven’t) eaten that day. If you’re jonesing for any of this deliciousness but can’t make it to Union Market, you can also find them at Eastern Market on weekends and wherever the two Puddin’ food trucks land, which can be sussed out through social media.
At the risk of sounding like we’re only interested in dessert, you simply must try the strawberry Liège wafel at this Belgian wafel bar. It’s served with strawberries, whipped cream and chocolate sauce, and it’ll make you want to immediately “leggo your Eggos.” The sweet wafels are tasty and rich, with the traditional pearl sugar lending a nice crunch. If you feel you must have lunch before dessert, there are also plenty of savory wafels, such as those topped with a sunnyside-up egg and bacon or smoked salmon.
Here’s an idea: If you just can’t hit Union Market without ordering a grilled cheese from the Righteous Cheese stall (a plight we can totally understand), consider pairing it with a healthy soup from Soup Up, which serves healthy soups made with organic local ingredients. Current brothy options include lentil soup with spicy turkey andouille, ginger-lemongrass veggie and a chilled spicy watermelon soup. It’s worth noting that while some of these low-sodium soups have meat in them, none have dairy, butter or oil.