A Look Inside the Revamped Union Market

Turn off New York Avenue on to the streets of Eckington in Northeast DC, and the world becomes a maze of tightly crisscrossed one-way streets. Along the avenues, an international panoply of wholesalers, importers, and specialty markets jockeys for breathing room. On one byway, a forklift operator moves pallets of Ghanaian yams, while workers unload large cardboard boxes simply marked “Made in China” next door. The warning sounds of delivery trucks backing up mix with a multilingual mishmash of conversations.

Positioned somewhere within the hubbub stands Union Market. Its gleaming new sign—crisp letters in ivory, silhouetted against the blue sky— seems to float serenely above the fray. The market’s block-long warehouse, with its fresh coat of paint and perky orange awnings, stands out against the fading brick façades and well-worn asphalt that typifies this much-neglected quarter of the District. Though Eckington is a single Metro stop away from Union Station on the Red Line, as well as a close shot to both Gallaudet University and the up-and-coming NoMa neighborhood, it remains mostly undiscovered by many Washingtonians.

The lavishly revamped Union Market aims to turn the sleepy subsection into a must-see destination for locals and out-of-towners alike. The multimillion-dollar marketplace is the result of more than six years of work by Edens development group, the firm behind several custom-built shopping destinations and retail-center renovations up and down the East Coast. (The group hatched DC’s highly successful mixed-use center City Vista, at the corner of Fifth Street and New York Avenue.) “Retail has shifted and changed radically over the last decade,” says the firm’s president and chief investment officer, Jodie McLean. “It cannot serve simply a utilitarian purpose; it has to pull a community together.”

With that in mind, the more than 25,000-square-foot, year-round, all-weather market houses an impressive mix of 40 local vendors showcasing the best the city’s burgeoning culinary scene has to offer. In addition to a rotating cast of seasonally appropriate producers, Union Market features permanent storefronts of beloved regional favorites like Peregrine Espresso, Dolcezza gelateria, Lyon Bakery, and Trickling Springs Creamery. In a nod to the marketplace’s original incarnation, the eight-decade-old butchery, Harvey’s Market, anchors the lineup.

Finish reading the article on the Capitol File website now.

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The Ten: Best Coffee Shops

So many choices, so little time. The Ten is your guide to the best of the best that D.C. has to offer.

This installment pays homage to the kings and queens of caffeine who keep this CityEats writer juiced at all hours of the day.

 

Qualia Coffee

This boutique beanery in Petworth roasts hard-to-find varietals from around the globe, making it the premiere destination for java junkies.

Baked & Wired

Come for the coffee, stay for the expansive selection of cupcakes. And the gloriously gluttonous brownies. And the Hippie Crack (aka granola). This Georgetown favorite lives up to its name admirably.

Filter

With locations in Dupont Circle and Foggy Bottom, this craft coffee shop exclusively uses beans locally sourced from Annapolis, Md.’s Ceremony Coffee Roasters. Half a dozen varieties are usually available as pour overs for discerning forty weight fans.

Peregrine Espresso

Whether you’re on Capitol Hill, browsing Union Market, or taking a trip down the 14th Street corridor, you should make time to grab a latte, dopio or a micro-brew at this hometown hero.

Pound The Hill

Hill staffers and hipsters alike love this Capitol Hill favorite. Make sure you order the addictive Nutella latte, which features a triple threat: chocolate, hazelnut and espresso. 

Find out the next five by clicking over to CityEats’ Plate blog now.

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Wi-Fried – When coffee shops turn off the Web

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, a stream of customers flows into Peregrine Espresso on 14th Street NW. Almost no one stays very long, since nearly all of the dozen seats are filled.

Two twentysomething guys in faded T-shirts and jeans casually chat at one of the tables, while a woman with frizzy gray hair intently edits a sheaf of papers nearby. The few laptops open are running Microsoft Word, not Facebook.

What kind of bullshit is this?

As a freelance journalist who has made a career out of frequenting java joints of every size, this doesn’t seem right. Places like this are supposed to be a haven for people like me who want to get out of the house just so that we feel like we’ve accomplished something.

It’s like there’s something missing here.

Oh, yeah, free Wi-Fi. What was once an integral coffeehouse element is now no longer guaranteed.

“When we signed the lease, it immediately occurred to me that we did not have the space to encourage people to hang out for long periods of time,” says Peregrine owner Ryan Jensen. “It wasn’t appropriate to offer Wi-Fi and end up with a situation where people could never expect to find a seat. It’s hard enough as it is.”

Jensen knows what it’s like to foster that type of environment, since Peregrine’s original Capitol Hill location offers free Wi-Fi, as did its predecessor, Murky Coffee. “There were some things that we didn’t really feel like we wanted to mess with,” he says. “One of those things was offering Wi-Fi.”

After over a decade in the business, Jensen has seen a shift: Coffee shops “went from being more communal places to being second offices for a lot of people,” he says. The squatters linger for long periods, take advantage of power outlets, and sometimes hog tables intended for multiple customers.

Finish reading this story on the Washington City Paper website now.

Illustration by Jandos Rothstein; photo by Darrow Montgomery

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