Affordable, Local Flavor at Union Market

The market area. Photo credit: Frances Melvin.

If you’re ever in search of the perfect neighborhood market, café, or a place to get some work done, I suggest you head over to Union Market in Union Hill, a historic neighborhood adjacent to Church Hill, just east of downtown Richmond. Union Market opened in early 2014 after the owners, Gillian Field, Hunter Robinson, and Shawn Tunstall, received a grant from Bon Secours’ Supporting East End Entrepreneur Program. Half of the market is a small grocery, selling both locally produced items and items found at larger retailers. The other half of the market functions as a sandwich shop and bar. Many of the ingredients used are locally sourced, and the menu changes with the season. 

U.M.G.C. Photo credit: Alexa Welch Edlund via Richmond Times Dispatch.

Ever since my first visit to Union Market, I have always gotten their delicious grilled cheese sandwich, named the U.M.G.C. This grilled cheese combines three different cheeses: dill havarti, smoked gouda, and mozzarella. It is also lined with basil pesto and roasted tomato and served on Billy Bread. All sandwiches come with a light side salad and a house vinaigrette on top. Since it was a cold, gloomy day on my most recent visit, I went with the half soup, half sandwich option. I selected the chipotle bacon potato soup to go with the U.M.G.C. The three varieties of cheese blended to make a gooey base that paired nicely with the grilled bread. The tomato and pesto lightened up the sandwich and added nice flavor. In the soup, both the bacon and potato had strong presences but were still overwhelmed by the spiciness of the chipotle. However, eaten with the grilled cheese, the flavors nicely complemented each other, and the heat was more manageable. The salad was a light, healthy addition to the otherwise rich meal.

The chicken tarragon sandwich and chipotle bacon potato soup. Photo credit: Frances Melvin.

My mom Lindsey Melvin (‘88), who dined with me, got the chicken tarragon sandwich, which consisted of chicken salad, plum ginger jam, crispy chicken skins, and avocado on Billy Bread. While I wasn’t a fan of the combination, my mom enjoyed it. She too got chipotle bacon potato soup and didn’t mind the spiciness as much as I did. We both agreed the soup was a good choice for a rainy day. Melvin described her meal as, “delicious and light, perfect for a late lunch.”

Union Market makes for a great place to grab a quick bite to eat or sit back and relax. Everything is priced reasonably, with the “pick-two” option priced at $8.50, especially considering most of the ingredients are locally produced. Additionally, you order and pay at a counter before getting your food, so tipping is not necessary. That being said, the cooks and employees we did encounter were friendly and welcoming, certainly deserving of a tip. Another feature is that just behind the ordering counter is the kitchen, so you can actually watch your food being prepared. If you want anything to drink other than water or sides such as chips, you go to the market side and purchase those separately. This format is ideal for limited budgets.

Patio seating. Photo courtesy of Union Market.

Although inside seating is limited, there is a spacious patio outside. The atmosphere is comfortable and friendly, as you would expect of a neighborhood market. The location is several miles from Collegiate, but it is worth the drive to Union Hill to be able to experience the quaint neighborhood. Conveniently, delivery is also available if it is too much trouble to drive there. I can’t wait for my next chance to go to Union Market and get another grilled cheese, or maybe I will branch out and try another one of their amazing-sounding options.

Featured image credit: Bill Dickinson via Flickr.

About the author

Frances is a junior at Collegiate School.