Union Market isn’t your only option for a cool food hall. The Block, a space with six vendors, is hiding in a nondescript shopping center in Annandale, next to a Kmart. The developer Arturo Mei said he wanted to give residents in the area “something that people didn’t have to go to D.C. for.”
Inspired by food halls he’s seen in New York and Los Angeles, Mei converted 5,000 vacant square feet into the concept, which he said is meant to capture the vibe of a block party, hence the name. What you get is a chill vibe and a place to spend a few hours while partaking in a progressive meal that might include drinks, small plates, a bowl of soup or poke and dessert. Think Union Market but on a smaller scale.
He said it just so happened that the Block ended up leaning Asian in inspiration, although it wasn’t his original intent. “We would like to make something like this even bigger in the future,” he said, with a wider range of cuisines.
Stalls have been gradually opening since December and are continuing to build their menus. Here’s a rundown of what you can expect.
SnoCream Company: Mei had been parking his SnoCream Company retrofitted school bus near the Block's building for around two years before setting up shop there. Now you can find his interpretation of the relatively new Taiwanese dessert there. It's a bit like shave ice and a bit like ice cream and uses a special machine to create fluffy mounds of the frozen treat. Flavors include Thai iced tea, mango and pandan, which are then decorated with such toppings as taro pudding, mochi and cereal, and sauces along the lines of caramel and condensed milk. The stall also serves boba, or bubble, tea.
Pokeworks: This chain specializes in the trendy Hawaiian raw fish dish in bowl, burrito and salad forms. Non-seafood eaters can partake in chicken or tofu.
Balo Kitchen: From the same owners of the PhoWheels food truck, this stall calls its menu Asian comfort food. There are Taiwanese chicken nuggets, rice and pork belly bowls and a pork belly BLT. Weird and wonderful is the grilled street bread, combining ciabatta with caramel fish sauce, chili butter, scallions, fried garlic, mayo and pork floss, which is like thinly shredded jerky.
Roots Thai Street Food: This new concept has a menu of soups and rice bowls, including boat noodle soup, a broth-based Thai dish with vermicelli noodles, meatballs and sliced beef named after the floating vendors who would sell them.
Munch: This ice cream and doughnut stand may open later this month. Mei said there will be "specialty ice cream flavors," plus doughnut ice cream sandwiches.
Block Bar: The bar serves craft cocktails and specialty drinks.
The Block, 4221 John Marr Dr., Annandale. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; the bar is open until midnight Sunday through Wednesday and 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.