Tucked away on the Adanac bike trail is a family run neighbourhood market that specializes in Portuguese foods, fresh-baked breads and pastries, and home-made meals. It’s a tiny space filled to the rafters with specialty items, groceries, fruit and vegetables, and more tasty goodness than a place this size should hold. Union Food Market is not just the little market that can; it’s the little market that does… everything. And it does it well.
It was a rainy morning when my Brunch Buddies sent me a text and asked me to join them at this little community gem. They promised me great coffee and some amazing house-made pastries. I know, no eggs, but who could turn down the chance for what they swore was the best brioche in town. Union Food Market didn’t disappoint.
The location isn’t the sort of place you’ll accidentally discover unless you live in the area. It’s unassuming, except for the constant procession of patrons through their door. There is covered seating but it’s still outdoors, so make sure you go dressed for the weather. Luckily, just after we sat down someone inside was kind enough to put on the overhead heaters.
What kind of food drew my Brunch Buddies to the Union? Delicious food, that’s what! We ordered a cross-section of items from their baked goods case and made sure to share. Opening the little white bag you get your take-out in was like unwrapping a Christmas present. We had the feta and spinach brioche, old fashion doughnut, the glazed doughnut, an apple fritter, a cinnamon bun, and the cod cakes. Hey, don’t judge, there was three of us, and I challenge you to order less in this situation. It’s too enticing once you’re in the market.
The brioche was all it was supposed to be, a light, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth savoury delight. The feta was not over-powering and balanced perfectly with the spinach. All three of the donuts will satisfy your sweet tooth. While the apple fritter was what an apple fritter should be, and the glazed was chewy and less sugary than expected, it was the old-fashioned that stole the show. You could taste the presence of sour cream. It wasn’t drowned out by the sweetness of the dense dough. The old-fashioned is, in and of itself, almost a hearty meal.
The cinnamon bun is not your standard gooey sugar-coated heart-attack food. It’s more bready than cake-like and doesn’t come with a heavy glaze. As we ate, all I could think was, someone needs to slice this stuff up and make either cinnamon bun French toast, or cinnamon bread pudding with this stuff. It really is that inspiring.
I want to take a moment to remember and rave about the cod cakes. Other than the brioche, it’s the only item I thought about days later. Heaps of cod mixed with potato, dry, not greasy, they were little finger foods I could eat like wings; one after the other. The Portuguese are known for their cod dishes and this was proof that it’s a reputation well-earned. Wash it all down with a good strong coffee, and you’ve got the kind of Sunday morning that makes for a great prep for that Sunday afternoon nap.
Even if you don’t live in the area, grab a friend and make the trek to Strathcona for Union Food Market. Whether you eat at one of the tables or take it to the park, it doesn’t matter. The food will still be sweet, savoury, gooey and gorgeous, and your Sunday will feel like you never want it to end.
Movie Recommendation: Lisbon Story (1994), a Wim Wenders film that pays homage to the Portuguese capital.
810 Union Street, Vancouver
Open from 8 am Saturdays and 9 am Sundays
Michelle Muldoon is a writer, filmmaker, and avid foodie. You can find her on twitter @chat2michelle.