Erik Bruner-Yang of Toki Underground is taking on a new role at Union Market: locla grocer.
The chef has launched Honeycomb at Union Market, selling prepared items, produce, Asian sauces, homemade ingredients snacks, candies and more. It's unaffiliated with Bruner-Yang's upcoming Maketto project on H Street.
"It's like the classic grocer, butcher or old school pharmacy that knows the people, and knows what they like," Bruner-Yang said. "We want to create an open dialogue and help peopel find the things they need when they're trying to make dinner, be part of that conversation."
Bruner-Yang's larger goal: to help make Union Market a place where people actually go for "at least half" of their groceries, rather than just picking up occasional items here and there. His team has grown familiar with the location, having operated a pop-up restaurant there for some time now.
"We want to show people that things are accessible," he said of the Asian ingredients they'll carry (which can be tougher to find in D.C. proper than they are in the suburbs). Honeycomb will give Bruner-Yang the chance to showcase food makers throughout the city who are already making products like chow fun noodles and tofu (for example, their ramen noodle maker is based in Springfield; they'll carry those noodles at Honeycomb).
He's also hoping Honeycomb will help those shoppers who can be overwhelmed by the number of sauce brands they might find at a typical Asian grocery store — this market will offer more of a curated selection. Some of the sauces and condiments they make at Toki Underground will be offered for sale there, but no full dishes, at least for now.
"I think some people might be disappointed we're not selling anything you can eat right there," Bruner-Yang said. "But you know, they can come to Toki or the pop-up."