Washington, D.C.’s culinary scene has exploded in recent years and the influx of new establishments has really changed the experience of dining out in the city. Local foodies now have a myriad of options never even considered possible in certain parts of town, until now. Union District Oyster Bar & Lounge has arrived to bring elegant cuisine, live entertainment, and welcoming neighborhood vibes to northeast D.C.
501 Morse St NE has always been a part of the historic Farmers Market section of town, now known as Union Market. Over the past decade it has served as the nightclub and live music venue, Layla Lounge, which closed in 2016. Real estate investors Russell Webster, a native Washingtonian, and Sean Rao, a longtime Montgomery County resident, noticed that the building was underutilized and originally planned to reopen it as a concert venue. In a remarkable twist of fate, after a conversation in Union Market with Chef Tobias Dorzon, founder and owner of Victory Food Truck & Victory Chefs, they decided to open Union District Oyster Bar & Lounge. This time adding Chef Dorzon as a partner and Executive Chef.
As an independent, black-owned, fine-dining establishment, Union District has truly stepped up to the plate with an incredibly well thought-out upscale concept. Everything about the venue is welcoming, starting with the inspirational quotes from Bob Marley and others that are prominently featured on the exterior of the building. The beautiful interior features brushed metal bar tops, chandeliers, and a beautiful kitchen/dining area. The menu reflects this aesthetic with a diverse menu featuring dishes such as Jerk Chilean Sea Bass, Grilled Cilantro Lime Lamb Chops and of course an excellent Raw Bar.
Chef Tobias Dorzon, a former NFL and Canadian Football League player, has turned his desire for cooking into a successful career. After work as Executive Chef at the Ritz Carlton Georgetown, he has experienced success with his popular Victory Food Truck and Victory Chefs, which serves high-profile athletes and celebrities. He brings his unique brand of upscale comfort food to the menu and the results are quite appetizing.
“I wasn’t going to re-enter running a restaurant unless I had some ownership and this was the perfect opportunity,” says Chef Dorzon.
This fact is evidenced by the camaraderie on display amongst the staff of roughly 85 employees with everyone from hosts, bar staff, and chefs combining to provide guests with the best possible experience.
The environment inside is reminiscent of a classic supper club and is meant to inspire a communal experience. They feature an early Happy Hour (Monday-Friday; 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.) and a Sunday brunch you won’t want to miss. In addition to the dining experience, the second floor is outfitted with a stage ready to host a variety of events. A house band composed of local musicians convene nightly to entertain and socialize.
Tina Hamm, director of operations, tells us, “Union District is about unity … not just unity within our team but unity with our guests as well. It’s all encompassing”. Union District is powered by “positivity, people and prayer.”
To find for about Union District Oyster Bar & Lounge, go to unionoysterbarlounge.com.
The restaurant will also serve as a registration site for the upcoming inaugural Black Restaurant Week, beginning Nov. 4.