So we are done. No more weekly dates with destiny in guacamole form, not with any greater meaning to it anyways. This experience really solidified the bond between our three regular diners, through arguments about what night to go and long drives through Rock Creek Park, and it brought us together with many guest diners who are spread all over the city. My love for Chipotle never waned during our five month journey, and I yearn for carnitas more days than not. So without further adieu, please enjoy the closing post of the Great D.C. Beltway Chipotle Challenge: Union Station.
We were so happy when our challenge first started to learn the same week that the Union Station location was in development to open and give us an even twenty locations to visit. It seemed fitting to have the newest location to open also be the last to visit. We were joined again by Tate, which made for a tight foursome around a small table, but as long as he is wearing boat shoes, he is always welcome. This is of course the first thing you notice, the commuter dining solution by a main entrance into the station is by far the smallest location in the city with very little space to park a group of diners “for here.” It’s designers definitely followed the Chinatown footprint but managed to eliminate some of the least successful aspects from that disastrous recipe. They employ those weird box lights, but it is still bright otherwise inside. There is one long counter for seating, but it isn’t as obtrusive as the seating in Chinatown. It isn’t super inviting, but it won’t make you depressed that you chose a burrito as your meal for your train ride.
If for some reason you live around D.C. and haven’t made a trip to Union Station before to travel to a city in the northeast, buy an overpriced bagel, or take in a movie at that scary
theater it used to have downstairs, you should really get yourself there. The main hall has this kind of wonderful, hallow spookiness due to its shear depth and the fact that it is never really that busy since the Metro exit is located towards the back of the station with the trains and shopping. Perhaps it is just my ingrained perception of the place due to an experience I once had of running through the main hall by myself at 2:00am, when every step was echoing off all that marble, but it has a nice cool hue to it at night. It would be nice to see it looking this busy by day, which the artist Zachary Sasim displays each weekend at Eastern Market.
- Today’s menu: Carnitas burrito, black beans, red and green-tomatillo salsa, corn salsa, cheese, sour cream, and lettuce.
- Prime Placement: B+ (It is nice to not have to venture down into the bowels of the Union Station food court to get my quick burrito fix since this location is right on the top train level by a main entrance.)
- Teeny Tininess: C- (I know this a train station and the idea is that everyone is taking it to go, back to the Hart building or on the Acela to New York. But this place also isn’t an airport, and doesn’t have much seating anywhere. It is a really tight fit in there.)
- Signage: A (I know I have spent a lot of time ranting about the new look logos and
signs Chipotle is using, but I think it actually works really well with the rest of the Union Station aesthetic. This sign was the same as the Duke St. location if you refer back, but it didn’t work well outside. The contrast from the backlighting really makes it stand out inside.)
Location tip: Fortify yourself for a fantastic voyage on the Adirondack line up to Montreal for the Montreal Jazz Festival or head south to Charleston on the Palmetto line to brunch at Magnolias, take a historic mansion tour, and slurp oysters at Hyman’s Seafood. If you feel like staying local, just head down after Thanksgiving weekend to enjoy the three enormous Christmas wreaths that annually adorn the front archways. Don’t forget that it is a short walk to Eastern Market on weekends, where you could pick up your very own original painting by Mr. Sasim once you fall in love with the station’s magic.