By Marley McKenzie, Foodable Contributor
NoMa. Never heard of it? Well, you’re about to. NoMa is a DC neighborhood north of Massachusetts Avenue. Located right behind Union Station, this Northeast neighborhood is on the up and up. Between the bustling bars of the H Street Corridor and the myriad of new upscale apartment buildings catering to young professionals, the neighborhood has seen a dramatic increase in growth within the last year.
Suddenly, NoMa has begun to look a bit like a boomtown. All the essentials have been installed – the Harris Teeter grocery store, a Starbucks and a CVS. Bike lanes have been constructed and gardens have begun to blossom. On any given day of the week, you can exit the NoMa Metro Stop at rush hour and see several young folks in suits, talking on their cell phones while walking their well-groomed dogs outside their pet friendly, smoke-free condos.
Yet, despite the uptick in settlers to the neighborhood, NoMa is by no means busy. The neighborhood’s activity levels pale in comparison to its contemporaries in Northwest such as Columbia Heights or the nearby Shaw neighborhood. Opportunity abounds: the neighborhood still lacks that key neighborhood bar, and while fast food is abundant, sit-down restaurants are few and far between.
Testing the (Hoppy) Waters
However, while the place still has a long way to go, the food industry is taking note and several companies are trying to get in on the ground floor. With the help of the enthusiastic NoMa Business Improvement District (NoMa BID), businesses are beginning to move into the area. Of particular interest to the food industry is the new pop-ups in town. In addition to becoming a regular route for food trucks, the neighborhood has also officially opened its first bar. NoMa’s pop-up beer garden, the Wunder Garten, is an outdoor venue that just opened its gates for the first time this summer.
The bar is strategically located right next to the NoMa metro station, so patrons can literally get off the train and walk into the bar. Wunder Garten features German craft beers. Hofbräuhaus is the order of the day, and is sold in multiple varieties, from the wheat beer Hefeweizen to the dark and spicy Dunkel lager. The beer garden also sells beers from other local brewers, and Port City Porter has been featured on its menu for several weeks now.
While the beer garden currently has the monopoly on NoMa drinking holes, it is no kingdom to behold. The place has all the basics, but little frills. Pop-up to the core, it feels more like the concession stand at a concert than a real establishment. The “garden” consists mostly of a rocky lot with a small tent for those seeking shade and wooden picnic tables for guests.
Building a Targeted Customer Base
However, Wunder Garten’s sparse style is fairly indicative of the NoMa neighborhood itself. NoMa is certainly a place for yuppies, but it seems to lack the snobbery of more established places like DuPont Circle. The Wunder Garten caters to this youthful crowd looking to have a couple beers and a good time. There are patches of grass where the owners have strategically placed a series of lawn games, and patrons can be seen battling it out at Cornhole while they enjoy their pints. The bar features a series of rotating food trucks on its grounds, including favorites such as Rocklands BBQ. Additionally, it hosts outdoor educational programs from REI. The major outdoor retail company is opening a flagship store in the area in fall 2016, and it will be the largest REI on the east coast. Wunder Garten has strategically partnered with the company, anticipating that youthful and energetic craft beer lovers may just have an affection for the great outdoors as well.
Most weekends, the place is aflutter with young people looking to relax after a long day’s work and enjoy the summer weather while it lasts. However, the Wunder Garten – like this sunny weather – won’t last forever. The establishment’s lease is up in the fall, so those wishing to enjoy NoMa’s only bar would do well to hurry before the taps run dry.