Monday, February 11, 2008
I tend to eat out a lot. It's a perk of being single and living right in a city area. It's faster and sometimes even cheaper for me to walk the four blocks to grab some home style Thai food or a seriously good burrito, but we'll get to those places later.
One of the areas of the city I enjoy going to is the South End of Boston. There are a lot of great dining options and also some not so great ones too. But one that holds a special place in my heart is Union.
A friend I haven't seen in quite some time, came by the new shop to finally check it out. I was closing up for the day and she was thinking of going by Union to grab some grub. I asked if I could tag along. She happily agreed.
I've been going to Union for so long that it's hard to remember the first time. But I do remember being super excited (still getting excited) when a hot small cast iron skillet of complimentary cornbread was placed in from of me. The skillet had a handle and the most darling tiny potholder covering it. Just for the cuteness factor alone, I was smitten, but the cornbread was quite yummy too. Hot from the oven and sweet, it was the perfect item to start a nice meal.
Whenever I go to Union, I only sit in the bar section. Yes, I know there is an entire portion of the restaurant that I'm missing but I've always loved dinning at the bar. If ever given a choice, I usually opt for bar seating. I know it's considered second rate, but bar seating often works for me. "Um the wait is over an hour but there is seating at the bar if you'd like"...Perhaps it's the sorta casual nature of the bar or the fact that often the bartenders are the most charming individuals in the entire establishment (no disrespect to the rest of restaurants service staff!). When I go to Pearl Oyster in New York, I've never even seen half of the place b/c I always walk in and saddle on up to the bar.
The other part of the appeal is the bartender, Lee. From the first time I ever met him, I liked him. Funny, charming and very good at his job, he keeps a close eye on the place. And it shows. The bar is often full with regulars grabbing a nice cocktail and a decent meal.
Union changes it's menu seasonally but is relatively consistent in it's offerings. Something gnochi , some tuna, some chicken, always a burger, green salads etc.... I think it's what is often referred to as "New American". The food isn't going to win awards but it's nicely prepared and the ingredients are fresh and well seasoned. Last night I had a butternut bisque that was a bit more savory than what I expected. It came with fried sage leaves and nuts (perhaps pumkin) on top. It was a lovely presentation but not what I thought I was getting flavor wise. My dining companion suggested I take pieces of the cornbread I love much and crumble it into the soup. It was a great idea and I was a little embarrassed crumbling cornbread into my soup bowl, afraid that diners around me would say, "look at that little Asian chick with absolutely no table manners!". But one bite told me that risking looking like a FOB was worth it. It was perfect and exactly what I wanted! My friend took a bite and thought it was good too and even suggested to Lee that they make cornbread croûtons for the soup. I also got the braised shortribs listed as an appetizer as my main entree but as I sampled my friend's salmon I wondered if I should have gotten that instead. It was perfectly cooked and very, very moist.
My dining companion being a wine aficionado ordered two glasses of sparkling wine for us to have with our meal. I haven't the foggiest notion what it was, but it was very good. Not too dry and not too fruity at all.
It was a good meal and a nice way to catch up with a good friend. So if you're ever in Boston and unsure where to go for something nicely prepared, moderately priced with warm hospitality, go to Union, sit at the bar and introduce yourself to Lee. You really can't go wrong with that!