Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Union 613 (Review)

Union 613 has been on our list of eats since it opened last year. It's a rather small restaurant in an old house so it's sometimes difficult to get a table unless you plan ahead and make reservations. But let me tell you it is well worth the wait. The atmosphere is rustic but cozy and casual. The staff are friendly (And the real kind of friendly. Not the "you better give me a good tip because I'm being attentive kind of friendly") and they are knowledgeable about the drinks and food on the menu.

Union's theme is a Canadian take on classic southern food with an urban flare and a Prohibition-style ambiance with all the bourbon classic libations to go along with it. Most of the seating is also communal so feel free to strike up a conversation with the hipsters sitting next to you.

The menu's presentation caught our eye as the front page is made of burlap with Union's infamous logo. After visiting Georgia and South Carolina earlier this year, we were comforted by the familiar southern staples that appeared on the menu, such as boiled peanuts, grits, cornbread and fried chicken.

Our classic cocktails came served in mason jars and we were treated to some boiled peanuts while we mulled over the menu. We decided to share a few side and main dish items so we would get the most out of our experience. Our sides for sharing were the cast-iron cornbread with bourbon brown butter ($6) and the cheddar and roasted garlic hominy grits ($5), which tasted as decadent as they sound. The main dishes we tried had some of the most unique flavor combinations including the smoked hog jowl, watermelon & pickled rind with chiles, benne ginger and sorghum dressing ($18); the cracker crusted Louisiana catfish with pecan puree, wilted frisee and lemon ($17); the free range southern fried chicken with pepper vinegar ($14); and the rabbit, scallop and crab skillet with chiles and popcorn ($17).

The food was so delectable and rich but we couldn't pass up sharing some dessert. We chose to try the fried cherry & lavender pie with vanilla bean gelato and lemon gel. There was not a crumb left within 5 minutes, needless to say we weren't quick enough to get a photo.

Cast-iron Cornbread; Cheddar and Roasted Garlic Grits
 Union's atmosphere has an added bonus with a newly added speakeasy in the basement. To stay with their prohibition theme, speakeasies were underground establishments that served alcohol illegally in the United States during the prohibition-era of the 1920s. Obviously Union's speakeasy is totally legal, but the experience of walking through an artificial bookshelf definitely takes you back to that era. Next time you call to make a reservation ask to be seated in the basement.

Union is also one of the only restaurants in the city that continues serving food until 2am so club-goers can fancy themselves a little something extra than the ordinary poutine, pizza or shawarma.

Verdict: A 1920s southern experience. Authentic yet modern food. Young, rustic and casual atmosphere.

Cost: Sharing sides about $5. Main dishes range from $15-$18. Drinks from $10-$15

Hours: Monday & Tuesday 11:30am-2:00pm and 5:30pm-10:00pm. Wednesday - Friday 11:30am-2:00pm and 5:30pm-2:00am. Saturday 5:30pm-2:00am. Sunday 5:30pm-10:00pm

Union Local 613. 315 Somerset Street West. Ottawa ON. 

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