I have driven by Union lots of times, and always see tons of people in this hip, open-air, upscale bar having fun. I was prepared to spend too much money on mediocre bar food in an atmosphere so loud, we wouldn’t be able to hear anything but blaring music and obnoxious drunks. Boy was I surprised when our waitress escorted our party of 18 around the bar scene and sat us at a very large table in a quiet, elegant room, fit for a Michelin star restaurant. Wait a minute, are we still at Union? It’s like there are two restaurants in one here. The vibrant bar scene offering up live music and mid-week drink specials, and the quiet back room where a large group like ours can have an upscale dining experience.
Walking to our table, we found pictures of patrons past enjoying drinks and good times just like we were doing tonight. These blue collar people probably finished their day with a surf and a beer after a hard days work in the granite quarrys. Cheers to you, our Encinitas ancestors of yore!
Once seated, our drinks and starters were soon on their way. We had two flatbreads at our table. The BBQ and Pesto. Both were loaded with toppings and tasted fine, but neither were the most exciting thing on the menu.
The most exciting thing on the appetizer menu would definitely be the Charred Spanish Octopus for $14.95. These tantalizing tentacles tickle your tastebuds with tender terrificness!
The Poke appetizer sounded delicious. The taro chips look like they have a secret message on them that needs decoding. Maybe there is hidden treasure nearby and these taro chips have the answers! Isn’t that a map of Swami’s beach with seagulls on the middle chip? Maybe we shouldn’t have eaten these so fast! What is our appetizer trying to tell us?!
Big Eye Tuna Poke (with secret message taro chips)
Mary ordered the Union Wedge for $10.95. I’ve never understood a wedge salad. You’re paying to have someone NOT make you a salad. You are paying for them to literally quarter a head of lettuce, stick it on a plate, then dump the rest of your salad ingredients around it and drizzle it in bleu cheese dressing. How hard can this be to do yourself? Ok, the one here does look a bit better than average, I’ll give it that. It’s that bacon lardon. Lardon is the super-duper best slab bacon you can get, coming from the pig’s belly. Leave it to the French to make the richest and most delicious food!
I asked our friend’s son, Ricky, what he was ordering. “Poutine” he answered. I looked over at Hubby, and he had the same stunned look on his face. “Did he just say….” But I shushed him before he could finish. Later, I looked it up. Both Hubby and I were thinking of a much different word. A nasty word. Neither of us really knew what it meant, but the word, “poutine” reminded us of something naughty, and NOT the gravy, bacony, cheesy soaked french fries that this dish actually was. Phew!
The bigeye tuna is bigger than an albacore yet smaller than a bluefin. Know what? They all end up delicious when prepared on a plate like this!
Big Eye Tuna
I ordered the Fisherman’s Stew for $27.95. It was huge! Seriously, two people could easily share this and be quite satified. There was tons of delicious fish and shellfish simmered in a flavorful tomato broth. I always appreciate it when a plate of seafood doesn’t skimp on the shrimp. I will order this one again next time.
Fish-and-chips-eating Geoff, put his Big Boy pants on today and ordered Pan Roasted Scottish Salmon. The skin was wonderfully crispy and he said it was one of the best things he’s ordered yet!
Pan Roasted Scottish Salmon
Now I’m going to show you a picture, and you are going to guess what it is. Here are your choices:
(A) carrot cake
(B) confit duck with yogurt cream
(C) vegetarian sweet potato burger
The answer is…
(A) carrot cake!
Why anyone would order carrot cake off of a dessert menu that has Chocolate Pudding Cake with Peanut Butter Cup Gelato on it, is beyond me. But both BP and Debbie are huge carrot cake fans, and were excited for this one. Until they tried it. Blech! This is NOT good carrot cake! First of all, the cake itself isn’t sweet. Although I usually like desserts that are less sweet, this time it didn’t work. Also, we know there are carrots in the cake because it’s called “carrot cake” but we don’t want to actually see real carrot slices on the plate! And certainly not a puree of carrots underneath. That’s just way too many real vegetables in our dessert! The secret to a good carrot cake is to hide the hell out of the carrots so you think that you are just eating cake! And, oh no, not microgreens on cake. All leafy vegetables belong in salad, not dessert! And don’t even get me started on the raisins.
The Smore’s Pie was a much better choice. The homemade marshmello on top was heavenly. JUST PLEASE TAKE THE LEAFY GREENS AWAY FROM ALL DESSERT ITEMS!!!
Chocolate Pudding Cake with Peanut Butter Cup Gelato. Dare I say that the gelato was so good, it didn’t even need anything else on the plate? Look at those thick ribbons of peanut butter in there, oh yah! Thank goodness they didn’t forget to add greens to the plate for nutritional balance!
Eleven, soon to be twelve, year old Delaney, budding food critic, had this to say about her plain scoop of vanilla ice cream:
“The vanilla ice cream was very thick and tasted like frozen yogurt. I give it a 9.7/10 rating and please put my picture in the blog.” Ok Delaney, here you go, cutie-pie!
Having eaten this beautifully prepared, delicious food in our lovely, quiet room with excellent service, we give Union Kitchen and Tap high ratings. If we had ordered this in the bar area, we may have felt things were overpriced. We had a great experience at the restaurant, but the bar gets an “incomplete” for now . To do a proper review, I am going to have to go back later tonight when the place starts hopping. Since they are open past midnight on Sundays, and it’s only 8:30 pm now, I’m going to lie down for just a little bit, wake up and head over. Nah, I don’t need to set my alarm. It’s not even 9:00 yet, and I’m still young(ish)! I’ll just take a rest then I’m ready to party! I’m sure I’ll make it over…
Next week’s blog will be on Sunday, March 18th at 9:00 am