Union Bar & Grille in the South End has recently changed their menu to offer a selection of small plates “snacks” and shareable items.  I think it is always a risk when a well known restaurant decides to do something completely different with their menu so I was intrigued by the changes they did and was keen to try them out.

I arrived at Union last week to have dinner with three good friends.  I have not had dinner at Union for a really long time, brunch however brings me to this establishment on a regular basis.   The one thing that remains absolutely consistent with Union is the friendliness and total accommodation of all the staff.  It is always a pleasure to walk through their doors. 

As it was a quiet Tuesday there were a few open tables in the black lounged restaurant, however we felt our evening was for the bar area rather than the restaurant.  We decided on sitting at one of the high-top tables across from the bar.  

The bartender seemed to have his hands full with managing both the bar and all of the high-tops.  Nevertheless, he was attentive, friendly and ready for a bit of a laugh with his customers.  After he poured us some water and we ordered a bottle of wine and took a look at the menus.  I was starting to get excited about what was on offer, especially for the fact that we could have a taste of many things with the addition of “snacks” to the menu.

My friend, Bosguy ordered a Sunny Saunders.  We all had to try it due to his ravings.  It was like a taste of summer.  Deliciously dry gin spiked with ginger and lime garnished with fresh mint. 

Sunny saunders – bluecoat gin, ginger, lime,
a.j. stephen’s ginger beer, mint – $11


We placed our order for a number of snacks and appetizers and a few minutes later their signature, freshly baked, warm, always amazing corn bread was brought to our table in its own skillet. 

Corn Bread – complimentary


Our small plates started to arrive with the Truffle Popcorn.  Fresh popped kernels of corn with a mild hint of truffle that made them so light and flavorful.  Popcorn is no longer just for the movies. 

Truffle Popcorn – $4


Our next taste was of the Crabmeat Toast.  Creamy, tangy and plentiful crabmeat loaded onto toast points. 

Maine Crabmeat Toast – $3


The Deviled Eggs were our next snack.  I am always a fan of devilled eggs.  These were nice with a tasty balance of spicy mayonnaise and mustard.  So far we were enjoying all of our choices and taste sensations. 

Deviled farm egg – $2 (for 1 egg)


The roast beets added a juicy, fresh taste to the creamy goat cheese and spicy arugula in the Roast Beet Salad and it was probably the only semi-healthy dish we had all evening.  

Roasted Beets – arugula, goat cheese, pinenuts, lemon-honey vin – $9


After our bites we all decided we wanted more food so ordered a few more appetizers and some entrees.

I picked the House-made Cheese Ravioli and was thrilled with my choice.  Al dente ravioli filled with soft, rich cheese smothered in sweet caramelized onions and a tomato fresh sauce.  Simply perfect.

House Made Cheese Ravioli – caramelized onions, tomato gravy – $16


My friends ordered the Gnocchi, Union Burger and the startlingly green Chive Risotto.

Union Grind Chuck Burger – red onion jam, tillamook cheddar, fries – $15


I snuck a bite of the squash gnocchi and the chive risotto. I left the Burger all to my friend, although I did keep stealing his fries.   The Gnocchi was truly, outrageously first-class!  To use the cliché melt-in-your-mouth would not be enough to describe these pillows of light fluffiness.  Rich in a sweet brown butter sauce and mild garlic and sprinkled with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and velvety cheese.  This is what I am ordering next time.

Squash Gnocchi – brown butter, pepitas, garlic fudge & fresh cheese – $12


The Chive Risotto did have us all laughing when they brought it out.  It was really green, almost to the point of being fake.  Tentatively we all dipped our forks into this side dish, looked at each other and smiled.  The chives were not as overwhelming as the color would indicate.  The strong parmesan worked in harmony with the light onion flavor of the chives, which gave this dish a morish appeal. This dish was very good. 

Chive Risotto – $8


I have to say kudos on the new menu.  I am loving the very small price snacks, fun new appetizers and interesting mains and sides.  Union is again more to me than just brunch!

As well as brunch and dinner, Union is perfect for an after work, sit at the bar, sharing dishes (snacks) and a glass of wine or summery Sunny Saunders with friends.