Walking into Union and Finch, you really want to like this place. It feels warm yet bright, cozy and inviting, hip and at the same time homey. You want this to be the place you can walk into on a Wednesday night or a Saturday afternoon, and they know your name. T and I, after a few minutes of hanging out here, decided that we wanted this to be our “Cheers.”
We visited twice before I wrote up this review, because the first time we swung by we just had a little snack- I wanted a fair review, based on more than a sandwich and a side. We weren’t upset about going back 😉
Upon entering Union & Finch, we were greeted by a friendly face each time. The staff seems genuinely excited about this new venture, and pumped about where everything is headed. Our server on the first visit hung out and chatted with us about the remodel and future plans for the bar/restaurant. On both visits, one of the owners and the GM stopped by to say hi and spent a few minutes chatting- above and beyond the standard, “hi, is everything good here? okgreatthankyouenjoyyournight” typically seen when the manager makes the obligatory rounds. During one such chat, we learned that the remodel took the better part of 1 1/2 years, and that most of the wood paneling actually comes from a PA barn built in 1879. They know the date because they actually found a panel with the date carved in it…and then mounted that board in the front of the restaurant (see photo to the right). The owner that we chatted with even remembered us on our second visit, nearly two weeks later.
Ok, so the space is cool, the people are cool, even the wood is cool. How is the food? The menu has a nice variety- a good mix of light dishes, salads, sides, sandwiches, and entrees. There is a limited but decent cocktail menu- mainly composed of classics, some with a twist. Over our two visits, we had the mexican corn small plate (4.50), the union burger ($12.50), duck osso bucco ($23), mac n’ cheese ($8), crab po’boy ($14.50), fries (both regular *and* truffle), and a handful of cocktails.
Cocktails? Delicious. Prices, reasonable. Burger? Not bad- good thick maple bacon, delicious house made pickles, tasty sweet and tangy red onions, toasty bun. Corn was alright, a bit mushy- either overcooked or just a mushier ear of corn as we hit the end of the season. Fries were tasty, a thicker cut with a nice crispy cook. I tend to be wary of truffle fries because I’ve been burned one too many times by a heavy hand with the truffle oil. These were just a hair on the “too much” side, but I won’t hold it against them, they were still darn good. The duck osso bucco- won’t lie, I was prepared to be disappointed. Duck is tricky. But the duck legs were moist, flavorful, and delicious. The pea puree on the plate was velvety smooth and superbly seasoned. The potatoes… not my favorite. They are described as having olive oil, cream, and butter. With allllll of that fat, you expect a rich, velvety potato. We got semi-lumpy, gluey potato…I will also say $23 for the portion shown is a bit high. Generally, I’m on board with their prices, but this one seemed a little inconsistent.
Mac n’ cheese? Ok, so I’m gonna have to give them a redo on this one, because I’m pretty sure they can do better. It tasted like they just got too much pasta water in when they mixed the noodles with the sauce, resulting in a watery bowl of noodles and sauce. But when we got to the bottom and got the creamy sauce without as much water, it was cheesy and salty and rich. Noodles were a bit over, as well. BUT, again, sauce was killer- so I’d like to think this was a one-off issue. Final item: crab po’boy. Cool thing about this po’boy: it’s not fried. It’s just shredded crab meat, which I really appreciate. For $14.50, I wouldn’t expect a massive amount- however, the bread to crab ratio ended up being a bit off for me. I also would have liked some type of dressing on the crab- maybe some lemon juice, even just a hint of mayo. Not the end of the world, but a little something would be nice- maybe even a little lettuce and tomato. I did toss the pickle from the side onto the sandwich and that was helpful. There were some fried herbs on there, but they end up getting wet from the crab and end up hard to chew- a few times, I thought I was getting shell and it was just the herbs. I feel like if they went with a buttery brioche bun, added some of their delicious house-made pickles, and, like, 1/2 tsp of mayo, this sandwich would rock.
Long story short: Is this place going to blow your mind food-wise? No. Should that stop you from going, and going often? Hell no. I want people to go to this place so that it stays in business. Because if it stays in business, I can keep going there. And that’s what’s important here. They’re not trying to be more than they are: the food is decent, the drinks are tasty, the people are cool, and the vibe is comfy yet current. Check it out.