I hadn’t seen Darlington in a while, so when she suggested getting together at Union for a light dinner and a few drinks, I was of course looking forward to it very much. I didn’t even mind the chilly, breezy walk down Washington Street — and as someone who’s almost always shivering, that’s saying something.
Union is divided into two distinct spaces: a dark, moody lounge and a lighter, airier dining room. We climbed into a high banquette and swung our legs while we waited for our drinks, not realizing that Union was running an anniversary special. With one of the bar’s $5.00 specialty cocktails — or either a glass of Kelly’s Revenge Shiraz or Chardonnay — you receive a platter of free appetizers. Ours included calamari, ham and cheese croquettes and mini, open-faced sandwiches. While the calamari had the satisfying crunch of perfectly fried batter, I wished that the smokey accompanying sauce had been served on the side; its woodsy essence was too overwhelming. The croquettes, on the other hand, were crisp on the outside and dreamily smooth on the inside — fantastic.
Our gratis starters were actually quite filling, so Darlington and I decided to split a few more small plates rather than order entrées. What made that a little tricky is the fact that Darlington is a vegetarian, and I can’t describe Union having a veg-friendly menu, so we ordered the few items that either were or could be made vegetarian. Our first pick was the spinach and semolina gnocchi ($6.95), which instead of being a plate full of thick little hand-rolled noodles was more of a gnocchi cake. No matter what shape this dish came in, it would have been extremely noteworthy. Texturally, the gnocchi was richly creamy with the teeniest bit of resistance to the teeth.; flavorwise, it was surprisingly fresh and buttery, and I hade to remind myself that I had to save half for Darlington.
In addition to the gnocchi, we decided on the sweet corn risotto with fire-roasted peppers ($9.95), since it was one of the few offerings that the chef could remove meat from; in this case it was chorizo. I can’t really comment fairly on this, since the peppers added an unbelievable heat to the entire plate and I have absolutely no tolerance whatsoever for heat — not to mention I literally hate the tingly feeling I get when eating hot foods. I find it so distracting and unpleasant that I can’t even taste anything else. This, unfortunately, was the case for the risotto. Darlington seemed to enjoy it though…
Though the menu at Union is heavy on the fish and meat and light on the vegetarian fare, it’s definitely worth a visit. My cocktail, the Fall Classic (apple brandy, Triple Sec, honey and cider), was so tasty and easy to drink that it alone warrants a return trip, and hopefully soon — though it makes me wonder, what would a Winter Classic be?
Union Bar and Grille
1357 Washington Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02118