Union Kitchen and Bar – Wilton Manors
Union Kitchen and Bar: 2309 N Dixie Hwy, Wilton Manors, FL 33305
Union Kitchen and Bar is a fairly new restaurant to the Wilton Manors dining scene. I had wanted to try it out for some time, so when my friends Solomon and Robert asked about going there for a Saturday night dinner with their friend Jeff, I was 100% onboard. The owners are a husband and wife team of Roberto and Chef Christie. The food that is served is a mix of Peruvian and Italian fused together. The prospects of this new place sounded promising since both had worked at the Boca Raton Resort and Club. The food menu is small, but that fits the size of the restaurant perfectly.
You will find a mix of small plates, four salads, four homemade plates of pasta, seven entrees, and a raw bar. It seems like everyone in Florida wants to put a raw bar of some sort on their menu.
The place was pretty busy, and the limited parking next to the restaurant is not enough, so you might have to park in the city lot that is just one street over. Our reservation was for 7 pm, and we were able to be seated right away.
Overall there is a very nice atmosphere to Union Kitchen. There are a few indoor tables and two outdoor patios, one in front and the other in the back. While the open patios are great, there should be some kind of mister or fans to help keep air flowing on the sweltering and humid days that we have for at least 6 months of the year in Florida.
It had a very European feel to the design with the cushions on cement benches at the outdoor tables. Each table was set up to seat four people, but you could easily combine them for bigger parties. The server was pretty good, although he did not know how to wear a mask. What is it with people who think they are safe if they leave their nose uncovered?
We were not the only ones not impressed with the overall service and food or the amount of time it took to be served our meals. The table next to us complained to someone who said he was the manager. They arrived about 20 minutes after us, and as we finished our meals at about 9 pm, they were just being served theirs. They had ordered the grilled pork chop, which is huge, but according to them was served cold.
For our drinks, Solomon tried a very cool drink called Japanese smoked old-fashioned. It is served in a lovely crystal glass brought out on a covered platter filled with smoke. It’s made of Japanese whiskey, plum win, chocolate bitters, & applewood. He said it was delicious and full of flavor. Jeff and I both had a glass of Ferrante Pinot Grigio, while Robert had the Union Lager.
There are only four appetizers to choose from at Union Kitchen and Bar. The four of us decided to share three dishes. The first one being marinated goat cheese which is served with marinated olives, pearl onions, thyme, a balsamic reduction, and grilled toast pieces. Jeff commented that he thought this was the best part of our meal. Robert and Solomon agreed and loved how the balsamic reduction and onions mixed for a great flavor, and the goat cheese held up nicely.
Next, Robert ordered the Porcini Campanelle made with wild mushrooms, peas, fresh herbs & truffle cream. He ordered the smaller half portion that is like an appetizer, and there is also an entree size portion available. Now, this item is listed under the pasta, and every time I have ever had it before, you are served with some form of pasta mixed in. However, at Union Kitchen, they either forgot to put the pasta in, or they decided to make it without. Whatever the reason, it really took away not only from the presentation but from the dish itself. While the mushrooms were nice, it was a bit overwhelming in the bowl, and the remaining accents of the dish could not make up for the incompleteness of the way they made it.
The third small plate that we ordered was the short rib arepas. This is usually one of my favorite dishes when I see it on the menu. However, we were only mildly impressed with it. The short rib was tender and perfectly seasoned, and cooked. That was the highlight of this dish. Unfortunately, we can not say the same about the arepa. The arepa itself had no flavor and was undercooked. There was no sign of being toasted like they usually are, and it fell apart way too easily. The guacamole that they spread on it was flavorless, and even the lime sour cream & cilantro could not create a mouth-watering flavor that the table craved.
They serve the small plates at random intervals, and everything is brought out as it is ready instead of serving them all at once. I don’t normally mind that, but it did take a good 20+ minutes for the first one to come out, and that was just the goat cheese.
I have to say that the wait time for the evening did not improve as we waited a good 90 minutes before our entrees finally arrived. Now you would think with that amount of time; we had ordered some amazing dishes that would take so much time to cook. However, you would be wrong since three of us ordered hamburgers and the fourth was sea bass. All of which can be cooked in under 20 minutes, even on a busy night.
Let’s start with the Peruvian Sea Bass that Solomon ordered. A small piece of bass is served on top of quinoa risotto, spinach & tomato. I think the spinach and the tomato must have been hiding because they don’t seem to be there, as you can see from the photo. Solomon asked for some kind of sauce to add to the sea bass due to how dry it was. He finished it but said how disappointed he was with such an easy-to-make dish.
The rest of us all chose to go with the Union Burger. Union Kitchen serves it with aged cheddar, caramelized onions, bacon, and avocado cream. All three of us ordered the burgers cooked to different temperatures. Obviously, I requested mine to be well done, Robert had his medium, and Jeff wanted his rare. When they finally were served, the presentation looked pretty good. However, that is the only part of this dish that was good. The meat used to make the patties had no flavor to it at all. Because they used the avocado cream that was as flavorless as the guacamole for the arepas, it could not help bring out the taste of the burger. IT truly was a big miss on their part. The onions were okay, but the bacon, which could have been great if they had actually cooked the bacon, fell flat since it was served almost raw. The bun was also nothing special and could have been so much better if they used a pretzel bun or brioche. Robert’s burger was a bit undercooked, and my burger was barely well done with hints of medium-well throughout.
The French fries were the best part of the burger, and that was our side item. The temperature of all our food was just fairly warm, and it was not hot like I am used to at every other restaurant I have been to.
I know some people seem to really like this place, however for the four of us it was very disappointing especially since friends have raved about it.
Pricing $$$-$$$$: Union Kitchen and Bar has potential if they can work out the kinks when it comes to service and food. Pricing might be more dependent on drinks and certain menu items.