Union Park opened at 1311 Main St. in downtown last week -- or maybe it was two weeks ago. I'm not exactly sure, but last night I scored a metered parking spot just down the block, which is free after 6 p.m., so I was able to check it out and avoid circling the block nine times and the $8 valet.
An arched stone entrance frames the entrance to Union Park, and large pillars on each side look very something-century and noble. The huge all-glass doorway and "UP" logo with the Affliction treatment is a modern contrast.
Inside the place has been completely remodeled. I'm not sure what it looked like before, but all the woodwork, art, lighting and exposed concrete oozes lots of money. It's dark, rustic, modern, sleek and fake (they use artificial turf here and there for décor) all at the same time.
On this particular Thursday evening the crowd was a mix of friends of the owners (presumably), out-of-towners staying at nearby hotels and a few downtown workers. I think there was a bachelor party up front. Almost every seat in the place was taken.
First of all, the staff is extremely nice. Almost every server, host, manager, owner or what-have-you who walked past asked if I needed something else to drink or eat. If I didn't want anything, they were almost worried, like a mom whose kid won't eat breakfast, "What's wrong? Please tell me. I'm here for you."
My particular waitress would walk to my table, stand there for two seconds and just smile ... then quietly go forth with whatever question. No rush, just chill. I almost offered her a seat.
Even the customers are nice. I thought I got locked in the bathroom because the doorknob is just a dummy (on the inside). So, I unlocked the bolt, but the doorknob wouldn't turn. After almost dislocating my shoulder trying to force it to turn, I panicked and started shaking the heavy wooden door violently (the place was loud, I didn't think they'd ever hear me). A customer just simply pulled the door open for me and said, "I'm here to save you. It's OK. The same thing just happened to me earlier. It's a tricky door."
So, party tip: Just push the door open from the inside. Never mind that doorknob that you think is jammed.
There's not really a formal dining room at UP. It's all very bar-loungey. There's a separate room in the back that is the formal "lounge" with large "U" shaped couch and a TV display in front. There's also one communal table with about 20 seats around it. A Golden Tee game (I'm pretty sure) was tucked way back in a corner.
The bar is stocked with about 30 beers on tap and the entire backside of the large menu is full of specialty drinks and concoctions. Rob Roy, Horse's Neck, watermelon cucumber rita, strawberry mint julep: It's everywhere.
The food is upscale bar fare. Big fat 12-ounce Angus beef burgers come in 11 different flavors: bacon cheddar, Swiss and mushroom, cowboy, border, ranch-hand and the like. The people at the table next to mine from Pennsylvania had an amazing-looking chicken-fried steak sandwich served on a huge ciabatta bun.
Starters include wings, lobster corn dogs, fried mac and cheese bites, Southern spinach dip, fried portobella mushrooms, ultimate cheese fries, and fried pickles and green beans. Entrees offered are chicken and waffles, chicken-fried steak, chicken-fried chicken and fish and chips.
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Music ranged from Janet Jackson to Tom Petty to Depeche Mode. They're just shooting it straight down the fairway there (I suppose). The Rangers and Olympics played on about 10 different televisions.
I wish I had more pictures, but it is so hard to take pictures in a dark bar with people who may or may not want to have their photos taken. Just imagine ... it's swank and sporty. The food looks great. So do most of the guests. There are plenty of televisions should you need the distraction. If you're in the area, give it a shot.