It took longer than expected, but Union Social finally opened last night in NoMa. The restaurant by Reese Gardner of Copperwood Tavern and the Mighty Pint designed the space to be a riff on nearby Union Station.
We showed up around 7 to find the bar packed. My guess is that residents of the Elevation apartment building where the restaurant is located and other buildings nearby have been anxiously awaiting this opening, which will surely add another great option to the NoMa dining and nightlife scene.
We opted to sit in the dining room so we’d have a little bit more space and quiet. Our server greeted us promptly and was friendly and helpful for our entire dining experience, which isn’t always the case with a new restaurant that’s learning the ropes of their service.
After scanning the drink menu, we noticed that the pitchers of beer seemed like a great deal. A pint of DC Brau Oktoberfest costs $8, while a pitcher costs $19. We figured even if we only got 1.5 beers each, it would be a good deal.
We were wrong. The pitchers are HUGE! While it was definitely more beer than we needed, we probably got around 2.5 beers each. This is a fantastic deal for groups, or really thirsty duos. The draft list is impressive too, with many local options.
Cocktail lovers have ten unique options from a rum swizzler to a scotch sour with a Pinot noir floater. The wine list covers all of the bases affordably, with the most expensive bottles running at $46.
Along with our drinks we were served a complimentary bucket of popcorn.
But popcorn does not a meal make, and we were hungry. We opted to several smaller items to get a feel for the menu. The entrees run a tad on the pricier side, so I wanted to make sure the food was good before splurging on a $32 pork chop (which, granted, sounds really delicious).
For starters, we ordered the seared scallops and fried pickles from the “small bites” section.
Friends, these bites were not small. The scallop dish came with two large, tender scallops atop a fluffy bed of tantalizing Farro risotto. This “bite” could easily serve as an entrée for someone with a daintier appetite (read: not me). The risotto was probably the best thing I ate all night, creamy from a cauliflower puree with just a bit of chew from the Farro.
It is also available on its own as an entrée for $25 as a nice vegetarian option. Now that I’ve seen the portion sizes of the starters and sandwiches, the entrée prices make more sense. It’s one thing to charge $30+ for a huge dish that will fill you up and possibly allow for leftovers, and quite another if it’s a tiny plate that’s more garnish than protein. This is the reason why I couldn’t totally endorse Garrison (even if Tom Sietsema loved it).
The pickles were also delicious, and also not small at all, served with a tangy buttermilk remoulade.
The breading was nice and light and infused with dill. We were pretty much full after sampling a few pickles, and realized we’d ordered way too much food. But hey, I make these mistakes so you don’t have to.
For my main course, I ordered the local greens salad with steak. It was good, but nothing spectacular. The greens were good but a tad under dressed, the steak cooked well but lacking in flavor. Then again, as a former Okie who lived in Brazil for five months, I may be overly picky about my beef.
Tom had the Carolina pork bbq sandwich with a side of fries, which was delicious. The buttery bun was a nice contrast to the melt in your mouth pork and tangy coleslaw. The fries were good as well, but I was too full to enjoy them by this point.
Union Social is a great addition to the NoMa area and a despite some of the higher priced items, a great bang for your buck if you choose wisely. I thought $17 for a half-dozen oysters was a little crazy, but with small plates that can work as an entrée and beer that is practically free, it’s definitely possible to get in and out of this place without breaking the bank.
Our server also informed us that they’re already open for lunch daily and brunch service will begin this weekend featuring things like French toast sticks, duck hash and short ribs Benedict.