The Clarkston Union has been making itself known thanks to its brash take on American classics. I’d write out my own description of the place but I found that the Union did it good enough the first time:
“This is the kind of legit food that you’re not going to find at those places with proprietary birthday songs. No. There’s nothing in the Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen that isn’t thoroughly real. The oak. The pews. The stained glass. The beers. The dressings. The tattoos on the servers (you do not want to try to rub one off). It’s all about delivering the real, the coarse and the authentic in a world that is often only packaged to deliver food as honest as this. It started as a promise to dish out the kind of handcrafted grub that you’d have expected to find on Main Street back in the day when parking lots had horse posts in them.
This is a restaurant that was built on the cornerstone of authentic American comfort, served up one cheese-strewn noodle at a time in a hot dish that bubbles up a chorus of a thousand Michigan memories. OK, we’re getting a little out of hand there; but when it comes to Mac & Cheese, digging deep comes naturally to us. Why? Because it’s the stuff of legend. It’s that rare combination of the totally expected and the happily surprised. And it’s what you’ll find at an 1840′s church on Main Street in Clarkston, Michigan. Please make yourself at home.”
Restaurants are trending these days toward more homemade, down home, finger licking types of food. Barbecue, mac and cheese, and homemade ice cream are dotting the menu landscape and becoming trademarks for many establishments. These are the types of food that excite me! The visual simplicity of these dishes belies the culinary dexterity needed to create them and therein lies the beauty of the Union. Take for instance my bratwurst…
Well, first, a side story. So I was working in the kitchen at the Detroit Auto Show last year and Audi had brought along three chefs. Nothing crazy there. A lot of car companies brought along their own chefs to cook for them. However, these guys were special because their sole purpose in life was to follow Audi around, drink beer and make this special sausage that only they knew the recipe for. At first I thought my boss was kidding me until one day, sure enough, in walk these three guys with beer steins, ready to make the sausage. Glory job! Now back to the story.
I tell you that because, as you can assume from my sidebar, some people take their wurst-making seriously and I am here to tell you that the Union is among them. This sausage is crunchy on the outside as you bite into the casing and well seasoned on the inside. To me it tasted more like a Polish sausage than a brat but it was still very good when paired with the homemade sauerkraut and a hardy roll. The best part is that it was $8.25 with a “new pickle” and roasted potatoes.
As for the rest of my dining companions, we all got something different which is excellent from a food blogger’s perspective!
My girlfriend, Emily, got the eggplant special which was fried and smothered with a colorful concoction of Feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, spinach, and Kalamata olives. Our friends Gannon and Arieanna ordered the Mac & Cheese and Chopped Cobb Salad, respectively. The Mac & Cheese lived up to the reputation. A solid layer of broiled, buttered breadcrumbs compliments the blistering mass of penne noodles, Canadian sharp and mild Pinconning cheeses. Everyone at the table got a sample of Gannon’s dish and it was a unanimous winner. Emily fell for the dish’s creaminess, texture, and its all around cheesiness with its crumbly topping binding it all together in delicious harmony. The Mac & Cheese is one of the Union’s signature dishes and it really is worth the trip. However, if carbs are your enemy you can go for Arienna’s selection: the Chopped Cobb. Smoked chicken, asparagus, and Applewood-smoked bacon are just a few of the toppings on this so-massive-it’s-big-enough-for-two-people Cobb salad. Don’t be afraid to order dressing on the side if it all sounds too wonderful for you.
Nothing about the Union comes across as pretentious. The Union is subtle, cunning, and delightfully quirky with its antique pews, stained glass windows, mouth- watering beer list, and its cripity, crunchety “Most Macked Mac & Cheese.”
My only complaint is that the wait is so darn long. On a Sunday night we waited for over 45 minutes for a table of four. If it’s just you and your sweetie or if you want to sit at the bar your wait will be significantly shorter I’m sure. If you do end up waiting there is a general store right next door with a bunch of dingle hoppers and banded, bulbous snarfblats to keep you entertained while you wait.
In the end, deep down, don’t you want to go to a restaurant that is still in high demand after years of being open? The wait speaks volumes of the Union’s quality and longevity. I had heard all of the hype about the Union before going and I can safely say after eating there that the accolades have all been well earned.
54 South Main Street, Clarkston 48346