It just happened to be Restaurant Week and the Aquatennial Torch Light Parade was also taking place on a beautiful Minnesota evening. My wife thought this would be the perfect time to check out the Union Rooftop and enjoy the parade from the rooftop. Unfortunately, the phrase, “You only get one chance at making a good first impression” decided to rear its ugly side. The downward spiral to our beautiful evening took only five minutes of being at Union.
We made reservations months in advance knowing Restaurant Week can be crazy busy. Upon our arrival, they were about 20 minutes behind schedule, which is fine and understandably so. We had also requested in our reservations to be seated near the perimeter of the restaurant so we could enjoy the parade while we ate. As tables opened up near the edge, they quickly went into “who cares about reservations mode”, not the end of the world, so moving on…
We made our way to the bar to grab a quick drink while we waited for our table to be ready. We stood there for about ten minutes while all three bartenders refused to make eye contact with us while looked confused as to what they were doing. They had puzzled looks on their faces trying to figure out how to make the drinks they were being asked to make by guests. Not the guests at the bar, just the two ticket windows at either end of the bar. I decided to go to the first floor bar instead to grab a whole two drinks. I asked for a beer (tough to make, I know) and a Palmer for my wife (since she can’t have alcohol). I got my beer, but she said, they only had iced tea at the upstairs bar and I replied, “I’ll pass then, because no one up there knows what they’re doing or even asked us if we wanted anything, I’ll just take a Sprite.”
Off to a good start, right? We started to second guess our decision to even go to Union at this point and hopeful that the cuisine would turn it the night around. Also found on the restaurant’s website, “Our chefs hold themselves to high standards, following self-imposed rules to ensure every dish is special, surprising, and cohesive.” This statement was about become false as well.
Their Restaurant Week menu wasn’t really anything special – couple of apps (Asian style wings and seafood ceviche) and entrées (rigatoni and seared salmon) to choose from and a desert. My wife decided to stick with the Restaurant Week menu and ordered the wings, salmon and a strawberry pavlova. The server quickly stopped my wife and stated, “Sorry, but we’re all out of the wings.” Um, what!? How does a restaurant run out of something that they planned to have a special and not be prepared for people to order? Either people know their seafood ceviche is downright terrible and refused to order it OR, they simply weren’t prepared, especially when they had months in advance to plan. Instead of the wings, which I really wanted to try, we got donut holes. That’s right, we got donut holes to replace the wings.
I decided to not go with the Restaurant week menu and ordered the Lamb Shank. A couple next to us ordered it and it looked absolutely amazing. My meal came with mint infused Israeli cous cous, cilantro sauce, red beet shoestrings kale, fingerling potato broth and shallots. My wife’s meal came with coconut broth, jasmine rice, bok choy and caramelized carrots. I was hoping to be blown away, but instead I was very much let down. I was starving at this point in the evening and devoured it, but not once did I taste mint or cilantro, but whatever their sauce was, was very much overpowering. The meat was tender; I will give them that, but was nothing to brag about.
As for my wife’s salmon, well, do you remember the scene from Christmas Vacation when Clark is cutting into the turkey? If you do, it was similar to that! Very dry, not a whole lot of flavor and my wife said it was fatty compared to other filets she’s had. I took a bite and would completely agree. As for the rest of her small portioned meal, it was nothing to brag about, but she did say the carrots were delicious. At least their world renowned team of chefs can cook carrots, oh boy.
Preparing a dessert isn’t very difficult, or is it? We waited over 20 minutes to get nothing more than some kind of a cookie, whipped cream and strawberry slivers. WHAT!? CHECK PLEASE! The check arrived as our dessert hit the table, took a few bites, paid for our overpriced meal and bolted. Like their sister restaurant, Crave, the Union is also a place where you will get VERY mediocre food (at best) at high prices. If you want outstanding fish, head to a place called VIVO Kitchen in Apple Valley, their chef(s) will outperform the team at Union any day of the week. If you want good lamb, find a German restaurant, nothing compares to the lamb you’ll get at a German restaurant, specifically, the Gasthaus in Stillwater. I've been to higher capacity restaurants with better service and quality as well as to smaller places where the gauging of prices isn't found and serving better food.
Finally, if you’re going to have an open air dining only restaurant (as long as it’s nice outside), you should consider this. Those of us who are non-smokers, are not for a reason and we don’t want to sit in a cloud of smoke while we’re trying to enjoy food (as poor quality as it was). When the roof is closed, can you smoke? No! So why would you do anything differently just because the roof is open? If restaurants do indeed have unions, the “A-Team” must have been striking, including those famous chefs they brag about on their website. What was even better, I was up for quite a while trying to hold back from seeing my food for the second time (sorry for the graphic nature), but thankfully that beautiful pink pill helped me get some sleep. Yep, the Union food is that good! I would not recommend this place to anyone and I’ll go back when Jimmy Hoffa is found alive.
I thought about adding pictures of our meals, but it really wasn't worth it to be perfectly honest. Looks can be deceiving! :)