Not Your Typical ‘HAUNT’
By Christopher Malone
Union Tavern: The mostly wood interior shows the place aged gracefully and is warm, especially for those cold winter nights.
To celebrate my personal favorite time of the year, autumn, what a better way to celebrate than taking a bite into comfort food.
That’s right, folks. Break out those “Live, Leaves, Lattes” signs from your favorite kitschy store.
Although tavern food might not be at the top of my list for reviews, as many serve up all too familiar fare, the Union Tavern’s menu boasted a few atypical items catching my attention.
The tavern, which is right across the street from Sea Breeze, also boasts a significant history dating back to the early 1800s. A brief history is mapped out right on its website.
My curious mind asks: Is this place haunted? According to the staff and Haunted History Trail of New York State, Union Tavern is. It’s very fitting for the start of “spooky season.”
Although the haunted premises wasn’t
a huge surprise, the rest of the restaurant’s aesthetic beauty was. The photos online don’t do the place justice. The mostly wood interior shows the place aged gracefully and is warm, especially for those cold winter nights. It’s also especially clean, including the bathroom.
Another surprise: No televisions. Aside from the music, it’s a perfect place to drop electronic devices, choose a game from the nook beneath the Union Tavern’s staircase (or bring your own), and embark on conversation.
To kick the meal off, aside from a “Tiny Kind” session IPA ($5 for 12 ounce can) from Rochester’s own Three Heads Brewery, the potato kegs ($10) caught my attention, as many unique food items do. Not many places have these enlarged, crispy tater tots stuffed with cheese, chives, and bacon. Shredded cheddar and lime crema dressed the top of these barrels.
It’s a great appetizer and easily sharable with six “kegs” in the basket. Ask for a side of sour cream, if your heart desires, but the crema does the trick. If this doesn’t start a conversation, there’s cause for concern.
Union Tavern is also friendly to gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan patrons.
Although the grain bowl ($21) may not be something for gluten-free diets, it’s sure to get the attention of everyone else. Ancient grains, mushrooms, peppers, and zucchini are all mixed together with a flavorful herb puree. The freshness of the grains and veggies are noticeable, but the herbs are prominent.
The heaping serving is also easily shareable, but leftovers will be taken home if dining solo or with someone special.
The hearty dish can be heartier by adding chicken, shrimp or steak with a $6 or $7 upcharge.
To not leave out the gluten-free folks, check out the also vegan and vegetarian friendly “General Wow’s cauliflower”
($17). The serving size is similar to that of the grain bowl. After taking one bite, I was standing at attention and saluting the dish.
The flash-fried cauliflower and herbed rice are coated with a zesty Asian sauce with a noticeable kick. The spiciness isn’t overwhelming, coming from a person who loves spicy food and has a tolerance.
However, it doesn’t kill the dish or your taste buds.
To keep the hearty dishes coming and savoring the tavern’s appeal, here comes the fish and chips ($16). Because Fridays are too limiting to celebrate the United Kingdom staple, the haddock fish fry is offered on Wednesdays as well.
A large, eight to 10 ounce piece of fresh haddock — most of Union Tavern’s fish dishes are cod, per the staff — sits on a bed of thick-cut, slightly crispy tavern fries. The fried haddock has a light, crispy beer-battered coat embracing the bright white fish meat. Dash on some malt vinegar and get generous with the tartar sauce to cover the flavor spectrum. Plus, there’s a side of coleslaw.
Before tip, the meal came to just less than $80.
Aside from a couple fish fries each week, Union Tavern has “Wine Wednesdays,” “Beers with Friends Thursdays,” live music, paranormal investigations, murder mystery dinner parties, psychic and tarot card readings, and much more.
Check out its website for more information and dates.
And, if you’re planning to eat dinner, especially toward or on the weekend, call to make reservations.
According to their incredibly personable bartender and server, Kym, it does get busy.
4565 Culver Road,
Rochester, NY 14622
Sunday: noon – 8 p.m.
Tuesday – Thursday: noon – 8 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: noon – 10 p.m.