Union opens tonight: Here's a sneak preview

Union, the newly open bar/restaurant at the intersection of Hennepin Ave & Eighth Street
Union, the newly open bar/restaurant at the intersection of Hennepin Ave & Eighth Street

Today marks the opening of one of the most anticipated restaurants of the year. Tonight, Union Bar & Restaurant, in downtown Minneapolis at the corner of Hennepin Avenue and Eighth Street (in the old Shinders spot), will host its first public dinner service. 

Union is owned and operated by the same folks who brought us the local, now national, chain restaurant Crave. But Union is nothing like its corporatized older sibling, although it's not necessarily the renegade rebel child either. Union boasts an elegant dining space with an incredible four-season rooftop that allows diners to gaze out at the downtown skyscape.

A recent preview party allowed us a sneak peek at the new spot.

The menu at Union was crafted by Minneapolis veteran chef Jim Christiansen, who has worked in such notable places as Il Gatto, Sea Change, and La Belle Vie. At the preview we sampled a butternut squash pasta that superbly balanced the sweet-savory squash filling and came wrapped in a tender, perfectly cooked pasta tossed in a rich sauce of butter and fried sage. For those of you rolling your eyes at the thought of another butternut-squash-filled pasta, this one is certainly worthy of praise. The hosts also provided a heap of house-made charcuterie and a spectacular raw bar.

The drink menu was crafted by Minneapolis cocktail king Johnny Michaels. On the menu for the evening was a fruity, seasonal concoction called the Persian Pussycat. The drink was a combination of pomegranate-infused gin, orange, vanilla, and rose. While expertly made, it's a bit on the sweet side of the spectrum for us, although if you're into pomegranate martinis this one will probably blow your mind. The full cocktail menu was not available, but we're excited to see what Mr. Michaels has put together.

The space was designed by Minneapolis's top-dog restaurant design firm Shea Inc. It features a slick, sophisticated main level dining room and swanky nightclub in the depths of the basement. The upstairs is easily the main hook of Union, as it serves as a four-season dining patio. Not only do we look forward to many spring/summers sitting up there sipping on cocktails, but also to winters as we gaze on the falling snow while dining on succulent, rich, and comforting pasta dishes.

We're excited to see how Union develops and to sample the full menu, both food and cocktail. With a sense of elegance that easily outdoes Crave, the people responsible for Union may have done right by downtown with this mature space (which is extremely close to their other restaurant). Whereas the nightclub below is a borderline cliche with its upper-class nightclub appearance, the rest of the building is sophisticated yet comfortable. We'll be back, and soon, to sample the menu and enjoy the classy ambiance that is Union.

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