Union Public House: Thumbs Up, Except for That Burger

By Callie Kittredge

There’s a plethora of sports bars and restaurants in Tucson. I tend to stay away from them as the thought of deep-fried everything, yelling people and shoes sticking to the beer-stricken floor are anything but appealing. When I first thought about Union Public House for some food and drinks, I wasn’t terribly excited. I’ve heard the name come up a few times in conversation, but not much else. My mind conjured up a sports pub with poor service and expensive prices.

Well, I was dead wrong.

Union Public House is at the base of the foothills on North Campbell Avenue in a nice plaza facing away from the street. When I walked in, the first thing I saw is a circular bar next to a massive TV screen displaying a football game. But the waitress took us to the back of the restaurant and sat us in a booth next to a window with drapes. Looking out, I saw a beautiful patio surrounded by trees decorated with lights. It reminded me of a European café.

union-burger2Inside, the atmosphere was inviting and stylish. It felt like a hip cocktail bar with a rustic toucht. The lighting was dim with candles mounted on the walls and alternative music playing in the background. There were different levels in Union, some booths on a raised platform while others were against the wall. The restaurant had such an open feel to it; I liked being able to watch everything from where I was seated. Against one wall was a glass cabinet filled with wine bottles or fancy liquor.

It was clear that Union was most known for drinks. The drink menu was a leather-bound book consisting of 30 different types of drafts, handcrafted cocktails, wines and liquors. After much deliberation, I finally settled on a Moscow Mule, which was much stronger than I expected but still had that great ginger taste. The main menu was creative and simple with starters, main courses, small plates, and pizza.

My friend tried the “Goat pizza,” which had goat cheese, Prosciutto, mushrooms, garlic pieces, arugula, and fresh thyme juice. And yes, it was just as delicious as it sounds. I’m not one for goat cheese, but the garlic and arugula mixed so nicely with the ham that the cheese wasn’t overwhelming to me. The crust wasn’t too crunchy or thin – just perfectly soft. I tried the “Union burger,” which had red dragon English cheddar, pickled onion, arugula, bacon jam, and a house made bun. To be honest, I’ve had better burgers, but this one was still better than most. You could still fit the burger into your mouth at once without all the extras falling out of it. (I despise it when the lettuce and tomatoes have fallen onto the plate, and you’re left with bread and beef).

It came with crunchy fries, and although I talked myself out of eating the whole basket, I just couldn’t stop. The fries didn’t give you grease-hands, either. For dessert, my friend and I tried the “Waffle Sunday,” which was a giant chocolate waffle covered in chocolate and vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and caramelized pecans. I’ve never had a chocolate waffle until now, and I can easily say it won’t be my last. It tasted like a chocolate pecan brownie.

All in all, the service was excellent, and I didn’t break the bank with a full course meal.

Union Public House attracts a younger crowd but still caters to all ages. There is a late night menu along with a kid’s menu. The restaurant stays open until 2:00 a.m. every night. I can imagine during a home football or basketball game this place is packed but not with rowdy college students. Union is easily the most relaxed and upscale sports restaurant I’ve ever been to, with notably laid-back atmosphere, honest food and large array of drinks. Despite my mediocre burger.♦

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