Ottawa's restaurant scene continues to flourish and diversify, and local diners are the richer for it. Fans of the Wellington Gastropub will be excited to know that three of its talented alumni have recently set up their own restaurant - the unique and inspired Union: Local 613. With a philosophy based on celebrating the brotherhood of cookers, growers and eaters, Union offers a satisfying dining experience thanks to top-notch food in a casual setting.
At the front of the house are Ivan Gedz and Matt Fantin, with Chris Lord leading the kitchen brigade. Part of their venture's success stems from leveraging established connections with local farmers, fishmongers and other suppliers, a process that can take new restaurants months or more to develop, explains Ivan.
Union's menu presents dishes inspired by the cuisine of the southern United States, a genre that's become very popular in New York City. However, this is no mere barbecue joint - the dishes are complex and creative. Braising, smoking and grilling are among the kitchen's attentive techniques that, along with judicious seasoning, make each dish flavourful and pleasing. The food is complemented by house-made sodas and juices, craft beers, a solid wine list and nice selection of whiskeys and bourbons.
"We feature southern staples like fried chicken, pig's ear, crawfish, oysters, catfish, collard greens, cornbread, grits and even boiled peanuts in several forms," explains Chris. "Our varied menu also includes vegetarian items as well as some larger dishes meant to be shared by two or four diners."
Union also plans to tap into the late-night crowd, offering food service until 2 a.m., seven nights a week.
Whether you dine there early or late, you will likely be forgiven if you temporarily ignore your dining companions to take in the atmosphere of this slender space, created by Shannon Smithers-Gay of One80 Design. From funky copper-pipe bookcases to inviting banquettes, with a select use of barnboard and an eye-catching mural, there is much to admire. There's even a two-person Chef's Table, located right in the kitchen, for those who love to be in the centre of the action. The bold step of including mostly communal-style tables echoes the convivial theme that is at the heart of all that happens at Union.
Union: Local 613 is at 315 Somerset St. West.