• 6 East 18th Street
• New York, NY 10003
• (212) 633-6003 •

Many families go out to brunch on Mother's Day and I can't tell you how many times I was told to enter a 1-800-FLOWERS promo code in the past month, but neither of those things are really what my family does. We're more of a "let's go out to dinner, on a day that's not Mother's Day, then call it 'Mother's Day', then go home and burn through what we have stored on our TiVo and eat popcorn." It's not because we eschew tradition, which we do, or because we abhor tropes, which we also do, or that my mom actively dislikes brunch because it means waking up on a weekend earlier than she wants to, which she certainly does. It's really that we just aren't very big on going out on hectic, every-one-eats-out-today days and having to wait for a table while being bumped into by every Michael Kors bag this side of the Hudson.

And thus did I suggest Union Fare. It's got tons of seats, the menu looked good, the prices were high but not eyebrow-raising, and it was a short walk from my parent's TiVo. I arrived early, which I do as a matter of routine these days, and nursed a beer in the cacophonously empty dining hall. Strike that. I should say "restaurant". The Union Fare Gastrohall is actually another part of the restaurant. A food court of sorts adjacent to the restaurant itself. I nursed a beer in the restaurant. A porter, if you must ask, as it was a chilly evening and not the humid goddamn oven that it is today. 

When Mom (Shrink) and Dad (Dudeman) arrived, we were led through the open tables to one with a generally decent view of our surroundings, and proceeded to ponder the menu. A bottle of something Spanish was chosen because (1) my elders went on a trip there recently, and (2) at $60 it was one of the cheaper bottles. Tempted by the $80 Royal Seafood Tower appetizer that included octopus, but balking at the $80 part, Shrink ordered the Grilled Octopus, served over a salad of fennel, oranges, and arugula, with a few droplets of an olive aioli. It was delicious. The lobster was tender and robust and perfect in every way. The salad might have been ignored, as green foodstuffs aren't her cup of tea, but, she said, "it's saved by the oranges, which are delicious." Dudeman went for the Duck Egg & Shrooms, a quite delicious, if heavy, creamy bowl of sauteed mushroom grits, hidden under what can only be described as a haystack of shredded fried potato (topped with the egg). Was the haystack good? Yes. Did it add to the dish? Yes. Am I glad it was there? Yes. Could it have been literally halved? Yes. Order this appetizer though. It's creamy, it's rich, it's a blast of umami and salt and fat and you won't regret it. I endeavored to be healthy and had the Beet Salad. The fifteen seconds of near panic I had thinking I came down with colorectal cancer the next day notwithstanding, I liked my salad. Huge, foot long ribbons of beet in a puddle of pistachio pesto sat under a bouquet of watermelon radish, edible flowers, and tete de moine cheese. Absolutely fantastic.

The entrees were less mind-blowing, but all were good. Shrink chose what was, in my opinion, the least impressive of the dishes, the Whole Brook Trout with rosemary fingerling potatoes. That's what she ordered and, on a wood cutting board, that's what came. A quartered lemon and sprig of parsley garnish was pretty low rent plating, especially when compared with the edible flowers that came with my beet salad. The fish was tender, cooked exactly how it should have been, and it was light as a cloud, but for $36 it's just a trout on a plate. Soooo... The potatoes were very nice, and the trout came with plenty of them, but the overpriced dish seemed to scream "menu-filler". Medium rare Grilled Skirt Steak with chimichurri and served with a side of watercress salad was Dudeman's choice and it was a vast improvement over Shrink's. Maybe I'm just more of a steak guy than a fish guy, but the taste jumped off the plate and hit you with both fists. Like the trout, it was cooked perfectly and, like the trout, the plating was something stolen from the Outback reject bin. 

My entree was the Grilled Pork Chop, an inch or so thick medium rare pork chop surrounded by a ladel's worth of dill mustard, and, lest the salad not be able to complete it's job in the hypochondria department, a few beets for, ahem, color. Unlike, the skirt steak, the flavors didn't beat you over the head. It was subtle, but not lacking. Pork chops are difficult to do right, so I was relieved that this was on the list of those that I can wholeheartedly recommend. My only complaint, and feel free to ignore it since it's an admittedly unnecessary one, is that there was a little too much mustard. As with the shoestring potatoes over the mushroom grits, a little goes a long way, especially with something as subtle as this particular pork chop.

Dudeman didn't want anything after the entree, but Shrink and I were determined. She ordered a cappuccino, I ordered the worst espresso in the world that wasn't made from garden soil, and we decided to split a dessert and the waiter recommended a chocolate mousse cake. I lost my notes but, it's basically a layered slice of chocolate cake with a scoop ice ice cream on top and, for good measure, encased in a sugar web-ball that literally has to be chopped through if you want to eat anything. It took about twenty five or thirty photos worth of time before we were actually eating the little thing, which I'm sure is the point. The cake itself wasn't more than good, but the whole process was hilarious. 

Certain parts aside, we all really enjoyed Union Fare. It was fun, the food was very good, and it lively without being loud. When we sat down at 7, it was all but empty. When we left an hour and a half later, it was packed to the brim. Price-wise it's easier on the wallet than nearby Gramercy Tavern, but with appetizers averaging $15 and entrees averaging $30, plus a bottle of wine, dessert, tax, and a 20% tip, don't expect to spend less than $100 per person.

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