Logan Square residents have long waited for a peek at Union, the new American restaurant and beer bar across from the CTA’s California Blue Line El stop. Neighbors developed a habit of lingering near the edges paper-covered windows in the hope of catching a glimpse inside, eager to see what co-owners Steve Lewis and chef Christopher Thompson (Coda di Volpe) had in store for 2202 N. California Avenue, just beside all-day salumeria and sister cafe Lardon.
Their wish was granted over the weekend, as Lewis and Thompson — operators of newish restaurant group Meadowlark Hospitality — threw the 110-year-old building’s doors wide open in the hope of winning over one of Chicago’s most well-regarded dining neighborhoods. “We know the climate in Logan Square,” Thompson told Eater in February. “We understand what kind of game we need to bring to exist in this neighborhood and we don’t take that lightly.”
The co-owners see Union as a tribute to Chicago’s world-renowned brewing industry and other Midwestern beer innovators, which means a deep and robust selection of 24 rotating draft brews that range from lagers and pilsners to sours, stouts, saisons, and more. The team plans to lavish special attention on local breweries, including Marz, Hopewell, Dovetail, and Middlebrow, alongside more than 200 bottles of whiskey from the U.S. and abroad. Lewis has experience in the beer game, as he’s operated River North beer oasis Centennial Crafted Beer & Eatery since 2017.
In addition to top-notch suds, Union eschews the usual bar fare, instead offering dishes that Thompson hopes will strike patrons as both surprising and comforting. In lieu of cheese curds and wings, for example, snacky opening submissions include delicately fried castelvetrano olives (mortadella, romesco) and pimiento cheese with everything spice crackers (Wisconsin cheddar, salame).
Larger plates, sized for groups or even a hungry solo customer, feature lamb and pistachio meatballs (pomegranate, fennel, salsa verde) , pan-roasted black cod (root vegetables, pancetta broth), and wood-grilled porkchops (vadouvan spice, thumbelina carrots, pork jus). Despite Thompson’s determination to defy bar food assumptions, a burger does appear on the menu, topped with two-year-aged Wisconsin cheddar, fried onion strings, and bone marrow aioli.
Meadowlark has brought new life to the once-crumbling California Avenue and Palmer Street with extensive renovations that manage to weave old school Chicago aesthetics — exposed brick, dark wood, and welded metal — into a cozy, contemporary 1,200-square-foot space that seats 65 between bar stools, long wooden tables, and a handful of snug-esque booths.
Take a look around Union in the photographs below.
Union, 2202 N. California Avenue, Open 5 p.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday; 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.