Best New Restaurants 2015: Union 50

The sturdy Trowel Trades building lays the foundation for chef Thomas Melvin’s rib-sticking dishes.


With its soaring side entry and modern union-hall aesthetic, Union 50 has become the coolest place to eat (and be seen eating) in town. The sturdy, cinderblock Trowel Trades building on East Street lays the foundation for the chef’s polished blue-collar menu of rib-sticking fare. There’s the expected poutine varieties, including a chilaquiles take strewn with brisket, crema, and hunks of avocado, but the simple hand-cut fries cooked up in various styles, ranging from duck fat–and-rosemary to Manchego-and-bacon, stand out. Fall-off-the-bone chicken wings basted in sesame-soy glaze are another must-order, as are the tender slabs of kimchi-infused meatloaf swiped with tangy Thai ketchup, a spicy-sweet spin on Mom’s traditional version. The seared duck breast’s rich, smoky overtones play up a bed of sweet-potato hash and tangy jalapeño-blackberry marmalade, typical of a playful menu that, paired with such sumptuous environs, undoubtedly props up Union 50 as Cunningham Restaurant Group’s most adventurous concept to date. This is the place where spirited groups of twentysomethings sipping Sazeracs and playing Skee-Ball give way to downtown’s late-night crowd nestling into banquettes for charcuterie boards dotted with candied pork belly and mozzarella soaked in olive oil. As the evening wears on, an ever-evolving group of patrons hangs by the swanky, artful bar lined with brightly lit rows of bottled liquor until they can snag one of the padded swivel stools and kick back for a nightcap and live music.

Sound Bites

Concept: Contemporary American

Seats: 200

Owner: Cunningham Restaurant Group

Chef: Thomas Melvin

Pedigree: Cunningham owns Bru Burger Bar, Mesh, Boulder Creek Dining Company, Charbonos, and the Stone Creek Dining Company locations. Melvin worked for Prime Hospitality Group at restaurants such as Mo’s … A Place for Steaks and Sensu.

Try It If You Like: Mesh

Check It Out: 620 N. East St., 317-610-0234,