Though it has its share of trendy bells and whistles—including a backlit wall of liquor bottles, the requisite selection of charcuterie served with cornichons and grain mustard, and Skeeball machines that bring the IPA swillers out of the distressed woodwork—Cunningham Restaurant Group’s cool-casual property doesn’t go too far out of its way to impress. Sitting quietly a block removed from Mass Ave’s nocturnal bustle, in the former Trowel Trades Building, this low-slung, brick dinosaur hides its entrance around the side, snubs the open-kitchen concept for an exposed prep area that shows just enough leg to entice, and fends off the no-filter Instagrammers with beer hall–dim lighting. The food is what shines—from pails of hand-cut duck-fat fries tossed in rosemary that signal the end of the end of frites, to elaborate plates of smoked pork chops on braised red cabbage, to planks of shrimp toast spread with a trompe l’oeil “jam” of tuna tartare. Union 50 proves that when you have a menu adventurous enough to offer a smear of roasted bone marrow alongside fish and chips with powdered vinegar, you don’t have to follow the standard rules of engagement.
TIP: If you want a quiet meal in Union 50’s open-concept dining room, get there before the live music, which begins almost nightly around 9:30.
DON’T MISS: Succulent, smoky, wood-fired wild mushrooms piled onto a wooden board shared with a terrine of slivered potatoes and bacon.
PREVIOUS MENTIONS: Best New Restaurants 2015
620 N. East St., 610-0234, union-50.com
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