Union Standard in downtown Pittsburgh is perhaps one of the city's most anticipated recent restaurant openings in 2017. The owner is chef Derek Stevens, previously chef at Eleven Contemporary Kitchen. As Eleven was one of our favorite Pittsburgh restaurants when Stevens was at the helm, we knew we had to check out his new place as soon as it opened.
A Great Ambiance and Menu in Downtown Pittsburgh
We were able to snag an early dinner reservation shortly after opening weekend and immediately loved the modern, open feeling of the space with lots of natural light from the floor to ceiling windows. The decor suggests the dining experience might trend towards upscale, but the menu style and price range keep things more upscale casual.
Union Standard bills itself as serving cuisine from the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Appalachian regions of the US. The menu includes a mix of share plates, first courses, and mains, and even a raw bar complete with oysters, clams, stone crab, and more.
The drink menu consists of a draft list that is entirely local, a wine list that is almost all North American, and a craft cocktail menu. We opted for the Pinkerton and Rum Arcade cocktails. The Pinkerton was a mix of reposado tequila, sage-infused simple syrup, red pepper flakes, and grapefruit. The Rum Arcade started with Maggie's spiced rum and also had saffron, cinnamon, blood orange, and apple cider. We thought the flavor combinations were good but both cocktails were a little bit on the sweet side.
Many Sizes for Many Tastes
As the food menu is broken up into three different sections with different sized plates, we were a bit unsure as to how to approach ordering. Our server was very helpful at explaining the menu and portion sizes, and confirming that what we ordered was an appropriately sized meal.
We started with the skillet baked blue crab thanks to our server's mention that it was one of her favorite dishes, and we were not let down. This starter comes in a cute little crock and is chock full of huge chunks of sweet crab that are all cheesy and melty thanks to some mascarpone and bourbon. Crisp potato bread toasts come on the side for scooping up the heavenly dip.
Next we tried the red oak and spinach salad, one of our favorite dishes of the night. The salad was topped with a creamy buttermilk dressing and the richness was balanced by the bite of radishes and pickled shallots. Pork croquettes provided some some texture with an added crunch. As if that wasn't enough going on, a perfectly poached egg was perched on top of the whole thing, and the yolk oozed everywhere to bind it all together.
Union Standard's entrees consist of a wide range of seafood, pork, chicken, beef, and lamb options, with many of the meats being wood grilled. We opted for the wood grilled Pennsylvania trout and the burger. The trout was tender and intensely smokey from the grill. We were divided on whether or not we liked the smokiness. I enjoyed it and thought it meshed with the earthy lentils and leeks that the fish was served with while Jeremy thought it was too overpowering to the point where he let me alone to enjoy it all (I did not complain). It was a very hardy dish, perfect for the cold winter night we dined there.
Jeremy couldn't resist going for the burger and was very happy with his choice. The burger is made with local beef and comes with cheddar, lettuce, marrownaise (yes, that's exactly what it sounds like), onion, and pickles. It was simple but extremely well-executed, with the juicy, high quality beef shining through as the star- something that seems rare nowadays with the rise of jacked up burgers with ridiculous toppings.
Union Standard certainly lived up to our expectations with a mix of familiar food executed well in addition to dishes with new and interesting flavor combinations- all presented with top-notch service.
Union Standard is located at 524 William Penn Place in downtown Pittsburgh.
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