Date night! Holy cow, it’s been a while. Whenever our parents come to town, we usually spend all day running around and when dinner rolls around, J and I are too exhausted to take advantage of Nana & Grandpa or Grandma and Papa. It sucks because that’s really the only opportunity we ever have to go out by ourselves, but we spend so little time sleeping during the week that when weekends come around, neither one of us has the energy to do anything after 6:00.
This past weekend we tried to make things different. We slept a little longer, got a little longer naps, and had a little more of a relaxing day at home. J’s parents were in town and they were staying at the Holiday Inn on 11th, so L went back with them to swim while J and B took a nap. When B woke up, J asked her mom if a date night was a possibility and she said yes. J’s parents went to Panera to get dinner for themselves and the kids while J and I got out of the house as fast as we could.
We got in the car and didn’t really know where we wanted to go. I suggested Fieldstone Grill or Martell’s since it had been a while since we’ve been to either. J wanted to go downtown and suggested another Millennium Restaurant. One that I hadn’t been to in a while but one she was just at a couple of weeks ago during a day out with one of her friends.
The Union is one of several of Millennium Restaurant Group’s restaurants in the Kalamazoo area. It’s one of two downtown with Central City Taphouse being the other. J was just there a couple of weeks ago when she and a friend took an afternoon to just relax by themselves, so I didn’t bring it up when we were talking about dinner. The last time I had been there was in February of 2010 so it’s been seven years since I had been there and time for a revisit.
The Union is billed as a cabaret and jazz bar. It’s on the main floor of the Kalamazoo City Centre building which is part of the old Gilmore Brothers Department Store on the Kalamazoo Mall in downtown Kalamazoo.
It was a little after 6:30 on a Saturday night when we walked in. The restaurant was pretty full but we spotted a couple of empty tables, so we knew we’d get in right away. Not long after we sat down though, a line was starting to form at the hostess station right behind us.
The Union is a little different from the other Millennium Restaurants. The dining area is one big open space with a mixture of pub tables and regular four tops.
There’s a large stage that is the focal point of the dining room where they have live music Thursday through Saturday nights. They have a collaboration with the WMU School of Music so it’s very common to see faculty and students on stage at any given time.
The bar at The Union is right in the middle of the space that kind of divides the two dining areas. It’s a big semi-circle where the “back of the bar” faces the stage so you can sit at the bar and still enjoy the show.
Right away, we both flipped to the drink section of the menu. They had some craft beer options, but nothing really out of the ordinary. They did have one on the list that I hadn’t had before, so that’s what I chose.
Arcadia’s Art Hops is a Pale Ale that benefits the Kalamazoo Arts Council and the Kalamazoo Art Hop. The beer is brewed with four kinds of hops and orange peel. It’s a little on the bitter side, but the citrus reigns that in making the beer very drinkable. Served in an Imperial Pint glass it was a great dinner beer.
J went straight to the mixed drinks and there, went straight to the mojito section.
She chose the Mango Pomegranate Mojito. The drink had limes, mint, mango syrup, rum, sugar, and pomegranate syrup. I’m not a big fruity drink kind of guy, but I stole a sip and could see how she could like it. I’ll stick to beer though.
Last time we were at The Union, it was a weekday afternoon, so we had a lunch menu. We both got sandwiches. Both sandwiches were good, but I didn’t leave with an “OMG” impression of the place. This dinner changes that.
J ordered the same thing she got two weeks ago when she was there. She got a half pulled pork sandwich and a cup of sweet potato bisque. The sandwich is slow cooked pork shoulder with a sweet corn slaw on top of it served on a grilled bun. The meat doesn’t say that it’s smoked, but it’s still tender and juicy. It could be smoked. It could be braised. Not sure, but it was still delicious and the cooking method didn’t actually matter. J made that face when she bit into like she just couldn’t believe how good it was. The half sandwich came with fries. They’re long, thin fries that are crispy, but not burnt and covered with a sprinkling of salt and herbs.
Because she went the half sandwich route, she also got a choice of soup. She picked the sweet potato bisque. It’s a simple soup containing only a sweet potato puree, spices, and some cream. Like the sandwich, she had nothing but great things to say about the soup….which is why she got it two times in a row at The Union.
I had a hard time deciding what I wanted. I was really going to go crazy and order the Dirty South Burger. Now, while a burger is well within my comfort zone, one with alligator and crawfish as toppings is not. I really was going to try it until I saw the brisket.
I eventually ordered the Texas Smoked Beef Brisket. This slap of meat comes with two sides for which I chose Mac-N-Cheese and French Fries.
I knew I was in for treat when right after we ordered, the waitress brought out a rack with five different bottles of sauce. All made in house and all incredibly tasty.
I started with the brisket. It didn’t have a smoked crust on it, so I really didn’t think it was smoked at first, but the menu says it is. It was a very tender, very juicy brisket that pulled apart easily with the fork. I ran the gamut of sauces just because I wanted to try the sauces. The meat didn’t really need it as it was juicy and flavorful on it’s own.
I tackled the mac-n-cheese next. This small bowl was overflowing with a cheddar cheese sauce that was covering the corkscrew pasta in it. It was a pretty classic mac-n-cheese, but it had a big cheese flavor. They offer full entrees and variations on this mac-n-cheese made with a double cheddar cream sauce that would make for amazing main courses if that’s your thing.
Finished up the meal was the french fries. They were the same ones J got. The long, thin, crispy fries that work so well in picking up the leftover BBQ sauce on my plate. Again, these were fries I could have ate on their own and loved them, but there was sauce on my plate that I didn’t want to go to waste, so I used some of them to pick up the sauce and just munched on some of them sauce free.
Our meal ran us a little under $37 before tip. We passed on another drink and dessert because our plan was to skip dessert and go to Green Door Distilling for drinks. Unfortunately, they were closed for a private event, so we ended up at Buffalo Wild Wings with Dessert Nachos and drinks instead. Kind of a trade down and we would have done dessert and another drink at The Union had we realized Green Door was closed.
I gotta be honest, I was a little surprised by our trip to The Union. I have always liked Millennium Restaurants and I’ve never had a bad meal at any of them. I just remembered The Union as being “just alright” with a very cool atmosphere. That atmosphere hasn’t changed, but my impression of the place sure has. The meal we had from The Union was fantastic and I wouldn’t hesitate to drop in again on another “date night” with my wife.