A More Perfect Union
Polishing a gem of a bar in the SoSA neighborhood
Photos by Scotty O’Daniel
You might not have a ton of familiarity with the little restaurant and bar at 616 NW 5th in OKC; it’s not part of a bustling enclave of hotspots, nor on a particularly busy main drag. In fact, even if you do happen to be passing by between Walker and Shartel, from the road it doesn’t look all that different from the houses and apartment buildings around it. But this is an ideal time to look closer; the South of Saint Anthony neighborhood is on its way up in the world, and with its recent renovation and menu expansion, The Union at SoSA has become a must-visit.
The space isn’t new – it draws its name from a former life as a midcentury meeting hall of the electricians’ union, and took on a new identity as a bar a bit more than a year ago. But its 2018 revamp is a definite upgrade: A lighter interior makes the small space feel considerably airier, with decorative touches both small (the little cacti-filled window boxes) and large (the majestic sweep of the epoxy-topped oak bar on the building’s northeast side).
Fortunately for diners, the attention to detail extends to the contents of the menu, as well. I feel like it’s a good sign that you’re in for a treat if in lieu of mozzarella sticks, the appetizer menu starts off with bites of fried goat cheese, served with a smear of sour cherry gastrique that complements their flavor nicely and a sprinkling of ground pistachios.
The steaming, spicy, sink-your-teeth-into grouper sandwich is probably my favorite entree, but if you’re feeling more like a pizza, flatbread choices range from a fairly traditional topping combo in The Don to The Hipster – on which the sweetness of the fig preserves that take the place of a standard tomato sauce plays really nicely off its salty prosciutto and caramelized onions. And while on one hand, there’s only one burger option, on the other, the Only Burger boasts a wagyu patty, truffle aioli and butter-toasted brioche bun. I’m not so hung up on haute cuisine that I’d call wagyu beef essential for a burger, but it’s good – and I am all the way onboard with putting Muenster on more things. Even the salad, an overlooked afterthought on a bar menu if ever there was one, can impress with the Market Orchard’s candied pistachios, golden raisins and slivers of green apple.
When it comes to the menu, though, I am burying the lede: I consider it a fundamental must to recommend the Chicken crisps. Picture a pork rind but thinner, a fried wafer of chicken skin that’s firm enough to be crispy but not so brittle that it shatters under your teeth, basted with a honey-mustard glaze and served warm and fragrant. The end result is absolute genius. I’ve never had anything like them, but dios mio, they are outstanding.
Pub food is often an easily maligned genre because it represents a lower bar (so to speak). You can usually get away with concentrating on the booze and letting visitors’ palates fend for themselves on fairly uninspired or even substandard fare. So it’s a pleasure to encounter a watering hole where the reverse is true; The Union’s menu is more adventurous, and straight-up better, than it has to be. Whether or not you plan to imbibe, head to SoSA, track down The Union and give it a try.
A Toast to Variety
Fancy as the food is, The Union remains a bar first and foremost – and choice is on tap. You can sit in the main dining room at the oak bar, peek into the opulently decorated speakeasy downstairs on special occasions or enjoy the Oklahoma sky by heading out back to lounge on the rear patio and order refills from the window of a parked Airstream trailer. And wherever you wind up, the selection is bountiful, given that the beer list alone has more entries than the entire food menu combined. With a few labels of red and white wines and a smattering of craft cocktails (the smoked pineapple sounds delicious) waiting to be tried, you should have no trouble finding something you like. It’s hot out there; stop by The Union for a cold one.
► Eatery & Cocktail Office @ The Union
616 NW 5th, OKC | 405.601.2857