Saturday, March 16, 2019

Blessed Union of History and Cuisine in Foxborough

Sometimes, it's comforting to take a friend's advice – particularly as it relates to comfort food. Having recently dined out with some of mine recently, they were eager to highlight an upscale American restaurant, Union Straw, that had recently opened in Foxborough Common, and what a positive dining experience they had. It piqued my culinary curiosity, to say the least.

Union Straw’s owners understand and pay a respectful nod towards the town's history. Their establishment is named after Union Straw Works, a factory that once employed thousands of workers and was situated a couple of blocks away. The factory put Foxborough on the map as a major force in commerce and industry until its demise by fire in 1900. The eatery itself is housed in a space previously occupied by the Foxborough American Legion Post 93. Union’s interior gives way to a much larger building than its quaint external appearance portends, sleekly extending from front to back (a lively bar to the left, a dining room to the right, and a smaller dining area at the rear) and possessing a rustic, yet contemporary charm, with trussed beams and gleaming hardwood floors. My only complaint with the building? A lack of parking spaces, which gleaming through the general manager's responses to recent diner reviews, the Union team appears to be working on rectifying with town officials (I'll bet the American Legion never anticipated such a crowd!).

While the cuisine is characterized as upscale American, the offerings – created and flawlessly executed by talented Executive Chef Jenn Mekler along with a talented, up-and-coming Executive Sous Chef Kam Booth- are frequently fun, unpretentious, inventive riffs on American classics. If you can work your way through a perplexingly large number of paper menus (again, the restaurant is working through these minor hiccups), you'll find exciting flatbreads including the Sweet and Savory ($14), a nicely crisped pie with fig jam, caramelized onions, balsamic reduction, creamy ricotta, and a boatload of prosciutto that struck the perfect balanced flavor trio of saltiness, tartness, and sweetness. A pair of pulled chicken sliders ($10) also impressed, the bird moist in texture and slathered with dry rub, housemade quickles and embedded within a warm mini Ciabbata roll. A heaping, vertical stack of piping hot parmesan frites ($9) doused with garlic aioli and served with spicy ketchup were also quickly consumed. Salads, too, often playing second fiddle to more exciting (i.e. meaty) menu options, left a mark, including the PBG ($10), a fresh harbinger of spring with its lively mix of pear, bacon, and goat cheese.

The restaurant insists on its website that patrons are welcomed to eat only dessert if they so choose. I highly encourage every reader to come to Union Straw if not for their innovative, delectable selections, including ice cream made in-house, including mint chocolate chip and coconut (with fresh coconut slices meshed inside each scoop). Selecting the latter flavor to accompany a coconut rum cake was one of my finest dining choices in recent memory. This version wasn’t your traditionally dense, cold, rum-soaked version from Montilio’s which I adore), but rather, a fluffier, warmed, moist take. A special of molten chocolate cake with toffee crunch was even more decadent, along with a potent pot de crème packed with welcomed, strikingly bitter notes of dark chocolate.

Union’s cocktail program is also not to be missed, including a unique, extensive beer program that featured a special peanut butter milk chocolate stout hailing from Maine. Inventive, potent libations included a pomegranate Manhattan ($12) and a cranberry Old Fashioned ($11).

For such a relatively new establishment, service was incredibly polished, attentive, and friendly. It’s no surprise how downright homey and hospitable the staff is, which can partially be attributed to the oversight of General Manager Steve Pesek, a seasoned restauranteur who most recently managed the ticket holder space at Target Field in Minnesota. Given Union’s lively ambience and exciting menu, this certainly will not be the last ‘straw’ for me (along with my friends, of course) at this new suburban dining hotspot.

No comments: