219 Union Street
T: 604 568 3230
Brief Description: With friendly staff, exotic drinks, and a medley of tasty dishes from South East Asia, The Union Bar offers a temporary reprieve from grey West Coast days. All it needs to complete the picture is a hammock.
Vancouver, 2012…the summer that never was…or at least that is how it seems to be shaping up. I have been bitching and moaning about the rain, the grey skies, and the lack of sunshine, for a few months now. And, yes, yes, I am well aware that I live in Vancouver so I should expect this but come on! This is just cruel! Desperate for a sunny escape, I find myself visiting The Union Bar for a taste of the exotic tropics.
The Union Bar is the latest newcomer to Strathcona, an area of the city that has only recently started to capture the attention of local Vancouver foodies. It joins Campagnolo and Pizzeria Farina (I’ll also include Bao Bei and The Keefer Bar as they are pretty close in proximity) in what used to be a dead-zone for quality food establishments. Constructed using grey cement, and with an almost industrial warehouse feel, The Union could feel unwelcoming but the communal benches, warm lighting, and Chinatown-inspired art pieces, helps it to avoid that.
The menu is an eclectic mix of dishes from all over South East Asia. Vietnamese bành mì is at home next to pad Thai, or Indonesian nasi goreng. I love the concept of the menu – take the most well-known dishes from Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Singapore, and put them all on one menu. Yum!
During my most recent visit, I noticed that the menu has changed from my first few visits (the prawn toast is no longer available, for example). In my experiences, I have found that some dishes have been a bit hit-or-miss but overall, the food is good. Prices are quite cheap for bar food, with prices as low as $8 for salads and the bành mì’s (great for lining the stomach before drinking). As to be expected, main dishes cost slightly more although no dish is over $17.
Singapore Noodles – $14
Nasi Goreng – $13
Chicken Wings – $12
With exotic flavours and aromas, their craft cocktails transport me away to faraway places. Exotic ingredients such as kaffir lime, calamansi juice, pandan syrup, Thai basil, coconut milk, lemongrass, and galangal, all help to create one of the most interesting cocktail lists in the city. The Bangas – mason jars filled with crushed ice, a double shot of alcohol, and a combination of the above ingredients – are amongst my favourites.
The Boracay Hangin, a vodka drink with cucumber juice, pandan syrup, calamansi juice, atomised kaffir lime rum, and finished with toasted coconut, is another personal favourite. But seriously, almost all of the drinks that I’ve ordered here (and there have been many) have been interesting and worthy of re-ordering.
Final Thoughts: The Union Bar has quickly become one of my favourite places in the city for a cocktail. Note: they do close fairly early (around midnight, I believe) so if you are looking for a late night of drinking, do not set your sights on the Union. If you want to sip on an interesting cocktail, and enjoy a bite of South East Asia, get your butt to The Union!