August 24, 2009 • Ariel and Whitney
Rel’s Ravenous Review of Union Street in Newton Center
As some of you know, Newton is my hometown. The word “town” usually connotes a small suburban area with one main street and lots of trees, but Newton is actually a massive place with about 8 different subsections. One of the subsections is Newton Center. It’s a friendly spot with middle school students innocently flirting outside of JP Lick’s Ice cream, locals walking their dogs, and families enjoying a Sunday brunch at Johnny’s Deli. I know Newton Center like the back of my hand as I have been raised so close to it. I could probably walk blindfolded and find the Walgreens, the beauty parlor, the trendy clothing stores and even the jewelry store where my mom works. The problem with Newton Center is that I’ve been to every restaurant more times than I can count. While it does boast several delicious restaurants like Sweet Tomatoes Pizza, Bill’s, Pie, Jumbo Seafood and Sabra, it all has become monotonous over the past 20 years. I want something new, something exciting and of course, something tasty.
When my dad suggested going to lunch in Newton Center today, I was weary. Where should we go? Johnny’s? No, too many screaming children. Sweet Tomatoes? No, the pizza sauce gives dad heartburn. He then suggested we go to Union Street.
Voila le restaurant. The building is large, yet unpretentious. The inside reflects your typical bar scene. It’s dark and filled with massive TV’s that relay all of the current sports game reports. If this were all the restaurant offered, I probably wouldn’t consider it for a lovely summer’s day lunch. However, it also has a lovely private porch with inviting red umbrellas that remind me of some classy beach resort. On a Sunday afternoon, the porch isn’t crowded, with only one other filled table, but I can imagine on a Saturday night it must be hoppin’ with people enjoying the fresh summer air.
The menu, like the porch, is very impressive. Pages and pages and pages of pizza, burgers, pasta, quesadillas, salad, sandwiches, stir fries and even comfort food like truffle macaroni and cheese. I was impressed at the selection. I also felt very catered to with little “V’s” indicating all of the many vegetarian options. You can order fancy dishes like Pistachio Encrusted Ahi Tuna, or something stick to your belly like a meatloaf sandwich.
I decided to be tricky and order the veggie burger. Here’s my opinion about the veggie burger. I think a lot of bar joints and restaurants have them just because they need them, just in case a vegetarian walks in and doesn’t want anything else. Usually they slap something together and it tastes pretty…tasteless, and the consistency is either mashed potato-ey or rock solid. So I decided to test the Union Street cooks. Would they surprise me with a well thought out veggie patty, or a cheap mishmosh of vegetarian items thrown in a patty that I could buy at the local shaw’s supermarket.
Well friends, Union Street exceeded my expectations! What a burger! I no longer felt like an outcast veggie burger eater. I felt cared about and even wanted by the cooks. It was so great. I ordered my veggie burger with barbeque sauce, cheddar cheese, and a raw onion with lettuce and tomato. My favorite part was that the barbeque sauce was slathered on the burger and THEN covered with cheese. This meant that the sauce was almost insulated next to the burger so the flavor really infused the patty.
Every bite I chewed into a juicy, yet starchy and filling patty, while barbeque sauce oozed into my mouth with a gooey cheddar following it. The red onion did its job and cut into the fattiness of the cheddar while also adding a crunch to the burger. The patty itself had the right balance of starchiness and vegetables. The consistency was not mushy and was not a hockey puck. It was really great.
I’m not going so far as to say that the Union Street is a vegetarian’s paradise. While the burger was great, the salad was definitely fresh from a bag, not a farmers market. And I’m sure that the more popular items on the menu are the wings and fries. However, I saw some light in that veggie burger that there is a consideration to the healthier eaters out there and that while the beef burrito might be a favorite, the grilled salmon is just as thoughtfully prepared.
Bravo to Union Street for breaking the stereotype of Bar Restaurants with food that will only leave your napkins full of grease. Aside from the food, the service was very quick and friendly and the atmosphere outside was especially peaceful. I look forward to going back for another veggie burger as well as for one of their special cocktails one night before I go back to school!