3rd Stop: Union Restaurant

“We don’t make friends with BBQ.”


I really must choose a less grating alert for my alarm.  Rising to the sound of “Night Owl,” I’m suddenly struck by a bout of self-reflection:  Getting home at 4am does not bode well for an 11am breakfast.  I had ambitiously set my alarm for 8am.  Fool.  Snoozed until 9…then 10, and miraculously by the grace of magical snooze fairies everywhere, Sully pushes breakfast to 11:30.  Perfect.  Face plant back into the pillows until 10:15.

I was struck with nostalgia as I took the subway and streetcar over to Ossington and Queen, musing to myself that it’s been less than 8 hours since I was here.  Should have just made camp to save myself travel time.  As I walk along Ossington with my nose pressed into my book (this is not safe-do not attempt, especially for those who are accident prone), I glance up to check whether I’ve passed Union and find myself standing at the threshold of the restaurant door.  As I enter, I notice the bar to the left with a sweeping marble countertop where a barista is busy working away, people chatting in a corner along the end, and whatever sleep had been lingering in my brain immediately dissipated.  It’s Benny time.

A friendly server asks whether I’d like a seat within or on the patio.  When given a choice, I prefer to sit at the bar…but I also like being outside.  Dilemma.  As I follow her through the dimly lit restaurant past the kitchens and out onto the patio, I notice several things.  One, the patio had two long picnic style tables along the length of each side with a couple small tables off to the side.  Two, the patio was already crowded with families and strollers.  I can see how the benches would be conducive to large groups, but the only spot available was smack dab in the middle, one side being blocked by quite an impressive stroller that resembled a battering ram, and unless Sully was willing to vault over the table to sit down (which would definitely be amusing), because I certainly wasn’t, the patio would not be the best spot.

The server leads me back into the restaurant and gestures towards a table for two in an area that is quite dark.  I’ll need a camera flash to take a picture of my food here, this will not do.  I ask to sit on the opposite side where light from the door and window pour in and help bring you back to the living, but unfortunately those tables are specifically for groups of four people.  Curses, should have invited more people!  So I’m back where I started, at the bar, where I should have plopped my keister down from the start.  It’s bright, airy, and the people manning the bar are usually chatty and friendly.  Usually being the operative word.

I read while I wait for Sully.  I’m at a crucial part of the book, Tyrion has just been killed…

Can you imagine?  No.  Not my favourite character.  There will be an uproar on a global scale if anything happens to him.  Needless to say, I don’t notice when Sully arrives, and I’m surprised two fold as I half expected to see his nephew in tow, that and sweat is literally dripping from his brow.  “How late am I?  Had to push it because we were late getting him out the door.”  Well I was reading and didn’t really notice, and I certainly hope someone fed that kid!

Sully attempts to engage the bartender/barista in light conversation, and is met with stoney silence.  Granted, one might assume he was so absorbed in his work that Sully’s comment went unheard.  One would think.

There is only one option, so BBQ Ribs Benedict it is.

There is only one option, so BBQ Ribs Benedict it is.

The menu is about the same length as Lisa Marie’s, and as Sully skims it over, he glances at me with an expression that reads “well…this is it I suppose” and two orders of BBQ Ribs Benedict have been placed to the kitchen.  He confesses that he’s nervous, since his experience at Lady Marmalade last week was practically celestial, he’s not sure how Union will measure up.  Don’t worry Sully, this isn’t a competition-or is it?  ‘Cause I’m winning!  As per usual, a Coke is to be brought along with the meal, and my English Breakfast tea has been turned into an Indian Breakfast because apparently, they are one and the same, although I beg to differ.  Sully may be the food snob, but I am the tea snob.  They are not the same.

Yesterday’s events are recapped as the food is prepared.  From Bubble Boy adventures in the park to scavenging through the crowded throngs before vulture hour, life in a flash of Instagram updates to tales of promised egg benedict from other restaurant owners, our plates arrive shortly after it occurs to me that perhaps we should read the reviews on Yelp to help decide whether Rosedale Diner or Rock Lobster should be the next stop.

“Matt said to let him know when we’ll be going, and he promises the best eggs benny ever!”  I was ever impressed by the owner of Rock Lobster Friday evening at the Exhibition fairgrounds.  Sully agrees, Rock Lobster would be more interesting to write about, so thus destination four had been decided even before we began eating from number three.

It looks good...it always looks good, otherwise I wouldn't be here.

It looks good…it always looks good, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.

Oh what’s this?  Are those jalapeños I see smiling up at me?  You betcha bottom dollar they are!  My excitement level has increased by one to a 6/10 now that I spot those little babies.  I begin cutting into the egg, adding pressure with my knife to speed up the oozing process.  As I continue to smother my plate with egg yolk, I share an observation that this reminds me of that scene from Osmosis Jones when the zit on Bill Murray’s face pops (Note:  I fully intended to link that clip until I watched it again and almost threw up in my mouth, so I’ll forgo that one), and from my left I hear Sully grumble sarcastically “that’s great, mmmmm…”

Sully asks for his Coke again and receives a curt nod.  My “sitting at the bar” experience is not usually this…cold.  The bartender/barista is about as friendly and welcoming as barbed wire on a doorknob.

My plate has become a swampy mess.  How did this happen?  The eggs, BBQ ribs and Jamaican bread have collapsed into a mushy mound on my plate.  It takes me several attempts to gather a proper forkful of all ingredients.  Before bringing it to my mouth, I give a quick sideways glance at Sully who is chewing and ask, “How is it?”

“I don’t know, I’m eating the salad” he says, and I bite the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing as an image of Spike from Land Before Time munching on “green food” pops into my head.

I shovel the unidentifiable concoction into my mouth and chew.  BBQ sauce.  Chew some more.  Spice.  More chewing.  Lots of BBQ sauce. Sully is waiting, I have to say something.  So I do,  “Ummm…okay…”

Sully claps a hand on my shoulder and chuckles, “Di – one, Sully – zero” and proceeds to eat from his plate.

The Pulled Pork Benny and BBQ Ribs Benedict have one thing in common.

As we chat about the correlation between pilot projects and Beautiful Katamari, Sully begins transferring all his jalapeños onto my plate explaining that it’s too spicy, and that he enjoys the creamy, rich taste of the hollandaise.  However, that being said, the BBQ sauce practically destroys any possibility of “creamy and rich” from even being born, so I’m not sure how removing the peppers will help the situation. Nevertheless, I eat them all.

“We can now assert, BBQ and Benedict are not friends.  BBQ wants all the attention.”  I think we can also add that spicy ingredients are in the same lot as the BBQ sauce.  This was a bit disappointing.  Don’t get me wrong, the pulled ribs were delicious!  So was the little tumbleweed looking potato!  But again, as with Lady Marmalade and their pulled pork benny, the BBQ sauce overpowers anything else, save for the jalapeños.  Hollandaise sauce is on the menu, I’d like to taste it.  Crap!  I’m turning into an eggs benedict snob!

In comparison to the first two locations with Lisa Marie scoring a 3.5 and Lady Marmalade scoring a 4.5, Union comes in at an even 2.  I wouldn’t return for brunch, but I might consider coming back for the ribs, albeit in a couple months when I get the taste for BBQ sauce back.

“I forgot my wallet, no really.  I was in a rush and forgot it,” Sully says to me.  Oh good…I’m not the only one prone to bouts of idiocy and forgetfulness.  Only, Sully has a means to get home, whereas I had to rely on him to pay my way.  *sigh*

The quest for the best Eggs Benedict in Toronto continues next week, anticipation running high to see how Matt’s claim to give me the best holds up at Rock Lobster.

Until next time Benny…

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2 thoughts on “3rd Stop: Union Restaurant

  1. I love what you’re doing! As someone who has a love affair with brunch, especially the benny, I look forward to your reviews.

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