Yesterday we checked out the Union Bear which swings open its doors today in the West Village on McKinney Avenue in Uptown Dallas. We spoke with both owner Matt Spiller and chef John Kleifgen on our visit and sat down to try some of the food being offered up to their eager patrons.
When walking into Union Bear you will notice that like all of the Spiller operations it fits beautifully with the existing neighborhood architecture. They were not trying to recreate a previous motif like you might find at Eno’s or Oddfellows.
There are many brew pubs and restaurants in the area but Union Bear has defined the difference by not only throwing down an incredible amount of beer taps, but will have the distinction of being a working macro-brewery that will create its own beer in very small batches. They will also soon work with local home brewers and incorporate their recipes in the mix for a more hands on creative atmosphere that will hopefully inspire more attention to local beers and develop a community to grow more local breweries.
“The idea here is how can we build a beer culture here in Dallas so if there is success in tapping someone’s recipe hopefully there is some inspiration so they will go out and open their own brew pub or brewery, and we will have more craft-made products locally,” said Spiller.
When you speak to Spiller he swells up with pride when talking the local talk. The common thread that runs through the entire operation at Union Bear is that everything should be local. Better yet, created in house or brought in by a purveyor that raised the product.
Even their soft drinks will be made by a local company called Real Sugar Cola, and Spiller’s staff will actually work with their craftsmen to develop custom flavorings.
If all this wasn’t local enough, Spiller explained that he has plans to work with local artists and will fill the restaurant with various works that can be reproduced and sold with all the proceeds going back to the artist.
As far as music, Alan Palmer’s Jazz Trio will be the house band, and has been featured at Eno’s for some time.
Chef John Kleifgen has a fantastic background and attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York before moving to Boston, and worked with James Beard Award winning Frank McClelland at L’Espalier. But Kleifgen eventually made it back to Texas where he was raised.
“When I was in Boston it was all about French cuisine. That cuisine is learning to cook with what is available and follow the seasons. Working with McClelland I was able to go out and pick the vegetables on a farm each day that we would be using. Heirloom tomatoes off the vine, and squash blossoms that hours after being picked would become this fabulous ratatouille with fried squash blossoms,” said Kleifgen.
The chef will be working with local farmers like Tom Spicer and Urban Acres.
The menu at the restaurant is simple, offering house-made porchetta and grass fed burgers. They will be making their own pasta and feature a host of insanely appealing pizzas.
The best feature of the new restaurant is that it won’t break your wallet.
Everything is affordable including the beer which is only $5 for anything on tap. None of the menu items are over $15, making Union Bear a very refreshing change in the Dallas restaurant climate.