The Union Bar was sent this outstanding “quit letter” by a newly hired, no-show dishwasher with exceptionally high standards but apparently low energy levels (no, it wasn’t Sean Orr). I’ve seen kitchen staff quit because the chef was an asshole or the hours/pay were too long/short, but the reasoning here is just amazing. Down with the bosses and fuck those middle class yuppies! Right on, brother (tips hat), and good luck to you out there.
PS. if any of our readers are looking for some extra dishwashing shifts and don’t mind working for “the man” (in this case, a woman), The Union Bar is currently looking to fill a void, and they have a sense of humour.
by Claire Lassam | I’m a reluctant hockey fan at best. At worst, I don’t really care until the finals. I admit this willingly, but every year around this time I find myself at sports bars, drinking beer, eating fried food, and cheering with the best of them. This happens, of course, because if I don’t I won’t see my friends for months [ed note: er...make that a week], and most days I’d rather eat poor food and see my friends than make and eat dinner solo.
But it dawned on me that maybe there could be a compromise. A place with televisions and rowdy fans, but also with a decent beer list and food made with a little TLC. So this here isn’t just a mission for the best chicken wings*, it’s a mission for the best chicken wings that you can eat while watching the game.
It proved harder much than I thought.
Half the battle with wings is texture. The skin needs to be crisped and browned and crunchy, and the small amount of meat beyond it needs to be meltingly tender. This isn’t to hard to do; a quick coating in flour or corn starch before frying nearly ensures this. It is therefore inexplicable as to why the texture test is failed by so many. The other important factor is sauce. Personal taste is involved here, as you can usually pick your sauces: red hot and BBQ are almost always on the menu, and then there’s usually an Asian option, most often either soy ginger or “Thai”. I tend to like the red hot, which is the traditional buffalo wings way. I enjoy the heat, but even more I like the acid that cuts through the deep fried meat. It gives the whole a cleaner finish.
It was these classic hot wings that I tried at Saint Augustine’s on Commercial Drive, a neighbourhood haunt that boasts some 41 craft beers on tap. They were nearly identical to what I found at Cactus and The Morrissey. Now, don’t get me wrong…they were good wings, but exactly what we’ve all come to expect whenever we order wings. They were more tender at Cactus, and the sauce at The Morrissey was better for sure, but they were all afterthoughts, all lacking the crunchy exterior that we forget should be the way.
They had definitely thought about the wings at the Alibi Room on Alexander. It was the only place I went to with free-range chicken. They didn’t offer a red hot version, just deep fried with some honey and garlic with a thin sauce full of rice vinegar and chilis. They were a step up from the others, for sure, but the ones on the top were hard to get into the sauce, and the saucy ones at the bottom were a little soggy. I felt like I could do better.
And I did at Ensemble Tap. With half the Lumiere staff working in the kitchen, they ought to be able to make proper chicken wings! The skin was shatteringly crispy and they were beautifully seasoned. What’s more, the hot sauce was the spiciest I’d had yet. But they didn’t mellow out the spice with any acid, and the ranch dressing it came with was a little disappointing (the order did, however, come with pickles, and I really do love pickles).
My “best wings” nod goes to another new restaurant: The Union Bar in Strathcona. They were flawless; a thin glazed leading to a brilliantly crunchy crust. The meat inside was insanely moist, and the sweet/savoury/tart Thai naam sauce was highlighted by big pieces of bird’s eye chilies scattered on top. They also kept me guessing; one bite would have more lime, the next a piece of cilantro, the next would cause me to down beer to help with the spice. There is little else to say except that whenever I’m next dragged out to watch a game, my vote will be for the Union.
*This rules out the hands down, indescribably good, unquestionable best wings in the city, which are found at Phnom Penh. They are perfection, and great for a pre-game bite, but you can’t watch the game there, so they were, sadly, out of the running.
Claire Lassam is a baker, blogger, and freelance writer based in East Van. She has been cooking and baking her way through the city for nearly five years, working in restaurants ranging from Cioppino’s to Meat & Bread. She currently toils at Beta 5 Chocolates and runs the baking blog Just Something Pretty.
We’ve invited The Union Bar in Strathcona to join our curated GOODS section as a recommended local restaurant. They’re now proud members of Scout, and as such we’ll be posting their news in addition to hosting a page for them on our awesome list of independent goodnesses. We’d like to take this chance to thank them for their support of Scout, and for making Vancouver a more delicious place to be.
Owners: Wendy Nicolay, Nigel Pike, Nick Devine
General Manager: Lauren McConnell
Head Chef: Lisa Henderson
Bar: Arthur Wynne
ABOUT The Union
Opened in January 2012, The Union Bar is an 80+ seat restaurant and cocktail lounge straddling Chinatown & Strathcona. Chef Lisa Henderson offers up a menu of shareable plates and bowls, inspired by the flavours of Southeast Asia, while barman Arthur Wynne uses ingredients sourced from neighbouring Chinatown to infuse his inventive cocktails. The interior is a modern yet eclectic design by Evoke International Design, with reclaimed barn board, exposed concrete, large-scale light fixtures, custom designed wood tables & benches, and graphic details highlighting the surrounding neighbourhood.
Thai hot licks with Main St. Pilsener kicks | $12 | 219 Union Street | 604-568-3230 | TheUnionBar.ca