Feb. 13 2012 05:28 PM

Encinitas eatery grows into its own with great food and beer

unionkitchenandtap
Photo by Marie Tran-McCaslin
When Union Kitchen and Tap made its first appearance in CityBeat last summer, Jenny Montgomery noted that there were flaws but it was a restaurant worth watching. After six months to settle into its groove, I'm happy to report that Union has definitely upped its game, bringing the level of the food much closer to its great beer selection.

After braving the parking lot known as Friday-night traffic between Torrey Pines and Encinitas, I arrived seriously late and in desperate need of beer. The place was bustling, the people pretty, and I threaded my way through groups of friends enjoying happy hour and a handful of guys showboating at the bar. Past the bar, there was a separate dining area with TVs broadcasting sporting events. My friend was waiting with an order of fries, and I settled in with Ballast Point's Victory at Sea. The chocolaty coffee notes of the beer went nicely with the fries, perfectly fried with just enough salt and a touch of chopped parsley as a garnish.

Amid girl talk, I debated between the duck duo and the fisherman's stew. I'm always a sucker for duck confit, but seafood won this time. For an extra $2, the dish can be ordered with pasta. But it already includes two hefty slices of bread drizzled with basil oil for dipping, so unless you're seriously carbo-loading, the pasta won't add much to this delightful dish. Mussels, clams and chunks of salmon are served in a chunky tomato soup—the seafood was fresh, the bread great for scooping up the sweet tomato base. It was well-executed, my only complaint being that the soup was more of a purée than a soup. If it were just a smidge thinner, it'd be perfect.

The dessert menu has a rotating cheesecake and creme brulée selection, so I opted for the latter. That night's flavor was butterscotch. I can't say it knocked my socks off, but it was a nice end to the evening. Our server touted the cheesecake, which is on my list for next time. And with the food being what it is now, there will certainly be a next time.


Write to marietm@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com. Marie blogs at meanderingeats.com and you can follow her on Twitter at @MeanderingEats.

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