Union Burger Bar is exactly what Southampton has been missing. The eager diners lining up on Saturday night made that evident. The restaurant was completely filled only 10 minutes after its 5 PM opening.
An hour before that, my husband Joe and I stopped in to meet with owner Ian Duke and sample executive chef Scott Kampf’s fare. It’s located in the same building as Union Cantina at Bowden Square. Patrons enter through a different door to the side for a completely separate restaurant concept.
It’s like an elevated Bareburger meets Black Tap with an East End feel. Quality specialty burgers and over-the-top milkshakes are the menu staples. The build-your-own burger portion of the menu offers diners limitless possibilities — from beef to veggie and buns that include pretzel, potato, brioche, or lettuce wrap (for those who want to limit the carbs). Salads like the “Health Nut” or appetizers like corn fritters and the NYC street pretzel offer plenty of options for any palate.
The cocktail menu is bourbon strong, and for good reason. Bourbon and burgers are a winning combination. I tried the Paper Plane, an enjoyable cocktail made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino, and fresh lemon, served up.
We opted to try the indulgent Mack Attack!, an eight-ounce Black Angus beef burger with homemade mac & cheese and onion hay piled high on a pretzel bun. We also went with the more health conscious turkey burger prepped with apricot compote, melted Swiss, and fresh avocado slices on a multi grain roll. Life’s all about balance, isn’t it?
Burgers are in the $15 to $17 range and include a pickle and delicious hand cut fries or house slaw. Diners will be glad to hear that all burger meat is 100 percent certified Black Angus beef from Niman Ranch in the Midwest. All meat is grass-fed, humanely raised, and antibiotic and hormone free.
The milkshakes are also really something special. There are boozy shakes like the Drunken Jelly Doughnut, made with blended vanilla ice cream, jelly doughnuts, and Chambord. There are classic shakes like vanilla, chocolate, or peanut butter served with fresh whipped cream. And then there are the Real Deal Shakes — shakes that act like desserts. We went with the Cookie Monster, a vanilla shake with a gorgeous display of crushed Oreo frosted rim, topped with an Oreo ice cream bar, fresh whipped cream, crumbled Oreos, and chocolate drizzle. I will attest that the shake’s flavor was as beautiful as the presentation. It even attracted the attention of the table next to us, who declared the shake photo-worthy.
The restaurant will also offer many weekly specials. Monday night is Taps & Apps specials all night. Tuesday nights are Two For Tuesdays, with two-for-one drafts with the purchase of a burger meal. Wednesday night is Barrister’s Wednesdays, a nod to Barrister’s once-famous $5 burger night, brought back at Union Burger. After 8 PM on Thursday, it’s ladies night, with $5 drinks. Sunday offers Sunday Shakes with half priced classic milkshakes all day as well as $5 kids’ meals.
Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 PM and offers $5 beer, $7 wine, $9 mixed drinks, and half-priced appetizers. The daily lunch special is $10.95, available Monday through Friday, and includes an American cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato on a Martin’s potato roll served with choice of hand cut fries or a side salad.