Long weekends are all about eating, am I right? This weekend, we decided to avoid the cottage country traffic by staying in the city and spending our time trying out some new restaurants. Here’s the first one we tried:
On Saturday May 21, we made last minute plans to go out to Union Social Eatery (U.S.E.) at 21 St. Clair Avenue West, a close-to-home restaurant we hadn’t yet tried, for drinks and appetizers. We walked in around 7pm and got a table (for two) right away on a Saturday night of a long weekend. The restaurant wasn’t too busy when we got there, but it got busier as the night went on—naturally, as the Raptors were playing at 8:30pm.
A casual but fun restaurant, the U.S.E. is pretty large, seating about 50-75 (if I had to guess). We sat at the open window (garage door) which was basically like sitting on a patio fronting onto the busy Toronto intersection that is Yonge and St. Clair—somehow relaxing! Along with the patio-like atmosphere, Union Social Eatery boasts a nice bar to sit at that fronts four flat-screen televisions, perfect for watching any sporting event. The customers ranged from young to old and the noise level was enjoyable.
The restaurant is known for its well-crafted menu and cocktails as well as their extensive draught and wine selection. We have to agree! Our first surprise was a free appetizer because it was our first time eating at the U.S.E. Our waitress (who was great, BTW) brought us a sample of their House Braised Short Rib Firecrackers (regularly $9.98): pepperjack cheese, cream cheese, grilled Bermuda onions, and cremini mushrooms all wrapped up in a deep-fried wonton, served with a sweet chilli sauce for dipping. I’m not one for spice, but these were amazing. Clearly, as I barely got a picture of them before they were gone!
As I mentioned above, we stuck to the “social starters”. As it turned out, the appetizer portions were decent sized (perfect for sharing with groups) and the perfect fit for our appetites. We ordered the Nachitos ($13.95) which were served adorably—the sour cream and salsa-sides were dished into large tortilla chips beside the stack of nachos which were layered with the perfect amount of cheese and other toppings (we got the jalapenos and roasted red peppers on the side).
We also ordered the Crispy Calamari, which was served with a tzatziki and the same sweet chilli sauce that was served with the Firecrackers. We had the half pound ($10.95) which was the perfect amount along with our other apps, although it is quite small—order the full pound if more than two are sharing! The calamari pieces were small and definitely crispy, and having a choice of dipping sauce was nice, too.
The Roasted Garlic Caesar salad ($9.98) topped off our meal. It was a large-sized salad mixed with bacon, sourdough croutons, parmesan cheese, and house-made dressing. The dressing didn’t do much more for me than Renee’s (from the grocery store) does, but the salad was still a nice complement to our other appetizers.
Lastly, we had drinks. My boyfriend drank 2 Sleeman Cream Ales, which was on for a $5 special (as it is all Saturdays, get out there!). I tried the Pimm & Ginger ($6.81): Pimms #1 Cup, ginger ale, cranberry juice, mint, cucumber, and lemon wedge, which was delicious and not too minty like I was afraid of. I also tried the Social Punch ($6.81): Southern Comfort, Amaretto, cranberry, orange, and pineapple juice. This was also good, although pretty sweet if you don’t like sweet drinks. It would be the perfect drink for a hot summer day. I made both of my drinks doubles for $2 (another Saturday special).
Our bill came to about $70.00 with tax (before tip), which isn’t too bad for four drinks, two appetizers, and a salad (and a comfortable atmosphere to boot!).
We’ll definitely be back to try the Social Dragon Roll, the Garlic Shrimp Tacos, and everything else our bellies can handle. If the U.S.E. isn’t close to home for you, it’s literally right across the road from the St. Clair subway station, but they also have locations in Mississauga and at Yonge & Sheppard.