- Brian Chilson
- UNION OF FLAVORS: Local Union uses Creekwood Farms ground beef in its third-of-a-pound burgers, combined with garlic Montasio cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle.
Local Union bills itself as "Little Rock's newest 5 a.m. bar and grill," and logically so. Licenses that allow bars to stay open until the time some folks are getting up are rare, and there's always going to be a segment of the thirsty population that either gets a late start or just isn't ready to go home when other bars close at 2 a.m.
In that niche market, alcohol is king — but Local Union also offers a full food menu for its late-nighters (the kitchen closes at 4:30 a.m.), and we day owls get our shot at it from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays. Serving weekday lunch makes sense for an establishment on the ground floor of the Prospect Building (which, gauging by the parking lot, must have a high occupancy rate), in a busy neighborhood like the Heights.
Local Union shows its commitment to the first word of its name by featuring Kent Walker cheeses, Arkansas Fresh Bakery breads and other locally sourced products — a nice touch that elevates the menu beyond basic bar food.
Five appetizers (we'll be back for the locally sourced meat, cheese and bread plate, $12.50), four salads (including a good-sounding Cobb, $8.50), five sandwiches, two burgers and two bratwurst choices comprise the menu.
Our table of three opted for:
•The hot ham and cheese ($8.50): A more than ample portion of smoked Petit Jean slices, not quite enough of Kent Walker's habanero cheddar and mustard (subbed for mayo) griddled on sourdough. It was a fine sandwich, and we appreciated getting the world's best ham vs. the nasty deli-style ham too many restaurants fall back on. A bag of Miss Vickie's chips accompanied, and several flavors are available.
•The Spicy Southwood burger ($9.50): We appreciated the use of 1/3 pound of Creekstone Farms ground beef, but we wish it hadn't been cooked to extremely well done. And as with the ham sandwich, we could have used more cheese. The bacon was a nice touch. We subbed fries for $2 and they are hand-cut, freshly fried and plentiful.
• The daily special (bargain at $7): On our day it was fried catfish, fries and hushpuppies. When our basket emerged we had a Dugan's deja vu moment, because our fish was fried in the usual fish-and-chips light, flour-based batter vs. a cornmeal coating. The two huge fillets were also shaped like they were the feature of a fish-and-chips basket, long and almost rectangular. But the taste said catfish, and we liked the alternative treatment. Again, they were out of the oil and onto our table in a matter of seconds, so nicely hot. There was a bit of doughiness, the hushpuppies were standard, but overall we enjoyed this dish.
• The soup of the day ($4 cup, $6 bowl): On our our day it was chili of the most straightforward and basic variety imaginable, neither offensive nor remarkable. But we ate it.
We'll never know how crowded Local Union is between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., but there were only two solo lunchers when we arrived at 11:30 a.m. But more small parties came in as we ate. It's doubtful people will travel much of a distance to eat lunch at Local Union, but those in the building or nearby certainly should keep it in mind.
1501 N. University, Suite 160
Local Union shows its commitment to "local" in its drink choices, too, featuring Lost Forty and Stone's Throw selections on tap and a variety of creative cocktails using Rock Town spirits.
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays, 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
Full bar. Credit cards accepted.