Restaurant News

First Look at Union Kitchen: 5 Things It Does Wrong and 5 Things It Does Right

Because it's not fair to give a full cafe review to a restaurant before it's been open for at least three months, we bring you First Looks at new restaurants around Houston to see what they're doing right so far and what they still need to work on.

The new Union Kitchen replaced a Hunan Emperor that had occupied the corner of the Lantern Lane shopping center on Memorial Drive for years. Inside, you'd be hard-pressed to tell, however: Union Kitchen has fully remodeled the restaurant into a welcoming space complete with full bar, private dining room and even a sunny side patio.

This location marks the first and -- so far -- only outpost of the original Union Kitchen in Bellaire, which has been flying under the radar for a couple of years under the ownership of Paul Miller and his chef, Juan Arellano. The pair's success led them to open this second location in Memorial after Miller discovered -- according to My Table -- that many of his customers had been driving to Bellaire all the way from west Houston.

When I visited on a recent Sunday afternoon just ahead of the church lunch crowd, Union Kitchen was already packed. Miller certainly seems to have judged his demographic correctly. Yet there are still many things that need tweaking.

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Katharine Shilcutt