Paul Miller’s popular neighborhood restaurant The Union Kitchen, with locations in Garden Oaks, Kingwood, Memorial, Rice Military, and Southside Place, has expanded to a sixth location on the Boardwalk at Towne Lake Cypress. The massive new spot ushers in a new, contemporary look for the company, one that Miller plans to echo in future locations—for which plans are already in the works.
Situated ideally on the water, steps away from the 300-acre manmade namesake of the affluent Towne Lake development, the new Union Kitchen is far more vibrant, spacious, and modern than the original cozy eatery on Bellaire Boulevard in Southside Place. And yet, as locals poured into the naturally lit dining area with soaring open ceilings, sat at the chic communal table, and filled the rowdy bar section on a Thursday afternoon, the just-opened restaurant felt as vital to its new community as the first.
“The density of the neighborhood and the location on the water were major drivers in the decision,” says Miller, owner of Gr8 Plate Hospitality, which made a long-term investment in the Towne Lake community by signing a 10-year lease on the restaurant.
Beyond its size and cushy digs, the Cypress outpost is unique for its wood-burning grill and open kitchen. The grill has inspired a roster of retooled seafood dishes and wood-fired pizzas dreamed up by Miller and his Cypress executive chef Ed Roberts.
Also new are the creative frozen drinks conceived specifically for the lakeside hotspot. These include two boozy drinks pumped out of a repurposed Icee machine. The Jack Daniels Honey Lemonade and Finlandia Vodka Lemonade icees join the tiki-inspired Sugar Island Coconut Spiced Strawberry Daiquiri on a menu of frozen cocktails that complete the staycation vibe of the restaurant. Perhaps the most creative item on the menu, however, is the Volcan de Mi Tierra Popsicle—a lime or strawberry flavored popsicle, depending on your preference, swimming in a martini glass full of Volcan tequila, slowly melting to create a margarita-style stirred cocktail.
Some returning Union Kitchen favorites include the grilled salmon burger, a handmade salmon patty served with capers and tarragon aioli on a brioche bun, and the T.H.E. (This Has Everything) Chicken Burger, a ground chicken patty mixed with white wine, fresh herbs, red peppers, and roasted tomatoes, topped with provolone and Applewood-smoked bacon, all on brioche.
Among the new menu items include the grilled chimichurri hanger steak served over cheddar grits, and Miller’s own creation, the Boost Bowl. The latter is a superfood bowl featuring a jalapeño cheddar grit quinoa cake over a bed of black and garbanzo beans, grilled corn, feta cheese, avocado, brown rice quinoa, and mixed greens, all tossed in a white balsamic Dijon dressing.
A pair of new desserts puts the proverbial and literal cherry on top of a superb menu redesign. Cinnamon bread pudding is made with an assortment of leftover house-baked bread drizzled in bourbon caramel sauce, topped with vanilla ice cream. The apple cherry crisp features Granny Smith apples and dried cherries, and is topped with streusel, Heath Bar bits for crunch, and salted caramel. And it’s served with vanilla ice cream.
"All the new items are going on our current menus," says Miller, who plans to revamp his five other Union Kitchen locations while continuing the concept's expansion into Katy.
This latest opening feels like a kind of graduation for a once understated neighborhood restaurant.