Cocktail Profile: Night Scene


First of all (and please don’t judge us), can we just say how much fun we’re having with this whole Union thing? Sure, it’s a lot of long hours, and no, we don’t sit down much anymore. But, saying it’s all worth it doesn’t even begin to cover it.

So, on that note, we think it’s time for a nice, cold drink. Specifically, a hand-crafted cocktail. Because, frankly, we’re very proud of our cocktails. Sometimes they’re the opening act, sometimes they’re the whole show—either way, they never cease to delight… satiate… satisfy… you get it.


Call it a tribute to our late-night scene, our riff on the classic martini, whatever you want. We call it delicious. Cocchi Americano and Sobieski Vodka meet our old friend Rock Sake—a perfect choice for blending, according to mixologist Revae Schneider.



Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the time has come. Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar will be opening its doors for business this Tuesday, May 10, 2011, at 4:00 PM. After many months filled with eating, blogging, drinking, rolling, traveling, cooking, and a bit more eating—we’re ready to go. We hope you are, too.


We’ll see you all at the restaurant. We’ll have a chilled glass of sake and a fresh-from-the-Robata skewer waiting for you.

Cheeky Enough to Chow? Results Are In!

Now that we’re in full-steam-ahead restaurant mode, our vacation days have taken a serious (but very welcome) hit. So, what are two gluttonous globetrotters to do? Live vicariously through our friends on Twitter, Facebook, and beyond, with the help of Cheeky Chicago.

You might have heard about our Are You Cheeky Enough To Chow? contest, the chance for one lucky winner to win a slew of prizes in exchange for their craziest eating adventure. The top 10 finalists joined us last night at Cheeky Chicago’s First Look at Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar, one of our first official nights in the restaurant (complete with plenty of bites, cocktails, sake, and so on), where the grand prize winner was announced. Just to fill you in, the grand prize winner will not only be receive a 2 night/3 day vacation to San Francisco for two (including a Southwest flight and accommodations at The InterContinental San Francisco), they’ll also be Cheeky’s first San Francisco correspondent.

First Look at Union, As Seen on Eater Chicago

[Photos: Timothy Hiatt Photography, Eater Chicago]

To all of you who have been waiting with bated breath for the opening of Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar—get ready. The robata is fired up, the kitchen’s been stocked, and we’ll be opening up for business THIS WEEK! Until then, feast your eyes on Eater’s first look:

“First Look: Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar Interior & Menu; Scheduled to Open Next Week”

Wednesday, May 4, 2011, by Ari Bendersky

River North is about to get an infusion of some street smarts. Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar is scheduled to open sometime next week, but Eater got a sneak peek and the space has a lot of wow factor. When you first enter, you experience a bit of sensory overload and aren’t quite sure where to look. But then your eyes are drawn to the vibrant graffiti art created by artist Solo. The colors (orange, yellow, red, blue, browns) and images exploding from the back wall draw you in as you look beyond the chain-mail sculpture growing out of a console in the center of the room…


First Look at Our Kushiyaki Menu and a NEW VIDEO!

As preparations continue for our grand opening, we are pleased to announce yet another sneak peek behind the curtain: Our comprehensive Kushiyaki program, an ever-evolving menu of beef filets and chicken wings and lamb chops… and whatever else Chao can skewer and grill on our glorious, four-foot Robata Grill.



n. the formal term for all things skewered and grilled: meat, poultry, offal, vegetables and fish. Examples from Union’s opening menu: Jumbo Shrimp with kabanyaki black pepper + sesame, Lamb Chop with garlic-soy, and so on.



n. Translated as “around the fireplace,” this is a traditional Japanese grilling technique that takes
place over hot coals that are painstakingly maintained at 600° F.

To better prepare ourselves for the art of Kushiyaki, we looked to man’s long history with meat on a stick. It is a relationship that harkens back to man’s humble beginnings, and a story worth a few minutes of meat-filled reflection. And so, we give you our latest video…

We hope you enjoyed it.

HOW WE ROLL: The Final Three


Over here at Union/MCC headquarters, the month of February was unofficially sushi month. We had our How We Roll contest, put together a few videos showing you how Chao rolls, and even had a little mayoral sushi.

And then we got down to the real work: choosing our final three contestants. Now that–that was a challenge. After reading through pages and pages of some of the most bizarre, hilarious, and delicious-sounding rolls we’ve encountered, we’ve narrowed it down to a final three. These three rolls were chosen based on their creativity and, well, how good we think they’ll taste.

The three contestants below will be joining us for an exclusive, sneak peek dinner at Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar (before it’s open to the public) for the final judge’s table, and the winner will win a $500 Southwest gift card and a spot on our opening menu (which is coming together quite nicely, thank you for asking).

Without further ado, we give you the finalists…


Tammy Brody’s

Fried pork belly strips, hamachi, cucumber, orange tobiko, scallions, chili paste, crispy tempura crumbs and a zig-zag of eel sauce over the top. Served with pickled radish on the side.

Libby Christopoulos’

Hard boiled egg chopped in long strips, cucumber, mash cooked yolk, mayo, chipotle, diced sweet pickle and juice, salt, pepper and bacon.

Jason Gasbarra’s

Seared fois gras, tempura style lobster, grilled pear, micro greens. Garnish with masago and serrano aoli.

Sake: We Embrace It.

Our journey thus far has been perfectly complemented by a steady stream of sake. Sake’s been like an old traveling companion, slipping its way into photos and grinning with all its delicious intricacies.

It all began with our sake certification back in December, an immersive program and the catalyst for the months of sake tasting that followed (detailed below). We’re pleased to announce the culmination of those months of painstaking study: our comprehensive sake program at Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar.

Despite strides in the last decade (read: people discovered sake exists outside of the sake bomb), this thousand-year-old beverage is still very misunderstood. In our opinion, too many restaurants price their sake programs in a way that makes trial and experimentation unaffordable–ending the diner’s sake experience before it could even begin. That’s where Union comes in.


We are intent on encouraging our guests to pair sake with new flavor profiles – by the glass or the bottle – and helping them understand what sake is all about.

  • A selection of sakes from small producers across Japan, sourced during our month-long trip around Asia and priced for trial/experimentation.
  • A small reserve list for the sake connoisseur (just in case John Gauntner visits).
  • A mixology program featuring
    sake cocktails such as Night Scene (Cocchi Americano, Sake, North Shore Vodka, Combier Orange Liqueur, Orange Bitters) and The 16th Century (Shochu, Lemon, Ginger Liqueur, Sparkling Wine).


A Brief History of
Our Sake Consumption

Our sake sojourn began long before this blog, but here in MCC-world, it started with this post: Mike and Chao Become Sake Snobs. We spent a few strenuous days learning everything we could about sake from the Sake Evangelist himself, John Gauntner, and left as certified sake sommeliers.

After that, it’s kind of a blur: Sipping sake with Eric Swanson in Las Vegas, serving sake at our MCC popup dinner in Chicago, and then there was Asia. We drank sake for breakfast in Tokyo, enjoyed canned sake on a Japanese bullet train, and drank super-stealth (but altogether delicious) sake cocktails at Osaka’s famous Shukoujin.

And then there were the brewery tours: Masuichi-Ichimura in Nagano, Sookuu Brewery and Tsuki No Katsura in Kyoto, Daimon Sake Brewery in Osaka… And all of those experiences, those were just the highlights. Long story short, we’ve been living the sake life for quite some time, and we’re compiling the best of the best for our restaurant.

HOW WE ROLL: The Rahm Emanu-Roll

The square white dish isolated
The square white dish isolated

Chao was feeling pretty inspired this week–inspired by one of your submissions in our month-long How We Roll contest and also by the mayoral election here in Chicago.

And so, we present to you: the Rahm Emanu-Roll. Sweet and spicy like our new mayor; he might not be all that sweet, but there’s no doubt he’s spicy.

The Rahm Emanu-Roll


The square white dish isolated
The square white dish isolated

You might have heard about our month-long How We Roll contest–you know, the chance to win a spot on our opening menu? Well, we’d be lying if we didn’t say we’re damn impressed by the submissions so far. Chao is downright inspired, which has led to some delicious kitchen adventures in the last few weeks.

In the spirit of sharing how we roll, we put together a few rolls on film for you to check out. If you haven’t entered our contest yet, hopefully this will get your creative, sushi-rolling juices flowing. If you’ve already submitted your roll, our hats are off to you. You nailed it.

The Bay Street California
The Old City Market
The Osaka Central



Mike and Chao Want To Know: How Do YOU Roll?

The square white dish isolated

If you’ve been reading our blog, then you probably have a pretty good idea of how we roll… Now we want to get to know you! That’s right, for the month of February, we’re offering an exclusive opportunity to win a spot on Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar’s opening menu. But, we didn’t think that was enough, so we threw in an event and a little travel opportunity as well (see the list on the right).The best part is: it’s ridiculously simple to enter. Tell us about your roll, give it a creative name and a way for us to contact you, and you’re entered. ALL ENTRIES DUE BY FEBRUARY 28. ONLY ONE ROLL SUBMISSION PER PERSON.


Prime billing on our menu, based on recipe, taste, and name creativity. Chao’s already struggling with the concept, so you better bring it.


Exclusive, sneak peek dinner at Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar (before it’s open to the public) for the final judge’s table with top three rolls.


Grand prize winner will receive a $500 gift certificate for Southwest Airlines for their own Mike and Chao Chow-style voyage, later featured on our blog!

How about a quick look at the competition?

Just the names of some of the rolls that have been submitted so far… that should give you a taste of some of the creative entries we’ve got rolling (ha!) in.

  • Rockin’ Purple Haze Roll
  • La Flama Blanca
  • The Yellow Pearrot
  • Pura Vida
  • Herroll
  • Thor’s Thunder Roll
  • Eye of the Tiger
  • Rollin’ with the Hogs!
  • Okonomicrazy
  • Communist’s Daughter
  • Some Like It Raw
  • ‘Za Shi
  • Union Square
  • Jumba-liar
  • Hope and Sesame
  • Eelsunrise Roll
  • The Belly Roll
  • Naughty and Nice
  • Wisconsinaki
  • Weiner’s Circle
  • The Spicy Geggie Roll
  • Roll like D-Rose
  • The BTMG

…and that’s just the beginning.


In order to qualify for the Grand Prize in our How We Roll Contest, the top three applicants must be available to attend the sneak peek dinner at Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar and participate in the final judges’ table. Submissions will be judged on ingredients, originality, and name creativity. We will be taking submissions from February 1, 2011 until February 28, 2011. Please note: We will only be accepting ONE roll per applicant.

By entering into the “How We Roll” Contest (the “Contest”), any and all ideas a participant provides in any way as part of the Contest, including but not limited to inventions, discoveries, developments, names, artwork, recipes, techniques, sources of information, ideas or innovations are hereby and irrevocably the property of Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar and may be used in its operations for an infinite duration in any way Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar deems appropriate.