Benjamin got his start as an executive chef at Flyte before a short stint at the Governor's Club and a move to Louisville to cook at the Oak Room at the Seelbach Hotel. Now that he's back as executive chef at Union Common, he aims to create a steakhouse with an emphasis on small dishes and shared plates. The stunning art deco interior dining room will seat about 125 patrons, and the clubby bar area will be for seated guests only with no standing-room service. Benjamin gave a nod to the Goldberg brothers for introducing this concept at Patterson House and Pinewood Social.
The menu will be begin with a section of snacks and spreads. Snacks include classic dishes like escargot and shrimp cocktail as well as a take on Nashville hot chicken in the form of spicy sweetbreads served on top of a buttermilk roll. Spreads are a staple of old-school Chicago steakhouses, and the additions at Union Common will include a marrow plate and a vegan roasted pesto and cannelinni bean spread. A large Nashville Tower of seafood should be a show stopper of an app with shrimp, oysters and other oceanic delights. You'll want to plan to share that one too since it will be a lot of seafood and clocks in at over a hundred bucks.
The menu promises to have an emphasis on seafood, featuring seasonally changing fish dishes, but it will be the huge USDA Prime steaks that will draw lots of boys to the yard. Sized for sharing between multiple diners, the steaks may elicit a bit of sticker shock at first; but if you realize that four people sharing a $100-plus 32-ounce ribeye means each will receive a 7-ounce helping of Prime beef for around $25 apiece, that sounds like an acceptable rate compared to some other meatatoriums in town.
Other beef options for sharing will include a massive 18-ounce filet and a 24-ounce strip steak. For those who aren't into sharing, Union Common will also offer a 10-ounce center-cut filet.
The steaks are cooked in an infernal 1,200-degree oven for a quick sear that adds char while maintaining the juiciness of the meat. Benjamin also uses modern techniques like sous vide and liquid nitrogen in his kitchen, but doesn't plan to call them out on the menu. "They're just techniques to make the food taste better. All I care about is if the customers love their food."
Desserts will be small but fun, since Union Common doesn't want diners to skip a sweet finish to their meal because they feel too full. Their goof on an apple pie will be a funnel cake topped with bacon fat powder and bacon brittle ice cream. Benjamin also plans to serve 10 flavors of ice cream in cones for an informal finish to the meal.
Benjamin plans to helm the kitchen for at least the first three months, but does eventually plan to return to Louisville for another restaurant opening. His kitchen team should be up to the challenge, led by chef du cuisine Jason McCollum and several other chefs who have worked with Benjamin at various spots through the years.
You're probably already worried about parking, but Union Common will offer valet to take that concern off your shoulders. The plan is to be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day, with brunch on the weekends. The kitchen will stay open until the last guest is fed, so even if you show up at 10:55, you'll be seated. But seriously, don't be that guy ...