David and I met at Miller Union for dinner on Thursday night to celebrate the end of my successful lacrosse season and the conclusion of David’s most recent work project. It was a perfect venue for a romantic and delicious date.
I have a confession: David and I went to Miller Union for dinner the month it opened (over a year ago) with our friend, Chris. The three of us sat at the bar, and were a little disappointed with our dinner. At the time, there weren’t many items on the menu, the service was mediocre and the food did not meet my expectations based on all of the hype Miller Union had been receiving. This underwhelming meal made me sad, as I really like Chef Steven Satterfield, a frequent customer of mine at The Local Farmstand, and I love Miller Union’s mantra of minimal, fresh, local food.
Chef Steven Satterfield (photo from Food & Wine)
Since that dinner, David and I have returned to Miller Union for drinks (we love the bar), and I’ve enjoyed lunch with friends at Miller Union. Their seasonal vegetable plate is one of my favorite dishes on the Westside and perfect for a lunch date. The ambiance at Miller Union is bustling, yet relaxed, with the perfect amount of people watching but not so loud that you can’t talk to the person with you.
But last Thursday was our first time splurging on dinner at Miller Union since our so-so evening nearly 18 months ago. I’m glad we gave it another try. Nearly everything on the menu is naturally gluten-free, literally almost everything. The only red flags were the “farrotto” that accompanied the New York Strip and the cream grits fritters appetizer. (It turns out that the “grits fritters” are normally gluten-free but that night fried chicken was the special so the fryer was contaminated.)
So I oohed and ahhed over the menu for awhile before discussing my top choices with David. It turns out we were on the same page and were intrigued by the same two entrees. Since everything we wanted was gluten free, we decided to split two entrees so we could enjoy both.
David went with the fritters for an appetizer and I ordered the soup of the day: spring pea soup, which came highly recommended by our waiter. Beautifully green, my soup was light yet very flavorful. A great way to start the meal.
Spring Pea Soup
The first of our entrees was the grilled pork loin, with cranberry beans and braised greens. The pork loin had an amazing kick to it, due to the apple cider vinegar they use while grilling the pork. Juicy, flavorful, and meaty, this pork dish is a meat lover’s dream. Crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, with plenty of food on the plate. You won’t go hungry with this order. The cranberry beans tasted meaty themselves and I loved combining them and the pork in one bite. The greens were braised with onions and were delicious by themselves, in the juices of the pork.
While David started with the pork, I began to work my way through the sautéed quail with dirty rice and arugula. I usually stay away from restaurant entrees that involve rice, simply because I just don’t find it all that exciting and I’d rather a vegetable, quinoa or risotto. Miller Union’s dirty rice, however, is not your ordinary rice. As much as I love vegetables, everything tastes better with pork and this rice affirms that statement. The dirty rice is a mix of wild rice with Miller Union’s homemade pork sausage and bacon. Wow. I could have eaten just the rice as my entrée. The quail was also yummy, and simply cooked, with crisp skin and flavorful meat. I followed the waiter’s suggestion, and ate with my hands. (If you use your fork and knife, you won’t get very much meat.) The arugula added a nice bite to the dish and beautiful color on the plate.
I would highly recommend Miller Union for a date night. While it’s a little pricey, the quality of food and ingredients make the price worth it. Chef Steven Satterfield really uses as many local, seasonal vegetables as he can access, and supports local farmers. Many chefs say they do this, but don’t always live the principle (to quote my new favorite show, “Big Love”). I’ll definitely be returning to Miller Union for another date night.
I only wish that I could enjoy Miller Union’s daily ice cream sandwich special! (Not GF.)