Home » The Taste Chase: Sink Your Teeth into the Fresh Catch of the Day at Union Boil Co.

The Taste Chase: Sink Your Teeth into the Fresh Catch of the Day at Union Boil Co.

by Renata Barnes

The Hopewell Valley is getting a bit more variety in its restaurant scene! If you’ve noticed, there are more than a few new eateries in the PQM shopping complex, in the shopping center southbound on 31, and elsewhere; and The Taste Chase plans to taste them all!

First up: Union Boil Co. is poised to make a splash in Pennington and beyond, as one of the newer offerings from the Gretalia Hospitality Group, who have brought us such local favorites as Osteria Procaccini, PJ’s Pancake House, and More Than Q, to name a few. The prospect of more dining choices in this 11-pizza-place town is a welcome sight for those whose pallet is yearning for more than garlic and the Italian spice blend found in aisle 8 at the local grocery store. But how will these new restaurants woo the trepidatious diner to engage locally before they fall prey (again) to the siren song of “fast casual dining” that is the Route #1 corridor? Provide options close to home and remind folks to support hometown businesses!

Buttressed on either side by fellow newcomers Bubbakoo’s Burritos and Aperitivo Bar, this nautically-themed restaurant is a strong contender for the Friday night gathering, ushering in the weekend ahead. To that point, one of the first things that we noticed was a well-stocked and well-populated bar, even early on Friday as we were. The televisions were not quite blaring but loud enough and many patrons were standing as seats were full.

I proceeded to the dining room with my Taste Buds, Ron, and Amie. Now I dig a nautical theme, one that is somewhere between “Jaws” and “Sponge Bob” sans the talking fish mounted on the wall. This was understated blue and white, with oars rather than lobster traps on the wall; I don’t know why I found myself thinking of the J. Crew catalog, but I digress.

We sat in a booth, you know the ones that are made of solid wood and make you feel like you’re in a medieval church. We were all excited for the meal ahead, especially Ron who really loves seafood. The cocktails came quickly and, according to my companions, were quite good. I indulged as well but since it is not the norm for me, I couldn’t tell you if what I had was good or bad, nonetheless, I did enjoy it.

Right away, Ron ordered the oysters, because that is not something he often gets to eat. Slurping them down one after another, he had high praise for the shellfish. After scanning the menu, Ron and I decided that we would share the “seafood tower for two,” which consisted of poached colossal shrimp at the top, followed by oysters on the half-shell in the middle and rounded out by snow crab legs and colossal stone crab claws on the ground floor. All of the aforementioned were served on beds of ice.

Where we would have appreciated a lobster tail or two, this menu selection came with a lobster salad. Doused in mayonnaise and quite cold, we longed for the warmth of sweet taste, perfectly steamed lobster tails drenched in drawn butter. This option would be great on a summer day; we found it too chilly for February.

Amie went for the South Carolina Lowcountry offering of shrimp and grits. This cheesy grits combination was light on the Lowcountry seasoning but heavy on the cheesy part (nobody’s mad at that) and peppers added a kick to the sausage, which was quite mild. The shrimp that topped the grits was good, but it was the grits themselves that shined, giving the shrimp a delectable stage to show off on. We went on to order the fried mixed basket because we hadn’t quite satiated our seafood fix yet. Fried calamari, shrimp, onion, zucchini, and scallops were all battered and fried crispy. Exactly what we expected and that was fine.

The menu at Union Boil Co. offers the usual seafood suspects like fish-n-chips, catfish po’boys, and clam chowder, as well as some things for pescatarian abstainers – like burgers and chicken. It also offers a few items that might surprise some of us. Gumbo-n-rice and lobster mac-n-cheese were newcomers to me. But I think the most surprising offering, and one that could be the biggest draw for Union Boil Co. is the “Boil” itself. This celebration of gifts from the sea and wild waters of the south is a staple of celebrations from Gullah Ghechee communities of North and South Carolina’s barrier islands to the Cajun and Creole culture of Louisiana.

There are traditionally four boils that are celebrated in the Lowcountry of the South: crawfish, shrimp, crab, and oyster. Each is done in season and usually without crowding into the next season. At Union Boil, the three sizes of the Boil include crawfish, shrimp, and crab, as well as, sausage, corn, potatoes and two kinds of sauce – hot and cocktail (we liked the cocktail sauce a lot). There are two things to a great boil – flavor and freshness. Union Boil Co. has freshness on lock. Hands down. Having gone to my share of crawfish boils, I have never been disappointed by the attention to flavor that had my taste buds addicted.

Now I wouldn’t throw my Red Lobster coupons away just yet since Union Boil Co. doesn’t have cheddar bay biscuits but, for fresh seafood this far inland, you should definitely make Union Boil Co. a destination.

Union Boil Co. is located in the Pennington Square Shopping Center 25 Route #31 South Pennington, NJ  609-303-7584.  Yum it up. Tell all your friends.

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