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I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
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Monday, August 19, 2013

The Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen in Clarkston, Michigan

Yesterday I wrote briefly about our recent road/camping trip that took us from southwestern Ontario through the thumb of Michigan, across Lake Huron to Tobermory, Ontario, and finally back home.  The entire adventure was six days in its entirety.  Four of those days were spent rustic camping with our kids and grandkids.  Talks about a wonderful adventure!  Over the next few days I will share some of the foodie highlights we enjoyed during our adventure.

The Clarkston Union Kitchen and Bar in Clarkston, MichiganWe are avid fans of several Food Network shows including Diners, Drive-Ins and Drives, affectionately known as Triple D with host Guy Fieri.  We watch one episode that featured The Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen located at 54 S. Main Street in the Village of Clarkston, Michigan.  This classic greasy spoon housed in a converted 1840's wooden church holds the bragging rights as having the most macked mac & cheese.  Kid Rock frequents the restaurant as well so there's always a chance of seeing him there. 

A small gift shop, the Union General, home of the Cupcakery is located just behind the restaurant outdoor patio.  It features coffee, ice cream, sweets, bath and toys.  Be warned, this shop is heavily scented, not suitable for those with respiratory problems or asthma.

Clarkston was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a Historic District on the merit of its architectural and historical significance in 1980.  The village is home to important examples of Queen Anne style homes, well worth visiting for it's historical significance.  We planned a stop in Clarkston the first day of our travels to check out this featured eatery and do a bit of sight seeing as it was on our planned route, less than a mile off of I-75 N.

interior of The Clarkston Union Kitchen and Bar
The interior decor of The Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen is warm and inviting, very much church-like.  The owners have certainly maintained and built on the church-like feel.  The high ceiling, hanging lights, stain glass windows, wood floor, authentic church pews and open kitchen all lend themselves nicely to the atmosphere. Even the pale creamy yellow walls is reminiscent of many church interiors.

We had a short wait for seating but this restaurant is reputed to have rather long wait times.  There is a sitting area to enjoy while waiting in what was once the front entrance to the church.  There is seating at the very well stocked bar (middle right) in addition to the dining room seating.  Seating is close but open.  We were seated in the middle just on the other side of the two folks in yellow shirts.  The restaurant is loud (ok borderline very loud) with a very social atmosphere though, definitely not the place for a quiet dinner conversation.

Buckler non-alcoholic beer
We each ordered ice tea with our meals.  The nice thing about ordering ice tea in the US is it is just that, tea.  It is not sweetened.  If you want sweetened ice tea then you have to order sweet tea, but sweet tea is not always available.

The Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen had a very impressive beer list, many unique artisan, small batch brew and specialty beers (eg. gluten free).  Their listing of available beers is on blackboards at the very front of the restaurant near the waiting area for seating. 

Despite their long list of beers, I decided to try a non-alcoholic beer, Buckler, imported from Holland, brewed by Heineken.  Non-alcoholic (de-alcoholized) beers and wines have less than 0.5% alcohol by volume.  They are gaining favour with those who what to enjoy beer and wine without the negative effects of alcohol.  I've been sampling several to find those to stock for entertaining.  In general, the European non-alcoholic beers and wines are far superior in flavour to those brewed in North America.  I found the Buckler non-alcoholic beer is light and refreshing.  It has only 75 calories as well.

We decided to order one entrèe and a full order of mac & cheese to share.  With a long ride ahead of us, we didn't want heavy tummies but we did want to get a good sampling of the food at The Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen.  We ordered the meatloaf special ($9.75) made with house ground seasoned angus beef, topped with marsula gravy, mashed potatoes and vegetables.

The meatloaf was fine but not spectacular.  It was heavily seasoned with white pepper and there definitely was a hint of nutmeg, the cook's obvious seasoning of choice.  The seasonings clashed somewhat with the marsula gravy that had a nice flavour and smooth texture.  The mashed potatoes looked delicious but again were heavily seasoned with white pepper and nutmeg to a fault!  The baby carrots were almost an afterthought, simply boiled and plated with no seasoning or garnish.  They were over cooked as well so were lacking in flavour.  

the most macked mac and cheese
We ordered the mac & cheese made with Canadian cheddar and mild pinconning cheeses layered with penne rigate and a crunchy crust ($13.95).  The generous full size portion of mac & cheese arrived at our table delightfully hot and bubbly.   Technically there is no mac (eg. maccaroni) in this mac & cheese but it sure did have eye appeal!  This mac & cheese was rich and cheesy but not creamy.  Once again the white pepper and nutmeg pairing appeared.  It wasn't as strong as in the mashed potatoes but it was strong enough to be noticeable.  Unfortunately, this mac & cheese did not live up to its reputation.  It was ok, lacking the velvety creamy texture of a good mac & cheese, and simply over seasoned.

The Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen is a busy place with an interesting atmosphere set in a historical, quaint village.  The food itself is really nothing spectacular and I suspect many visit there for the same reason we did, we saw it on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  The prices are average to high for what you get and service can be slow.  That being said, we might go back again if in the area but we would not make a special trip to eat there.  That says a lot because we have no problem driving a couple of hours or more to enjoy a restaurant that impressed us.  If you decide to visit The Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen, don't expect the 'wow factor' for the mac & cheese. 

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