I recently had the pleasure of dining at Union Kitchen & Tap in Encinitas. While I expected a decent brunch and a mimosa buzz, I actually found a much more authentic experience: it’s hard to find something that stands out these days in brunch-obsessed San Diego (well, food-obsessed in general) but Union Kitchen & Tap manages to carve out a niche. Their cornbread waffles are by far the star of the menu, and we indulged at the recommendation of our excellent server. Their cocktail list leaves little to the imagination (in all the best ways), and with classy names in honor of famous literature, you just feel cool ordering one.

The boyfriend and I perused the menu when we sat down, but ended up turning over our trust entirely in our server, who recommended the highlights of the menu. We accepted each of them, and were not disappointed in any of the choices.

To start: the manager suggested their homemade beignets as an appetizer. I mean, you don’t have to convince me to try fried dough dusted with powdered sugar and dipped in a raspberry jam. They were hot, flaky, buttery, and basically good enough for the whole meal. But we had more to try.

The star of the meal was the aforementioned chicken and cornbread waffles. First off, who thought of this, and where is he/she so I can give them a serious high-five? They literally pour cornbread batter into a waffle iron. Simple. Genius. And somehow even better when they explained to me that they have ONE waffle iron that has to be plugged into a specific outlet or it shorts out their circuit, and when they get a run on cornbread waffle orders (which is common), that iron works like its life depended on churning out fresh, hot waffles. Which it does.

Served with seasonal berries, whipped butter, and a cinnamon maple syrup, plus lightly breaded, tender chicken….I could have eaten about three more.

Our “side” order was the brioche egg-in-a-hole with braised pork belly and chive hollandaise. I’m not a huge hollandaise or eggs benedict in general, but this was just the right consistency and the right amount (AKA the brioche bun wasn’t soaked and soggy from mayonnaise cream) to render me a fan. Plus, braised pork belly? Um, hello.

Finally, to balance out the fried chicken, pork belly, and fried dough, we opted for the roasted beet salad: with candied pecans, fennel, mint, bleu cheese, orange wedges, and a chipotle maple vinaigrette, it was as flavorful as you’d expect everything on the menu to be by now.

As whiskey fans, we both opted for a craft cocktail from their list: mine was called “From Darkest Peru,” which featured rye bourbon, citrus bitters, and orange marmalade (!) Definitely more experimental than I normally like, but it was delicious and complemented a brunch meal perfectly.

My boyfriend had the Eyes Wide Shut, a bolder and smokier profile with Bulliet rye, espresso Campari, Carpano Antica (vermouth), and Luxardo liqueur, with a rounded-out flavor of cherries, chocolate, and roasted coffee. He loved it.

All in all, the meal was unforgettable (especially by our waistlines) and we will definitely be back – if not just for those cornbread waffles.

Pay them a visit:
Union Kitchen & Tap
1108 S Coast Hwy 101
Encinitas, CA 92024
Open at 11am weekdays; 9am weekends