The Union
By Megan Jones

A Small Town Start

Most Vancouver-born chefs cut their teeth in the kitchens of Paris or New York before starting their own restaurants back home. But The Union’s Lisa Henderson tells a different story.

“I started my cooking career in Tofino, B.C,” says the talented chef and former owner of RainCoast Café. Lisa ran the restaurant for 12 years before departing the sleepy surf town for Vancouver, joining forces with Cascade Group to open The Union.

Marrying Lisa’s small-town approach with Vancouver’s hip nightlife scene, the 80-seat Chinatown eatery offers Asian fusion dishes, craft beers and creative cocktails in a cool atmosphere that’s unlike any other. “I would describe the ambience as bustling, fun, modern and communal,” Lisa says.

We are like a big family and that's why we have so many regular and loyal customers. - Lisa Henderson, chef
The Union's industrial chic dining room offers a cool-yet-cozy vibe.
With communal tables and industrial chic decor, The Union's 80-seat dining room offers a cool-yet-cozy vibe. Photo courtesy of The Union

Sharing is Caring

In keeping with The Union’s catchphrase – “Good times are best shared, and so is our food” – the Southeast Asian inspired menu is designed for sharing. Vegetarians and carnivore friends are welcome here, where dishes like veggie spring rolls and crispy chickpeas can be paired with thom king gai (chicken and rice soup), chicken satays and ikan salai (smoked albacore tuna salad) to please everyone in the group.

Hearty Vietnamese subs and delicate vermicelli bowls – with a choice of fried tofu, crispy pork belly and other proteins – are also ideal for sharing, as are inspired brunch dishes. One of the few Southeast Asian eateries to offer weekend breakfast, The Union's brunch menu includes an Asian continental plate with a coconut bun, fresh fruit and yogurt; a Vietnamese breakfast sub with bacon, egg and sriracha mayo; and everyone’s favourite: Bangalore hash, which features curry-spiced potatoes, veggies, chickpeas, goat cheese and poached eggs.

“Of course our Chinatown location had a lot to do with it,” says Lisa of the thinking behind her worldly menu. “But it was also my previous experience with Southeast Asian cuisine,” she explains.

Vietnamese Bánh mì sandwiches, are a popular item for two.
Vietnamese Bánh mì sandwiches, are a popular item for two. Photo courtesy of The Union

Vacation Vibes

Described as industrial chic by many, The Union’s decor enhances its unique, eclectic charm, while long shared tables with benches add to the friendly communal ambiance. A stunning feature wall is made from what appears to be up-cycled shipping containers and pastel-coloured steel lamps. A chalkboard menu and crates of tropical fruit make you feel as if you've stumbled into a Thai beach resort.

You'll feel even more like you're on vacation when sipping exotic cocktails. Lisa’s personal favourite, the Banga #4, is a sweetly spiced mix of cardamom, cachaça, pineapple and cilantro, with chilli, water and lime. Also of note is the Tom Yum Collins, a cheeky drink inspired by the soup of the same name, with vodka, lemongrass, lime leaves, basil, coconut milk and more. An extensive list of local and imported craft beers and wine is also available, of course.

In one of the city’s most vibrant, bustling and – at times - hectic neighbourhoods, The Union is an appropriate oasis; a cool, inclusive Southeast Asian eatery worth the wait on busier nights. “We are like a big family and that's why we have so many regular and loyal customers,” says Lisa, proving that small-town chefs can indeed succeed in the big city.

The Union's famous Caesar is ideal for brunch.
The Union's famous Caesar is an ideal daytime cocktail for brunch. Photo courtesy of The Union
Close menu