By Annette Hernandez
Former “Next Food Network Star” contestant Alexis Hernandez quietly opened Union Hill Kitchen, a New American restaurant in Chamblee, last week. Only open for lunch while the restaurant works out the kinks (likely until mid-November), Union Hill is named after the New Jersey high school where Hernandez first fell in love with cooking and baking—in home ec class.
He says Union Hill is the culmination of the places he’s traveled, the work he’s done, the dishes he’s cooked for private clients, and an interpretation of recipes from people he’s encountered along the way.
“People are interactive. If you know how to make a good dish, it doesn’t matter if you’re a chef or a farmer’s wife: I want to know it. I take it with me and reinterpret it,” he says. “I look at it from a food science perspective; not like nitrogen, but more like the basic unraveling of foods, such as how proteins denature, which leads to the best way to braise a tough piece of meat or make a meatloaf.“
About 20 percent of Union Hill’s menu will change daily based on seasonal availability, but offerings may include beet salad with ham, a smoked ham croquette appetizer with guava-coffee-tequila sauce (inspired by Hernandez’s Cuban roots), a crispy fried polenta disk with cherry wood-smoked pork and citrus, and braised beef with cinnamon-scented carrot ribbons and parsnip puree.
Desserts include deconstructed s’mores with chocolate ganache and bread crumbs served in a jar, and pears poached in white wine and stuffed with honey and Stilton cheese. There’s also “cracker pie”—a dish made with Saltine crackers, sugar, water, butter, cream of tartar, and cinnamon—that Hernandez learned on a farm and swears tastes like apple pie.
Union Hill has secured its liquor permit, but the drink menu is still being defined. It will, however, include fanciful Jello-type shots that come out in flights—think White Russian—as well as beer and wine.
“This area used to be a military base,” Hernandez says. “So I’m researching what they used to drink here and will modernize it as cocktails.”
This should fit well with the slate gray, burnt orange, and gold space that Hernandez describes as “industrial chic or shabby chic.” The floors are concrete, the tables granite, and the patio open-air. There’s a charcuterie bar that looks into the kitchen, and garage doors comprise one wall.
Those interested in being among the first to sample Union Hill’s dinner dishes can “like” the restaurant’s Facebook page, as fans will be invited to a friends and family evening somewhere between November 7 and November 11. After that, if all goes according to plan, the restaurant will open for dinner November 15.
Specials & Salads:
- Sirloin Burger (Stilton blue/cheddar) with cinnamon-scented onions, oven tomato garlic aioli, hand-cut fries
- Cuban Blue Plate Special – cumin-scented black beans, parsley rice, citrus pork
- Mom’s Meatloaf & Garlic Mash with onions, Dijon mustard, romesco (Limited)
- Thai Noodle Peanut Salad with peanuts, cabbage, Sriracha, soy sauce
- Classic Caesar with garlic, Worcestershire, white anchovies
- Chopped Salad with romaine, Goddess dressing, lardons, green onion
Small Fresh Salads:
- Classic Cole Slaw with mayonnaise, sugar, cider vinegar
- Roasted Potato Salad with balsamic, onions, garlic
- Thai Noodle Salad with peanuts, cabbage siracha, soy
- Roasted Beets (when available) with red wine vinegar, orange, parsley
- 2 Tacos w / house cut fries – smoked pork or ground beef, slaw
- Cuban Pork Burrito with parsley rice, roasted tomatoes, black beans, romaine, onions
- Hickory Smoked Pork Shoulder with house-cut fries,
garlic, citrus, oregano, garlic
- The New BLT with house-cut fries, garlic confit mayo, roasted tomatoes, baby greens, applewood-smoked bacon
- Chicken sandwich with Stilton or cheddar, onions, garlic mayo, oven tomatoes, hand-cut fries
- Chicken BLT (when available) with fries, crème fraîche, mayonnaise, scallion, applewood lardons
- Smoked Ham Croquette on butter roll – round croquette, thyme, slaw
Sides & Extras:
- Hand-Cut Fries – classic
- Ashley’s Fries – blue cheese, bacon, garlic oil
- Cumin Black Beans & Parsley Rice
- Garlic Mash