Review: Workshop at Union in Downtown Minneapolis

Accomplished New York chef Stewart Woodman came to town a decade ago and launched three ambitious restaurants—all of which have since closed. Kaskaid Hospitality, owners of the Crave empire, opened the sky-high Union only to see the eatery undergo multiple changes in chefs and concepts. Both chef and restaurant are looking to start anew, and have forged a partnership with Woodman serving as Kaskaid’s new culinary director. In addition to supervising all of the corporation’s menus and kitchens, he has revamped Union’s first-floor space (most recently the Fish Market concept) to craft Workshop at Union, a sleek space serving a menu of experimental, ever-changing dishes designed for sharing.

Tiny bites and small plates are where Woodman shows off the technique that drew diners to his earlier restaurants. Snacky potato puffs topped with truffle salt are cooked twice, dehydrated, and fried to take on the airy texture of a chicharrón—a more satisfying take on Lay’s with a boost of umami to kick off a meal. And a plate of tater tots with ropa vieja evokes chef-driven poutine: Each oversize tot boasts a shatter-crisp coating to complement a juicy pile of braised beef and crumbled blue cheese. 

The blueprint for the “best of the best” burger isn’t quite right: Its blend of foie gras and American Wagyu can be cooked only medium-rare, risking a hard-to-stomach mess of cold meat and soggy bun. But other pairings are hits, including house-made lobster linguini with a lap-worthy lemon-truffle sauce and a miniature coffee-and-Baileys pot de crème served with a warm five-spice donut. The concept is off to a good start, but for diners to notice Union’s change, Woodman needs to play in his workshop more frequently—because it’s open only Thursday through Saturday, there’s little opportunity to build on success.