We never thought eating in a bank would be so good.
717 Chestnut St.
Don’t Miss: The S’mores
Skip: Going with a rowdy crowd.
The coins of American currency state: e pluribus unum, or “out of many, one.” Out of many Philadelphia steakhouses, Union Trust — located in a former bank — aims to be the one. Structurally, it ensures its grandeur with its impressive size, soaring ceilings and lavish furnishings. The splendor of the breathtaking dining room is undeniable, but almost worked against itself as we sat down to eat in a nearly empty restaurant. Admittedly, it was a Monday night, but only three tables were occupied in the vast, two–floor establishment.
Union Trust’s service is as impressive as it looks, with knowledgeable, attentive waiters. The complimentary breadbasket was mostly underwhelming, but we must mention the delectable zucchini bread: soft and sweet, it left us considering forgoing the appetizers for just another slice. Nevertheless, we tried out the Bigeye Tuna Tartare ($16), presented beautifully with a side of crispy waffle chips for dipping. The dish, topped with an avocado mousse, was fresh and tangy, but nothing extraordinary. We also got the Baby Wedge Salad ($12), which, unsurprisingly, included bleu cheese dressing and bacon bits. The over–dressed salad was nothing to write home about.
At a steakhouse, it’s rare for a vegetarian option to outshine the main course, but the homemade gnocchi ($16 for appetizer/$26 for entrée) certainly made a strong case. The soft, goat cheese–filled pockets swam alongside seasonal vegetables in a hearty, creamy sauce. The light pasta stood in stark comparison to the 24 oz. Porterhouse ($49!), which was anything but minimal. The steak was utterly delicious, as would be expected for the establishment’s specialty. Tender and huge, we enjoyed the steak with a heavenly roasted garlic crust (an additional $3). We ordered two tasty but not life–changing sides: crispy Brussels sprouts ($8) and creamy Yukon gold mashed potatoes ($8), which were a la carte.
Our full tummies nearly discouraged us from perusing the dessert menu, but one look at the S’mores dish ($10) and we were sold. The majestic dessert came engulfed in a marshmallow meringue cloud, and with our spoons we dug to the treasure at the center: a scoop of peanut butter gelato perched atop a crust of graham crackers and pretzels, drizzled with a delectable chocolate sauce. Definitely not your average campfire snack.
Union Trust opened in 2009 and filed for bankruptcy in 2011, vowing to stay open, even as many doubted its sustainability. It has remained open and true to its roots, but its permanence did not seem guaranteed at our quiet dinner. The restaurant is sure to satisfy steak lovers but is beyond “treating yourself” — don’t break the bank (no pun intended) unless a wealthy relative is willing to subsidize you.