The stretch of Taylor Street in Little Italy continues to add new restaurants at a pace as blisteringly hot as a Neapolitan crust. The chef Michael Shrader has given notice at Epic and is teaming up with Jason Chan (Butter) to open Urban Union (1421 W. Taylor St.; no phone yet) this fall, if all goes well.
“Before the recession hit [while I was still at Nine], I was hot and heavy to open my own place,” Shrader says. But when the economy turned down, investors “stopped writing checks,” he says. “[Then] the opportunity to head up the kitchen at Epic presented itself. I thought I would be at Epic longer, but this deal kind of fell into our laps.” Shrader will stay on at Epic through most of October to aid the transition to the new chef.
Swimming upstream in Little Italy, Urban Union will not specialize in Italian food. Shrader says it will serve a frequently changing small-plate menu with a focus on dishes prepared in a wood-burning oven. Prices will range widely, “so you can spend $30 or $300,” he says. Customers can also choose to eat at a communal chef’s table, where Shrader will create a menu of about six courses paired with wines for $60 or $70. Wine will also be in the foreground, with 50 to 60 wines available by the glass, three wines on tap, and most bottles running $30 to $50.
Although Shrader declines to tip his hand to show individual dishes, he does reveal that he plans to use a lot of pork (“The most versatile animal there is,” he says), run an extensive raw bar, and make pastas from scratch. A likely exception to the small-plate bent of the menu is a whole roasted snapper for two. Brunch on Saturday and Sunday will begin when the restaurant opens, with a savory-heavy list of items such as frittatas, cured meats, and cheeses. Charmingly, Shrader says he plans to eat at Urban Union with his family every Sunday night.