Like the Christmas star guiding the three wise men, the steeple peeked above the surrounding buildings leading us through the crisp fall air and drizzle to a comforting meal. At the Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen, located in Clarkston, Michigan, we found a feast like no church supper we’d ever had. Clarkston Union offers American comfort food on Main Street America from an 1840s building that was once a church.
Today, the pews that once sat congregants now seat families and friends around their dining tables. The original stained-glass windows add interest. While they maintained many of the former church’s characteristics, they’ve added a few touches of their own. For example, the digital sign tallying a running total of Mac & Cheese dishes served at Clarkston Union since 1995 has a prominent position. At last count, it was 1,166,722 and counting. With a reputation as the most “Macked Mac and Cheese,” of course, I had to try it. They offer three versions, the original without meat, a ham version, and one with lobster.
The Mac & Cheese
Featured on the episode of Diners, Drive-ins & Dives, where Kid Rock takes Guy Fieri to several southeast Michigan culinary experiences, you know it’s a safe bet. The original award-winning recipe starts with a creamy béchamel blended with a piquant Pinconning cheese and Parmesan. Next, they mix in Penne Rigate pasta. Then, top it with sharp Vermont cheddar and panko crumbs for a bit of crispy crunch.
I chose the lobster mac and cheese, a tangy version of their award-wining dish, where the Penne Rigate ridges add texture to the plate. In the lobster version, they combine the bechamel with pepper jack cheese, add some roasted jalapeños, scallions, sweet peppers, and chopped Maine lobster. My dish had lobster in every forkful of this creamy dish. A seasonal vegetable medley of corn, summer squash, onions, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes completed the entrée. A sharp cheddar biscuit rounded out the plate. While you might worry this dish is spicy due to the jalapeños and pepper jack cheese, even my heat-averse husband didn’t notice the spice.
While we had a devil of a time selecting our starter. They offered two, a smoked chicken and spinach dip or chips and salsa. Unfortunately, I don’t eat chicken, my husband doesn’t go for spinach. We wanted something that we couldn’t get at home, so that took the chips and salsa out of the running. Our server quickly resolved the issue by mentioning the cracker crust, which she described as a crispy thin crust pizza. Crisis averted.
We chose the cracker crust, a selection that changes regularly. Our version was something original, featuring hotlink, bratwurst, kielbasa, jack cheese, peppers, onions, sauerkraut, and accented with a whole grain mustard sauce. Think spicy brown mustard versus the bright yellow stuff you find on a hotdog. They’d added some other ingredients to turn it into a sauce and drizzled it on judiciously. Mustard on pizza was a first for me, and I have to say the angels sang with this dish. The chef must have had some divine inspiration. It was unusual but tasty, with a pleasant smoked meat aroma. They smoke the meats at the Union Woodshop, down the street, making them unique to the Union properties.
In addition to comforting all American hot dishes like chicken pot pie and meatloaf, you’ll find various salads, sandwiches, and sausages. They also feature a soup of the day.
Our dessert selection was a shared plate of three profiteroles— filled with vanilla, chocolate, and salted caramel finished with a mound of whipped cream, topped with a cherry. Housemade chocolate sauce surrounds each pretty profiterole, and one even is brushed with edible gold.
If I had to choose a place for my last my last supper, this could be it.
If you want to read more about desserts, take a look at Deciding Dessert First.
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I’d love to experience the “Church” atmosphere in this restaurant-looks so cozy!
A fitting location for a “last supper,” eh? You write about food in a way that I can imagine myself eating it. That is not an easy task. And it comes in handy especially since I used to love eating shellfish (lobster, shrimp, crab legs and so on), but developed an allergy to it all somehow. So your description of the lobster mac and cheese –and your appetizer choices–with the really tempting close-up photos–well, it was almost as good as being there with you. Are you sure it is not a “sinful” experience to go to this former church?
Thank you for your kind words! That question was a great addition! Sorry I missed that opportunity.
THis looks lovely and so tasty. Would love to be there
I’m a sucker for restaurants in buildings with a past. The stained glass windows are as gorgeous as the food. And as I work out life with some lifestyle changing food allergies, that lobster mac and cheese would be at the top of my “must trY” list!
You have really painted the picture of this experience so vividly. I can just imagine dining in this church environment and enjoying some wonderful soul food. I must admit I have never tried lobster mac and cheese before but the way they do it and the way you described the taste makes me definitely want to try. The entree and dessert choices both look lovely as well (although probably not the best for the waistline). I will have to remember this place when next in the Michigan area.
With all that food I’d be there all night. The fact that it’s in a church would be an added bonus. I not only love food, I also love a unique atmosphere. And Michigan is right across the border so I could drive.
Love the church setting, very atmospheric and appealing, and definitely a bit different! That Lobster mac and cheese has my name on it, as does most of the rest to be honest!