For more than a decade, the UNION restaurant has become the “Cheers-like” destination for the Milton area, offering patrons a seat at the bar where conversation flows easily among strangers, or in the dining area in full view of the open kitchen.
Here, the eclectic menu includes old family favorites, such as Grandma Sedgwick’s spaghetti and Aunt Jo’s sloppy Joe, classics like the aptly named A Good Burger, and trendy dishes featuring quinoa, kale and tuna poke. Alas, for old timers who remember the UNION’s early days, the Spam sandwich has been retired; but the Pabst Blue Ribbon still flows.
The area around the restaurant on Providence Road has certainly changed. High-end houses have replaced the open grasslands that once surrounded it — but owner Chris Sedgwick says it’s just the natural progression of Milton from rural outpost to sought-after destination.
“Personally, I like what Milton is becoming, although keeping the open pastures and views we have all enjoyed will become harder and harder in time,” said Sedgwick, who opened the UNION in 2008 with childhood friend, Bob Fishman.
He points to the impending roundabout going in just steps from the property at the Providence-Freemanville intersection, which will include sidewalks and landscaping. Sedgwick says he looks forward to the improvements, noting the march of progress is inevitable in Milton.
But incorporating the past is equally important. The greenhouse that was once used to teach agriculture students at Milton High School's old downtown Alpharetta campus had been sitting unused for years, after MHS relocated to Milton. Sedgwick recently bought the teaching greenhouse and plans to relocate it to the plot across the street from the Union.
“We will be organically growing our own herbs, tomatoes, peppers and potentially many other items for use in the restaurant,” he said.
The UNION was a success from the start, thanks to a right combination that provides locals with a top-notch place to dine, intentional staff selections, and the direction of restaurateurs with a long resume of thriving establishments.
Sedgwick and his business partner Michele Sedgwick have launched several restaurants over the past three decades through Sedgwick Restaurant Group, including Aspens Signature Steaks and Big Willie’s in Cobb County, Theo’s Brother’s Bakery in Crabapple and Vinny’s on Windward in Alpharetta. The company recently sold Bistro VG in Roswell after 26 years in business.
He also founded Pure Taqueria Franchising LLC, which franchises six locations of the popular Mexican restaurant in metro Atlanta. He remains the co-owner of the original location in downtown Alpharetta, which opened in 2005.
The UNION restaurant, along with MADE Kitchen and Cocktails in downtown Alpharetta, are owned by Sedgwick and his wife, Renata, who started working with him a year into the UNION’s opening. He credits Renata with “lightening up the fare” and helping the restaurant find its groove.
While Spam may have met its end, the restaurant’s retro feel remains, with flowered wallpaper, maple wood paneling and vintage artwork, like the giant peace sign that has graced the back wall since day one.
“Bob and I opened the restaurant with the intent to recreate a bit of our childhood,” said Sedgwick, adding the interior resembles his boyhood home in Pennsylvania. “This was in the 70s in Pittsburgh, so the food and feel of the place was supposed to lean toward that.”
The trailer painting prominently displayed on the wall pays homage to Fishman’s dad, who made a living renting travel trailers from an old Texaco lot.
Although much of menu has evolved to meet the tastes of its customers, Sedgwick said a few items remain. He points to the UNION Classic Cooler with muddled fruit, mint and Thunderbird wine, along with family recipes and standard comfort foods such as Bob’s Pittsburgh pizza, simple roast chicken and coffee and doughnuts for dessert.
“I have a tough time ordering at the UNION,” laughed Sedgwick. “The menu is filled with items that make me smile.”
For the new visitor, or the frequent guest looking for a new taste, Sedgwick quickly whips up the perfect meal. It starts with “blast from the past” Riuniti on ice ($12 a bottle), baked ricotta and crusty Tuscan bread, wood oven roast chicken, fingerling potatoes and a simple arugula salad. Of course, dessert would be brioche doughnuts dusted in powdered sugar and served with espresso chocolate chip ice cream.
Sedgwick knows great food and atmosphere are only part of the UNION’s success; staff selection is equally important.
“I am fortunate that I have a lot of family that have been working at the UNION since we opened,” he said. “My niece Amanda and her husband, Sloan, run the front of the house staff and can be found most days behind the bar and the kitchen. My nephew, Ryan, and his sister, Emily, wait tables, and my sister Leslie helps with local marketing.”