Union Hotel in De Pere, Wisconsin

(Him) Swank or Old, that is the question.  I’m going with Old that gives off an odor of Swank.  Little rooms in a brick building that thrived as a culture center in the early 1900s, 100 years later  we now venture here for the wife’s birthday dinner.  Great host and a bartender that came to you if not seated at the bar, made for good hospitality.  Prices were a bit scary however if you play it smart you can get your money’s worth.  We were seated in a dining room encased in the color red.  Great bread basket and salad bar plate (? what you call it- liver pate, cheese spread . veggies) were available from the get go so an appetizer isn’t really necessary at this joint. They even pre-cut the butter for you which made slather and bite lickety quick yo. My salad was garbage but it was my own dang fault as I ordered vinegar and oil dressing when I truly meant Italian .  There was no flavor so I pushed it aside and destroyed the cherry peppers on the salad bar plate(?)  I ordered french fries when I really wanted hash browns and they were subpar.  I did get the one thing I wanted which was a sirloin steak. It was a hunkin odd cut and I was thinking over-cooked on my first couple of cuts however out came the blood and it turned out to be one good steak.  So fine a steak that A-1 wasn’t needed I says.  I had some type of Toll House Chocolate pie that really bumped the score of this place up. We were allowed to tour the place and even allowed to look in a couple of hotel rooms available to the public however I was informed of this after my self guided walking tour had completed. The exterior was mad cool with a cool garden/courtyard. Brick buildings always get me. Perhaps I was a bricklayer in a past life.
Food 7.73 Atmosphere 8.87 Possible score (with decent Italian and Hash Browns…..8.62)

(Her) funny I can’t picture him doing manual labor in a past life.  Also, I’m sure the hasbrowns had onions so he would have hated them.
This one’s a hard review for me to write because The Union Hotel was recommended by a co-worker whose in-laws own the joint.  The atmosphere is incredible.  It is like stepping back in time.  You are seated in the bar area and order from there while your table is being prepared. (sort of supper clubby but not)
De Pere in general has a really historic downtown and this hotel is in the heart of it.  It was built in 1883 after a fire destroyed much of the buildings on Broadway Street and there was a demand for somewhere to stay. The Wisconsin Historical Society considers its completion in 1922. (There were a ton of additions those first 20 odd years)   The hotel has been owned by the Boyd family since 1918 and the operation is a family affair: family has lived here, family has died here, it’s an old place, and therefore yes–there are ghosts.  There have even been ghost hunters.
The Boyd family is really hospitable. They are willing to share any stories they can and when I asked what was upstairs they invited us to go peek around up there all we wanted.  This place is where visiting football teams stay and where Packer big wigs wine and dine so there’s some recent local history too.  There is a small private dining room upstairs, and I’m sure they take advantage of that.

Besides the ghosts, the first glance at the menu’s prices are scary like my hubby said.  If you order your meal a certain way though it comes with soup, salad, entree, and dessert and let me tell you…you don’t want to skip dessert here.  Why go all that way just to stop short?  I ordered tenderloin tips and mushrooms and my meal was about $25.00.   If you are looking for choices and are used to 5 page menus, you won’t get it at the Union.  The focus seems to be on doing things simple and doing them well.
When  seated in one of the dining areas you are presented with a bread basket, crackers, carrots, celery, home made liver pate, cheese spread, and ham salad (so very Wisconsin right?)  I think my hubby called this a salad plate, but I’d call it good ole’ fashioned hors d’ oeuvres. The pate and ham salad were the main features for me and I’m pretty sure I polished them off.
The salad was a typical garden salad with a tomato and a cuke slice…nothing to write home about.  I can’t critique the soup because my waitress Heidi forgot to bring mine.  It was supposed to be Beef Stroganoff which I’ve never had as a soup and I guess I never will.  When ordering we got a choice of hashbrowns, fries, or twice baked potatoes.  I went with twice baked.  I wasn’t impressed.  If you are only going to offer me 3 potato options, I’d expect them to be done well.  They were neither light nor fluffy and the cheese on top looked as if it had been under a heat lamp for quite some time.  I guess for what I paid, I expected a bit more from the chef.  Where the place really shines is on it’s steak preparation.  Nothing fancy, you won’t find any sauces here, not even an au jus.  My tenderloin tips and mushrooms was exactly that and nothing more.  BUT I got about a pound of tips and they were excellently prepared and only needed a little salt and pepper to bring them up to my liking.
I was slightly let down by my experience until I had dessert.  I ordered a gourmet chocolate pie and it was like a giant Melt-a-Way bar.  (For you Seroogy’s or Oaks Chocolate fans)  It was definitely chocolate at it’s finest and I’d go back just to order it again.   I tasted my hubby’s cookie pie too and that was awesome as well.   My mom had the Schaum torte (again, very Wisconsin) and she said it was just as good as the one I make.  She’s my mom, she’s gotta be nice to me.
There’s nothing pretentious about the Union Hotel including the meals.  I felt comfortable there in jeans and I imagine that the style in which the meal was served was very similar to what I would have had had I walked into the place in the 40’s.   I wouldn’t call it gourmet by any means, but I’ve heard it referred to  as American Dining and I think that’s really accurate. There were no fancy salads, no array of choices, no fancy french sauces, no vegetable sides;  it was all about your meat and potatoes and enjoying the night out.  The Hotel was very welcoming and made us feel right at home.  We sat in the parlor for a long time talking and imagining all the countless people that had come and gone before us.
**On a side note, I’d wish the city would fill the fountain outside, but apparently the college kids can’t keep from putting soap in it.  Make sure you check out the aforementioned courtyard and carriage house and roam the halls if you are so encouraged.
Food (8.765) Ambience (9.004) Value (6.76) Hospitality (10)

***as I hit publish on this masterpiece, the local news is playing in the next room tuned to Fox 11.  They are just finishing up a piece on the paranormal investigation at the Union Hotel.


6 responses to “Union Hotel in De Pere, Wisconsin

  1. Once in high school, after putting soap in the fountain, we climbed up the stairs in the courtyard and roamed the hotel…it was pretty neat-o!

  2. Could the ghost still haunt the hotel?
    My class & I are going to this hotel for lunch next week friday.

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