Dining Out: Despite some hiccups, Union Jack's does British pub food right

For The Capital

I must admit that for years I had ignored Union Jack’s, a British-style pub and restaurant, as a place to grab dinner. It always seemed like it would be too much of a bar to have good food. But friends told me otherwise, so I made them my next dinner stop.

The pub, catty-corner from Whole Foods in Annapolis, definitely seemed to be set up to handle a large bar crowd. The main area had about 20 high-top tables with a full bar along the back wall. To the left was a stage for live bands, a small dining room with booths and a second full bar. To the right were several billiard tables and another dining area that looked like it might be used for private groups.

The whole restaurant was very much a sports bar, with more than a dozen large monitors and one jumbo screen that covered the stage when there were no acts.

The menu is pretty large, with everything from sandwiches and starters to salads, British pub food and personal pizzas. Dining with me was my son, Calvin, and my wife, Chandra.

Since there were three of us, we decided on two starters to split: the London Bridge pizza ($13) and the Maryland crab dip with pretzels ($15) instead of the usual rosemary flatbread for $13.50.

The pizza was well made, with prosciutto, roasted tomatoes, mozzarella and goat cheeses, baby arugula and a balsamic glaze. There was a nice tang from the goat cheese and the glaze. The roasted tomatoes and arugula added a lot to the flavor, as did the salty prosciutto ham. I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so good.

The crab dip had a decent amount of Old Bay in it but could have had a bit more crab. The soft, salted pretzels logs were perfect with this dip.

As a main dish, Calvin had the King Reuben ($12.50). This had nicely toasted rye bread, Swiss cheese, a tangy thousand island dressing and sauerkraut. Although the menu listed the corned beef as “shaved first,” neither Calvin nor I were particularly happy with it. The flavors were good, but the texture was kind of stringy. This sandwich came with shoestring fries, which were properly seasoned and had a nice crispy texture. They reminded me of a certain famous burger joint’s fries.

Chandra had the fish and chips ($15.50), which were made with haddock instead of the usual cod. I much preferred the change, and the batter-fried crust was spot on. The whole dish was served on a piece of “newspaper” parchment and came with fat “English-style” fries. I was impressed that Union Jack’s had different types of fries, especially for this dish.

I had the classic bangers and mash ($15). This was served with three banger sausages, which were kind of a cross between a bratwurst and an Italian. The mashed potatoes were smooth and tasty. This dish was served with thick sauteed onions and a flavorful, light gravy. I have had this dish many times before, but this was one of the best.

For dessert we chose the banoffee pie ($6) and the bread pudding ($6). The banoffee pie had sliced fresh bananas and thick toffee pudding filling. These two elements were pretty good by themselves, but the graham cracker crust was tough and unpleasant. The whipped cream on top was essentially air, and the whole thing was drizzled with a canned chocolate sauce that really didn’t go with the dessert. It was a shame that they didn’t use caramel sauce, which would have gone much better with the toffee. Also, if any restaurant is going to list “fresh” whipped cream, it really shouldn’t be using stuff out of a can.

The bread pudding was much better. It had a soft texture, and was pleasantly under-sweet. Throughout the custard, there were nice pops of sweet white chocolate. The vanilla ice cream added the perfect balance of sweet and flavor.

Despite a couple of hiccups, I have added Union Jack’s to my list of places to eat again. The restaurant has a great British pub feel to it, with lots of London themed decor. The food is well made, and I only know of one other place in the county where I can get some of those British classics.

As bar food goes, Union Jack’s is doing it right.

Union Jack’s Annapolis

WHERE: 2072 Somerville Road, Annapolis

PHONE: 410-266-5681

WEBSITE: unionjacksannapolis.com

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily

PRICES: $11-$17 for lunch, $13-$32 for dinner

RESERVATIONS: Not required

CREDIT CARDS: All major cards

ACCESSIBILITY: Yes

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