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Union is located inside Compound, a nonprofit cultural and community space with an art gallery in the Zaferia neighborhood. Behind the stoves is Eugene Santiago, chef and founder of the Southeast Asian fusion pop-up Baryo. Union’s menu is full of playful dishes, like a riff on Spanish papas brava made with cassava, charred broccolini, and radicchio. Bartender Stephanie Butchko’s cocktail menu incorporates ingredients like pandan, Sichuan pepper, lemongrass, and tamarind.

“It feels a bit Bestia-like when it first opened in Downtown LA,” says Luis Navarro of Navarro Hospitality Group, the restaurant’s chief consultant. “This is something Long Beach deserves, in a place where it should be. We should be experimenting with space as much as we do with food.” Navarro and his wife and partner, Brenda Rivera, refined Union’s concept from its beginning phases up until its opening.

Before Santiago came on board and opened Union, Compound and its on-site restaurant space faced some uphill battles since opening in 2020. A temporary pandemic-related closure in 2021 led chef Jason Witzl of the Southern Italian spot Ellie’s to halt plans to move the restaurant from Alamitos Beach to Compound. Chef Arthur Gonzalez of Panxa Cocina also considered taking over the space before his passing in 2022.

Santiago’s culinary career includes stints in Las Vegas under chef Kerry Simon at Carson Kitchen and at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino before opening Baryo, which began to pop up in Long Beach in 2016. Santiago melded Filipino comfort foods like pancit and kare kare with California produce and sensibilities

Photos and written by Brian Addison.

For Brian Addison's full feature on Union, click here.

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