By Katie Wheeler
On the west side of Cherokee County, surrounded by open land and horse farms, is a hidden gem of upscale dining. Locals, however, know that the Union Hill Bar and Grill is the Cheers of Hickory Flat. Union Hill Bar and Grill has created an elegant menu complete with a curated a high-profile drink list, all while maintaining the friendly atmosphere locals love.
Although the Union Hill Bar and Grill is only a twenty-minute drive from upper-echelon restaurants in Milton and Alpharetta, this local eatery holds its own. The dining experience combines the nostalgia of a local hangout with the refinement and attraction of a fine-dining menu.
The co-owning families Marcus and Carlie Bifaro and Bob and Kim Brandsma are the third owners since the restaurant opened in 2011. Their goal in taking over ownership was in Marcus’s words, “To keep the Union Hill Grill the grill but adapt to the times and modernize the look, while keeping our new, elevated Southern menu.”
The intimate dining room blends farmhouse décor with tablecloths and elegant place settings. Along the walls are paintings and photos of horses, barns, and farm landscapes, all images from customers’ properties. The space exudes rustic elegance with Mason jar glasses on the tables and a large wooden bar with high top seating.
In the center of the dining room is a fully stocked bar that features 150 bottles of whiskey that owner Marcus handpicked. His pride in the prime selection comes from months of diligence in collecting whiskeys from distributors and creating the most affordable list in the area. The curated wine list is also top-notch, complementing each dish featured on the elevated menu.
Marcus says he appreciates the support of customers, some who often eat at the grill three times a week, some even sitting in the same seat on each visit. “It is the local eating and watering hole where customers know us, and we know them. They order their favorite specials and drinks and enjoy the environment.” Many of the regulars look forward to the blue-plate specials, dishes such as grilled chicken breast, the Local Burger, veal meatloaf, and fried Gulf shrimp. The chef’s addition of specialty sides and sauces gives these Southern staples a lift.
Marcus shares that the community has made owning a business in Cherokee special. “People reach out to me personally; they know my kids’ birthdays. It is an extremely neighborhood-oriented location. I chose this to be my home, and our customers reflect that fact. The people here are honest, great, and loyal to our business.”
Using the freshest, highest quality ingredients available, Marcus and the exceptional staff serve up handcrafted, appetizing dishes for their Cherokee community.
MENU SAYS: Ahi Tuna Tartare, Avocado, Scallion, Sesame Seed, Ponzu, Wasabi Aioli, Yellow Sriracha
HAYDEN SAYS: A favorite among locals, this dish has secured a place on the menu, bearing a variety of garnishes according to the season. In summer you’ll find tangy mango interspersed among the bites of tuna. In fall and winter the chef shifts to dressing the dish with a wasabi aioli to give a kick balanced by the fresh tuna. A delectable crunch of crispy wonton crackers completes each bite.
MENU SAYS: Shrimp & Grits, Jalapeno Cheddar Grits, Tasso Ham, Andouille, Onion, Pepper Medley, Herb Tomato Cream
HAYDEN SAYS: This dish will highlight your Southern roots and bring a touch of New Orleans to your backyard. Delightfully creamy grits are mixed with a sautéed pepper medley accompanied by savory andouille sausage and jumbo Gulf shrimp. The elements are brought together in perfect creole harmony by the white wine and tomato crème sauce.
MENU SAYS: Pork Chop, Whipped Potatoes, Broccolini, Mushroom, Tomato Bacon Cream
HAYDEN SAYS: Made with the finest North Carolina Heritage bone-in pork chop, this dish is a decadent taste of home. The richness of the mushroom and bacon tomato gravy urges you to dive in bite after bite until it’s gone and you’re wishing there was more. Humble sides of whipped potatoes and sauteed broccolini are elevated to a new standard of deliciousness.
MENU SAYS: Roasted Beet Salad, Whipped Feta, Spiced Sunflower Seed, Arugula, Lemon Gastrique
HAYDEN SAYS: The roasted beet salad is full of fresh ingredients and flavor. The red beets are a succulent addition atop a bed of arugula and whipped feta cheese. Bursting with flavors, the sweet, tangy lemon gastrique beautifully pairs with the tang of the whipped feta and the sweetness of the beets. Light and flavorful, this dish is delightful.
MENU SAYS: Joan Rivers, 229 Vodka, Aperol, St. Germain, Grapefruit, Lemon, Prosecco
HAYDEN SAYS: Marcus’s own famous “Joan Rivers” recipe is an Aperol spritzer that Joan Rivers herself has even tweeted about. This boozy drink has delicate flavors, making it a perfect aperitif for lunch or brunch.
MENU SAYS: UHG Old Fashioned, Weller Special Reserve, Demerara, Peychaud’s, Lemon, & Orange Peel
HAYDEN SAYS: Made with Weller, a highly sought-after whiskey, the Union Hill Bar and Grill’s featured old fashioned recipe is one customers ask for by name. Demerara adds a molasses-like sweetness balanced by the Peychaud’s bitters. Garnished with the classic orange peel, this drink is an instant favorite.
MENU SAYS: Mary Jane, Ford’s Gin, Apple Cider, Fresh Lemon, Charred Rosemary
HAYDEN SAYS: The care taken to create this refreshing cocktail is remarkable. The taste of charred rosemary is infused into the smoky simple syrup, enhancing the flavors of the gin and cider. Each Mary Jane cocktail is served in style with a flaming piece of rosemary.
Katie Wheeler is a Canton native, born and raised. She has a degree in English Writing and Publishing and loves both the creativity and structure that comes with writing. Katie also works as the Managing Editor for Enjoy Cherokee and is passionate about the interesting stories found within our community. She loves spending time with friends and family and venturing to new places.