Serving as the bridge between Old Town and the River District, Union Bar and Soda Fountain opened its doors in February 2018 as the first and only place to get classic soda fountain drinks and alcoholic milkshakes alongside diner-style comfort food. Since opening day, the food, the drinks, the milkshakes and, most especially, Fried Chicken Monday have been stealing foodie hearts all over town.
The restaurant and bar is owned by Ty Fulcher, Ryan Houdek and Raffi Jergerian. Between all three, they also own The Melting Pot , Rodizio Grill and Social — all right here in Fort Collins. Social is especially well-known for its famously amazing service, speakeasy-style atmosphere and world-class, artisan cocktails. So, it makes sense that Union would boast similar credentials.
However, this new eatery is the first one for all three owners to be built from the ground up. Ty called this the hardest, most fun and most rewarding experience of the entire project. Featuring brick, glass, mid-century modern decor and an enormous patio complete with lawn games, Union has immediately become one of Fort Collins’ favorite and most impressive locales. Whether you’re looking for brunch on a Wednesday, drinks on a sunny afternoon, or a sweet, post-dinner treat, it’s a must-visit. And we promise you’ll want to come back again and again!
In true diner-style fashion, the menu features brunch items available all day, including Biscuits & Gravy, Donuts and, Ty’s favorite, Blue Collar American. Alongside these all-day, breakfast plates, you’ll also find the extremely popular Monte Cristo, the Jersey Shore sandwich with cured salmon as well as — Ty’s other favorite — the Union Burger. But we’re just scratching the surface here.
To learn more about Union, we talked to Ty Fulcher about the process of opening, the food, the drinks and the community of Fort Collins. Keep reading to get to know Ty and his brand new eatery in the River District.
NoCo Speaks: Tell us the Union origin story. What inspired such a unique, throwback restaurant and bar concept?
Ty Fulcher: As an ownership group, we have always been fascinated and inspired by the origins of food and drink in America. That has obviously driven us towards prohibition as well as the American soda fountain. We love the ability to be able to bring previous generations’ dining experiences into the modern day.
NoCo Speaks: Both Social and Union seem to have old-school inspirations with modern flair. From business operations to cocktails and everything in between — how has your experience with Social motivated Union?
Ty: Our goal is to remind our guests of the incredible journey that dining has come through generations. Social has been an incredible project. We have learned as much as we have taught and have created a culture within our staff and guests that is beyond something special. Our goal with Union is again to provide an environment and culture that is unique to itself and will be a way for our guests to, again, step back in time to experience the lost art of the diner and soda fountain.
NoCo Speaks: Who runs the kitchen at Union? Where does menu inspiration come from?
Ty: Our chef is Joel Ryan who has been in culinary for 25 years now, with 16 of that here in Fort Collins. Raffi Jergerian and Joel worked on creating a menu that was a modern take on classic diner foods. We wanted it to be a fun and approachable menu that you could revisit multiple times a week. We also had a strong desire to keep the diner option of being able to get brunch items from open until close.
NoCo Speaks: What’s your favorite menu item right now and why?
Ty: My two favorite items on the menu are the Blue Collar American — two fried eggs, potato hash, pecan wood smoked bacon, toast and jam — for when I’m craving some breakfast at any time of the day, or the Union Burger — double Angus patties, American cheese, butter lettuce, tomato-shallot relish, brioche bun and string fries. With so many amazing items on the menu, I always feel crazy just ordering “a burger” but it is so much more than that.
NoCo Speaks: Who’s in charge of the bar program? And how does the bar experience at Union differ from other bars in town?
Ty: Raffi is in charge of the bar program and has created a very unique one at that. We stand out as the only place in town really to focus on classic soda fountain drinks, but also on alcoholic milkshakes. It’s not every day you can go out and get a Salted Caramel milkshake with Bourbon in it (the White Lightning), but now it is!
NoCo Speaks: What has been the biggest obstacle in opening Union and what has been the most rewarding?
Ty: This was my first time developing land into a brand new building. That, I would say, was one of the hardest, most fun and rewarding experiences in this project. Being able to create a building and activate the entrance to the River District — those things will outlast Union and possibly myself. We felt honored to be able to be part of the development of the River District and are incredibly excited to see where we can all take it from here.
NoCo Speaks: What’s your favorite thing about being a part of the small business community in Fort Collins?
Ty: We care deeply about Old Town and its success overall which results in all of us working together to create a healthy and sustainable downtown. It’s really cool to see.
Union Bar and Soda Fountain is located at 250 Jefferson St at the entrance to Fort Collins’ River District. You can learn more about the restaurant and browse all their menus on the website here. To keep up with events, specials and new items on those menus, we recommend following the team on Facebook and Instagram.