Union League Cafe Turns 25

Markeshia Ricks PhotoThe Union League Cafe is the place in New Haven where people make big deals — in life and in business. And on Monday afternoon people gathered to celebrate the French-inspired brasserie being a big deal on Chapel Street for 25 years.

Union League Cafe Owner and Chef Jean-Pierre Vuillermet toasted 25 years of casual but elegant dining with French flare with kind words, fond memories, and champagne. A small reception kicked off what will be a month-long celebration to mark the milestone anniversary, he said.(Check out the special 25th-anniversary menu here.)

“It’s 25 years for Union League Cafe but I’ve been in this building for 32 years,” Vuillermet noted, with a chuckle. “In the restaurant business, it’s like dog years. I don’t think I’ll be here another 25.”

Vuillermet was the chef when the restaurant’s location, in the historic Roger Sherman Building, was known as Robert Henry’s. He said so much has changed since Union League Cafe opened. But one thing hasn’t: the community.

“It’s always been a dynamic, diverse, and supportive community,” he said. “It’s been exciting to see and be part of it.”

Mayor Toni Harp noted that New Haven’s reputation as a destination for food has risen with the prominence of the Union League Cafe.

“Just a few years ago New Haven was voted the nation’s No. 1 foodie city,” she said. “I give a great deal of the credit for that to the Union League Cafe setting the standard for some of the finest food in the Nutmeg State.”

Harp praised Vuillermet and his wife Robin for their commitment to the city. Both have served as mentors to ProStart culinary students at Wilbur Cross High School. Students in the program recently brought home a national championship win in a culinary competition, a first for a school in Connecticut and the New England region.

“To say New Haven is better for having the distinct presence of the Union League Cafe these past 25 years would be the appetizer to a full menu of contributions made to our city,” Mayor Harp said.

Vuillermet said that Robin and the restaurant’s General Manager Jean-Michel Gammariello are the two driving forces behind him and the restaurant. He thanked them both with emotion in his voice Monday.

Lauren Zucker, associate vice president for New Haven Affairs and University Properties, said that Yale University had been Union League’s landlord for 19 of the restaurant’s 25-year run, but even better than that, the university has been “their patron and their friend.”

“Success is really about community engagement and effort,” she said. “Without the support of New Haveners and all of you who continue to dine in our city, shop in our stores, and support our local treasures, the Union League could not continue to thrive.”

Zucker called the Union League “truly a success story under every definition.”

For Garrett Sheehan, president and CEO of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, the celebration of the Union League was very personal. It’s where he and his wife celebrated their engagement seven years ago.

“I can speak from experience that this is a special place for special moments,” he said. “And even now as chamber president when we have important meetings, when we want to get something done, this is the place to go. I can only imagine how many people have had their special moment here — how many deals have been made here.”

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on October 1, 2018  5:39pm

Do they take city credit-cards?

posted by: Sylvester L. Salcedo on October 1, 2018  10:59pm

Happy 25th Anniversary and Congratulations to Chef Jean-Pierre and his wife, Robin and to the entire Union League Cafe staff!  It’s our favorite annual Veteran’s Day lunch celebration spot.  Reminds me of lunch in the wardroom on Navy ships, especially the French Navy ships!  If I can only get the kids to try the duck confit and creme brûlée for dessert!  When does their chicken nuggets phase end???

posted by: Chip on October 2, 2018  1:24am

Running a business in downtown NH is incredibly difficult! To do it for 25 years is amazing! Congratulations Chef Jean-Peierre!

posted by: Fairhavener on October 2, 2018  9:22am

Congratulations to this top culinary destination—it stands among the best nationally IMO.

Not oft mentioned history: the CIA (Culinary) used to be HQ’ed in NHV. “On May 22, 1946, the New Haven Restaurant Institute opened its doors in downtown New Haven, CT as the first and only school of its kind in the United States. Specifically created to train returning World War II veterans in the culinary arts, the Institute enrolled 50 students and employed a faculty consisting of a chef, a baker, and a dietitian.”

posted by: Patricia Kane on October 2, 2018  10:06am

The Union League never disappoints. Impeccable from start to finish.