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A Slam Pit Hit – Discover UNION72 in The Shops at Wiregrass

Luxury Living Tampa Bay

When local restaurateurs Jeff Martin and Bharat Chhabria first went into business together (Martin is the founder of The Brass Tap, of which Chhabria owns several franchises), the pair found themselves often enjoying barbecue while talking shop, which planted the seed for a new business venture: UNION72 Barbecue.“Both Jeff and I are barbecue fans, and as we got to know each other better, we found ourselves more and more in barbecue places,” Chhabria explains. “We saw innovation all around us in the industry but not as much in the barbecue sector. It was very traditional. So, the idea started forming in our mind. Barbecue is great but what if we brought innovation into the barbecue world?”

“Both Jeff and I are barbecue fans, and as we got to know each other better, we found ourselves more and more in barbecue places,” Chhabria explains. “We saw innovation all around us in the industry but not as much in the barbecue sector. It was very traditional. So, the idea started forming in our mind. Barbecue is great but what if we brought innovation into the barbecue world?”Fast-forward to November 2016, when the duo opened UNION72, a chef-inspired barbecue restaurant employing a modern take on sauces, rubs and pairings for barbecue lovers and connoisseurs alike. While the concept was easy to envision with the pair’s love of all things barbecue, the name was a bit harder.

Fast-forward to November 2016, when the duo opened UNION72, a chef-inspired barbecue restaurant employing a modern take on sauces, rubs and pairings for barbecue lovers and connoisseurs alike. While the concept was easy to envision with the pair’s love of all things barbecue, the name was a bit harder. “As we sat around the table, we kept going back to the one thing about the concept we want everyone to understand,” Chhabria says. “We really wanted to say we are not the traditional barbecue. We are revolutionary. We take ideas from all styles of barbecue like Memphis and Texas and blend it into something new. That’s where the word ‘UNION’ came from. ‘72’ stands for ‘1872,’ when the term barbecue was first coined.”

“As we sat around the table, we kept going back to the one thing about the concept we want everyone to understand,” Chhabria says. “We really wanted to say we are not the traditional barbecue. We are revolutionary. We take ideas from all styles of barbecue like Memphis and Texas and blend it into something new. That’s where the word ‘UNION’ came from. ‘72’ stands for ‘1872,’ when the term barbecue was first coined.”With the name set, Martin and Chhabria pushed to marry traditional barbecue techniques with the latest culinary innovations. Their concept came full circle after meeting Geoff Zukosky, UNION72’s Pitmaster, whose cooking technique and vision resonated with their own.

With the name set, Martin and Chhabria pushed to marry traditional barbecue techniques with the latest culinary innovations. Their concept came full circle after meeting Geoff Zukosky, UNION72’s Pitmaster, whose cooking technique and vision resonated with their own.“If you look at some of the mega-trends in the industry, people want to eat healthier and consume leaner cuts of meats, and barbecue lends itself to that,” Chhabria says. “We focus on taking good quality meat smoked with good quality rubs and spices, giving our customers a high-quality, great-tasting meal in the end.”

“If you look at some of the mega-trends in the industry, people want to eat healthier and consume leaner cuts of meats, and barbecue lends itself to that,” Chhabria says. “We focus on taking good quality meat smoked with good quality rubs and spices, giving our customers a high-quality, great-tasting meal in the end.”Those amazing lean meats build out a traditional as well as an unexpected menu, with classics like Pork and Brisket but also handheld sandwiches and tacos. Guests are also able to choose from house-made sauces like white barbecue, sweet barbecue, smoked tomato barbecue and sticky Asian, among others. One of Chhabria’s favorite menu items is the handheld sandwich called “The Conquistador,” made with Spanish spiced slow-smoked

Those amazing lean meats build out a traditional as well as an unexpected menu, with classics like Pork and Brisket but also handheld sandwiches and tacos. Guests are also able to choose from house-made sauces like white barbecue, sweet barbecue, smoked tomato barbecue and sticky Asian, among others. One of Chhabria’s favorite menu items is the handheld sandwich called “The Conquistador,” made with Spanish spiced slow-smoked pork, pulled and topped with chimichurri, caramelized onions, and a fried egg.

“This sandwich is just amazing,” Chhabria boasts. “The egg does a great job … when it breaks, it brings out the flavor of the pork and makes it so moist. My other favorite is our Texas style brisket. We’ve had rave reviews about that. We’ve had people from Texas come in and say they’ve tried brisket everywhere and this is the best. That tells us we are doing something right.”

Doing “something right” has a lot to do with the research that went into opening UNION72. “We hit up a lot of places in Florida: chains, the hole-in-the-walls that people swear by, all the hipper concepts,” Chhabria shares. “We did research into the key forward-thinkers in the barbecue industry, even visiting their restaurants. We had a lot of fun with it, probably put on a few pounds, but at the end of the day, most competition is local. It was very important what is in a 10-mile radius than in the Carolinas. We will worry about it when we get there.”

And get there, they plan on it. They are following a very successful model. UNION72 sits adjacent to first Brass Tap to ever open, which is now a successful franchise.

“We wanted to open in this location,” Chhabria boasts. “We have familiarity with that market. We know it well. It also was just timing. The business that was in this space was leaving and it was right next door to The Brass Tap, which started out in Wesley Chapel and is now a chain. Let’s try to repeat that story.”

The Conquistador Ingredients

4 ounces Spanish spiced slow-smoked pulled pork
1/2 ounces of chimichurri
1 ounce of caramelized onions
1 fried egg
1 brioche bun

Directions
Place pulled pork on a toasted brioche bun. Top with chimichurri, caramelized onions, and a fried egg. Serves 1

Restaurant Info
UNION72 Barbecue is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.
Located at the Shops at Wiregrass  2000 Piazza Avenue, Suite 150, Wesley Chapel | 813.575.9999 | UNION72.com

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