TC newcomer offers upscale vibe and European favorites
Those who enjoy some of the specialties at Opa! and the Metro in Traverse City now have a new, more upscale alternative.
Paul and Brigette Barbas, proprietors of those two restaurants, have opened their new- est endeavor uptown. Make that Uptown. Located just east of downtown TC on Front Street, Uptown opened April 15, and Paul Barbas says they have been pleasantly surprised at the response thus far. “There are hints of Opa, but there’s added value as well,” he said.
Like their restaurant at the Cherryland Center, Uptown features numerous Greek and Polish specialties, owing to the owners’ Greek and Polish heritage. But its menu is more expansive, including more European favorites, and the vibe is more urban and upscale, though hardly stuffy.
The former JP’s Diner (and before that, Roma Italian restaurant) has been transformed into a casual upscale restaurant. The bar area includes a grand piano.
That’s but one of the differences between Uptown and its culinary brethren.
“We found out in January it (this location) might be available,” said Paul. “We said, ‘How do we do it differently?’” One answer was to emphasize the urban, European vibe. To that end the couple hired artists such as Greg Nachazel, Paulino Cecilio Jr and Joeseph DeLuca, as well as Traverse City Art & Design Studio to transform the setting.
Patrons are welcomed by a large wallmounted sculpture, and colorful large scale paintings adorn the walls near the restrooms.
“We’ve got the waterfall glass to separate the dining areas,” said Paul, gesturing to the wavy glass that transmits light but obscures what’s on the other side.
With the transformation of the setting came the transformation of the menu. Chef Brian Maloney and several staffers came from TraVino, the now-shuttered Italian and Mediterranean-themed eatery adjoining the golf courses at Grand Traverse Resort.
Favorites such as Opa! Saganaki (Greek cheese flamed tableside) and the Greek Salad are joined by Mediterranean Salmon (grilled salmon with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, capers and lemons) and Barramundi with Tarragon Brown Butter (an Australian fish served with wild mushroom risotto).
“We started with the chef’s comfort com- fort zone,” said Brigette Barbas.
Then they added a little more flair. The Greek Kisses have become Italian Kisses, with Gorgonzola, ricotta and cream cheese in a wonton wrapper, then flash fried. Greek meatballs became Italian and Greek meatballs. Pierogis gained new stuffings. “It’s not what people are used to with Eu- ropean cuisine. It’s more contemporary. Euro- pean with a twist,” said Brigette.
Dessert favorites include Baklava, crème Brulee, and white chocolate raspberry tirimisu.
“I always judge a good restaurant by its appetizers and desserts,” said Paul. Patrons at Uptown will certainly find their share of those delectables there.
At the bar, the wines are outfitted with a Cruvinet pouring system. Rather than being recorked, the wine is pushed out by nitrogenbased taps. That keeps the wine fresh longer.
Next to the bar is the piano. Local favorite David Chown has played there with Miriam Pico, and Paul promises continued and expanded entertainment offerings.
Its location adjoining downtown makes Uptown easier to get to for those on the north and east sides of town who have a hankering for the Greek and Polish favorites at Opa. And Paul and Brigette see its casual upscale vibe as offering an alternative to their other restaurants.
“You can try something different. It’s European, but relaxed – the kind of place you could go to once or twice a week.”
At least that’s what Paul and Brigette hope.
Uptown is located at 830 E. Front St. Phone 943-1434. You can visit its Facebook page at Opa Uptown.
It is currently open for lunch and dinner, 11-9 Sunday through Thursday and till 10 or 11 on Friday and Saturday. The hours will expand as summer approaches, and it will be open for breakfast in a few weeks.
Salads begin at $6 Entrees run from $13 to $24