TRAVERSE CITY — And now there are three.
Paul and Brigette Barbas opened Uptown, their newest restaurant, on Monday at 830 E. Front Street, the location formerly occupied by JP’s Hard Luck Diner.
The couple relocated to northern Michigan 10 years ago so they could live and raise their family in Traverse City and debuted Opa! at the Cherryland Mall in June 2007. In 2011, they became partners in the Metro Coney & Grill on S. U.S. 31. Brigette also teaches Polish cooking at Northwestern Michigan College.
Uptown’s menu is European-inspired. Opa! favorites like gyros, pierogi and burgers will be available, but the menu specifically was created for Uptown and features tastes from Greece, Italy, Poland and beyond. Diners will find pasta dishes such as “European Fusion” (a combination of chicken, artichokes, tomatoes, feta and kluski), “A Lobster You Can’t Refuse” (lobster-stuffed shells) and Veal Asiago in half and full portions, as well as entrees like Saltimbocca, Barramundi with Tarragon Brown Butter, Sicilian Chicken and Apricot Stuffed Pork. Appetizers include saganaki, as in Opa! Saganaki, Shrimp Saganaki and Meatball Duo Saganaki.
Uptown’s wine bar features a Cruvinet wine dispensing and preservation system with 24 bottles on tap. Tying in with the European menu, wine choices will be international. In addition, eight beers — primarily microbrews — will be on tap each day.
Creating a welcoming environment was key to the renovations the Barbases and Traverse City Art and Design Studio made to the space. They’ve divided the previous large open layout into several cozier areas. Windows along the north wall bring in natural light and overlook an outdoor patio lounge. Nooks with art and accents are sprinkled among the tables, while a grand piano anchors the bar area.
Diners will find original artwork throughout. Traverse City artist Gregory Nachazel’s work is showcased along one wall with his “Clinch Park” series of colorful abstracts. Other featured artists include Joseph DeLuca, Mark O’Shaughnessy, Carol Buck and Paulino Cecilio, Jr. The piano lounge will feature such performers as David Chown.
Uptown will employ close to 30 food service staff, many with faces that will be familiar to local diners. Approximately one-third of them, including chef Brian Maloney and pastry chef Renee Myers, were previously at the former TraVino in Williamsburg.
Myers is happy for the opportunity to team up with some of her former colleagues.
“It’s good to work with a group that already has an established rapport, along with very talented new ones,” she said.
Uptown will be serving lunch and dinner during its first months. The Barbases hope to expand hours and menu to include breakfast by summer.
Spring hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. For more information, call 943-1344.