Opening date set for Uptown Fare, popular restaurant for locals, at the Kimball Art Center
As the months wore on and the popular restaurant Uptown Fare did not open after it was announced that it would be moving into the Kimball Art Center in Bonanza Park, owner Karleen Reilly has taken to keeping a low profile.
Uptown Fare had for years been a staple for locals before it was forced to close when the city deemed its building on upper Main Street unsafe. And after news broke that it would be moving into the KAC, patrons of the restaurant began hounding her with one query.
"I’d go to the grocery store and I’d have to hide myself," she said. "I even snuck down to Costco. And I ran into four people at Costco asking the same question: ‘When are you opening?’ I really did — I’d go to places early or sneak in and out."
The wait for Reilly’s loyal customers is nearly over. The KAC recently announced that Uptown Fare will open Friday, April 29. Reilly will serve the soups and sandwiches that have made her something of a local celebrity each weekday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Reilly said she is ready to get back to dishing up lunch after a long time off.
"At first, (the time off) was great because I was so tired," she said. "And then it got really boring. I literally read three books a week. I was at the library once a week."
But the reopening also comes with a bit of trepidation. As it has become clear just how much patrons love the restaurant, the pressure not to let anyone down has grown.
"It’s scary," she said with a chuckle. "There are the expectations of everybody and it’s like, ‘OK, I’ve got to do what? Oh, OK.’"
Reilly isn’t the only one who has come to understand how much Uptown Fare means to residents. The art center has also been inundated daily with questions from curious — and hungry — customers. Kathy Kennedy, the KAC’s managing director, said the outpouring of excitement when the opening date was announced on social media was shocking.
"It was going to be a soft opening," she said. "But it got posted online, and it’s no longer a soft opening because over 3,600 people liked it. The place is going to be crazy."
Dave March, marketing and events director for the KAC, said the attention has been affirmation that partnering with Uptown Fare will prove to be beneficial for both parties. He envisions the KAC being able to drive people to the restaurant, while Uptown Fare’s loyal following will mean more traffic for the KAC.
"To have a dedicated, historic restaurant will be great," he said. "Maybe there are folks who haven’t come here yet and have been waiting and waiting and waiting until Karleen opens. Now, while they eat they’ll get to enjoy two different galleries and potentially sit outside and take a look at our classes and see what’s happening. Hopefully they’ll enjoy what they see and gain some understanding and maybe become members or take some classes."
March sees Uptown Fare’s opening as part of the start of a new chapter in the KAC’s history. Opening alongside the restaurant are the new café gallery — the indoor seating area for the restaurant, which will feature art on the walls — and ceramic studio.
"It’s been a successful move in the last four or five months, and this is kind of just the next step," he said, referring to the KAC’s high-profile move to Bonanza Park last fall from Main Street. "This is getting us into the evolution of what the Kimball wants to be. We want to offer all these great opportunities to locals."
The menu at Uptown Fare will be largely the same, with a few exceptions. Reilly will serve only four soups daily instead of the customary eight at her old location — she was quick to assure that the favorites will remain — but there may be an opportunity to add certain items patrons have long been clamoring for.
"I can make grilled cheese sandwiches," Reilly said. "I’ve been asked about that for years. I didn’t have the room for a panini machine."
Apart from the food, Uptown Fare will also have an outdoor seating area. And there will be two parking lots — one each in the front and the back of the KAC — totaling 52 spots, a far cry from the often-tight parking situation where the restaurant used to be on Main Street.
"Everybody," he said, "is excited about that."
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