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New eatery hopes to grow organic upscale in Uptown Westerville

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The Uptown Market purchases as much of its ingredients as possible from Ohio farmers.
Published: Wednesday, November 21, 2007 4:31 PM EST

With hardwood floors, burgundy walls and flowing drapes, one of Westerville's most prominent corners has been transformed with the opening of The Uptown Market.

Located at southwest corner of State Street and College Avenue -- right next to the Westerville Municipal Building -- the restaurant opened Oct. 10 in the site of the former China Way and Mill Street Deli restaurants.

Business has steadily improved, and owners John Roberson and Anna Cunningham, a married couple who call Westerville home, said they expect more success that the previous restaurateurs at the site. Four liquor permits were approved by wide margins during the general election, which will allow them to offer a full alcohol menu of beer, wine and spirits, once liquor permits are obtained from the state.

"We joked that if we didn't get the alcohol passed, we were going to have to start serving breakfast," Cunningham said.

The Ohio Division of Liquor's Web site states that once liquor options are approved by voters, permit applications from take between 30 and 60 days to process. The Uptown Market owners hope that will be just in time for the holidays.

"The one blessing without alcohol was the chance to show people what we were all about with our menu," Cunningham said.

Roberson it has also been nice to fine tune their operations since this is the couple's first restaurant. One recent milestone was the first time they had customers waiting.

The transition into operating a restaurant began when the two ran an art gallery in Uptown called Q10, at 43 E. College Ave. Closed at that location, the gallery will continue in the same building as the new restaurant, at 5 W. College Ave. It will feature work from local artists and be available for rental to host local events and receptions.

Cunningham and Roberson's inspiration for a restaurant came from the South Market Bistro, a similar business located in Wooster.

After years of planning, the two were finally ready to open the restaurant once a suitable location become available. Then came a chance meeting with Parisian-trained chef Emmanuel Sotondji, who is now the executive chef of The Uptown Market.

Items on the lunch menu include everything from garbanzo fritters and crevette manu (shrimp) as appetizers, a variety of soups and salads, and roasted chicken baguette and lobster saffron ravioli.

Current dinner entrees include organic herb-encrusted pork tenderloins, chicken bruxelle, and tornados of beef, marinated filets topped with herbed butter.

Besides operating an upscale restaurant, the owners said sustainability is another goal. The couple buys as much of their ingredients as possible from local farmers through the the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association. Even some of the alcohol will be locally produced.

Establishing relationships with the farmers was difficult at first.

"Our biggest challenge was coming in late to the season and working with these farms after they had already made preparations for other restaurants," Cunningham said. "These farms are not massive operations and they need to plan ahead for the next year."

Buying locally allows the restaurant to feature organic produce and meat products that do not contain antibiotics or growth hormones.

Eating healthy does not have to sacrifice taste, the owners said. The fact that their food is locally grown gives them an initial advantage because the products are guaranteed fresh.

"We want to be proud of what we serve, but we also want our food to be tasty," Roberson said. "If the food does not taste good, no one's going to eat it."

The Uptown Market is located at 1 S. State St. and is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m Friday; and 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday.





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