BY TAYLOR SMITH
When Michael Cassady opened The Uptown Café in 1976, it was a snug 30-seat dive on North Walnut. In 1984 Cassady moved the Uptown to its current location on East Kirkwood, transforming it into a stylish 200-seat bistro with a cozy bar that became a favorite venue for soccer fans to watch games on TV. And now, as anyone who has passed by recently knows, the Uptown has grown again—with a major expansion into the space next door.
When the Uptown’s neighbor Emporium Earthly Goods & Treasures closed last year, Cassady seized the opportunity to add a full-blown drinking establishment—something he had been thinking about for years. In April, it opened, with a rich American cherry-and-mahogany bar that’s nearly quadruple the size of the old one and tables and chairs for another 50 patrons.
While the restaurant is known for its hearty portions of Cajun/Creole fare, the full-service bar will earn its reputation for specialty drinks. “It’s a really class bar,” says Cassady. “There are no shot glasses, no Jägermeisters. The goal is to match our quality food with quality spirits, quality beers, and quality wines.”
The new section also features two HDTVs for Casssady’s loyal soccer crowd and other sports fans. The small bar in the restaurant is now a thing of the past, replaced by additional dining tables.
The new Uptown bar will serve late-night bites on Fridays and Saturdays and stay open until midnight or 1 am. The menu will be small but up to Uptown quality, assures the owner.
For Cassady, one of the best-known and most-successful restaurateurs in town, the Uptown’s expansion is far more than a fancy bar and more space. It represents the future of the Uptown, now a family business. Cassady’s son Jerod is the general manager and son Lake is one of the chefs. It has also reinvigorated “Dad,” now 62 and in his 36th year at the restaurant’s helm.
“In terms of family and the restaurant’s growth, the expansion was the shot in the arm I needed to keep me going,” Cassady says. “The addition has really inspired and energized me.”