Venue Review: Utopia Restaurant
The Charlotte Observer
The name Utopia Restaurant pops up across North America – San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, Portland, Washington and Toronto, to name a few.
It seems there are more than a few restaurant owners who would like to offer diners a perfect meal in an idyllic setting.
Now Charlotte is on that list, too.
A 140-seat Utopia Restaurant opened in December at the Pinnacle Point shopping center, off Mallard Creek Church Road in University City.
Open Wednesdays through Sundays, it's a place for people seeking bliss through good food and live jazz, said Kennedy Howard, one of three owners.
The lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch menus are chef Manson Furtick's interpretation of fine dining with American comfort food.
New York strip steak ($24), slow-roasted pork loin ($19), crab cakes ($15) and fried calamari ($12) are choices, along with daily specials.
A best-seller is Utopia Sweet Glazed Chicken ($18). It's a fried chicken breast with a brown sugar and honey glaze.
In all, there are just 10 items on the lunch menu. The dinner menu is also highly focused, with 10 entrees, three appetizers and two salads with options for add-ons.
White-on-black tablecloths make Utopia's dining room formal but not stiff. There's also a private dining room with a window looking to the stage.
Musicians perform beginning at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays through Saturdays, and they also perform Sundays from noon to 3 p.m.
After 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, guests pay a $10 music cover charge at the door.
National acts appear six to eight times a year, Howard said. Other times, local and regional acts perform.
“This is not only what Charlotte needs,” said Howard, who came to Charlotte in 2000 from Philadelphia. “This is what I need.”
As a newcomer in 2000, Howard spent many weekends back in Philly or in Washington, visiting jazz clubs such as Warm Daddy's and Blues Alley.
Utopia borrows from the intimacy of those clubs, where artists are close enough to interact with guests between shows. Yet Howard hopes the menu also will be a star.
“The Carolinas are starving for a good jazz venue,” Howard said. “but we're a restaurant first.”