By Phoenix Staff
There is a place in this city where a person may feel as though they are among the most sophisticated and cultured elements of society while wearing jeans. Through food and art, the Terrace Café by O’Conner’s offers you an exquisite dining experience. This new version of the café presents fine dining at a gracious price. Minute Filet Mignon & Au Poivre at a mere price of $16. Seared Salmon, Shrimp Waldorf, and even Burger are just some of the other fine items also offered at such a reasonable price. I can assure you that the quality is not diminished by the low cost. The Chef is a southern man and every bit the expert in his craft. My guest and I had the good fortune of meeting this man when he stopped us as we were leaving just to let us know how much he valued our regular patronage (he was unaware that we were writing a review of his establishment).
While O’Connor’s perfectly balances the world of fine dining and casual cafe, it should not be mistaken for a “diner” by any means. Terrace is a café, through and through. In this world, a truly good café is something of a rarity. We put up with the mediocre to such an extent that we forget that the genuinely good eating experiences that make life worth living can actually exist at a local café.
Perhaps that’s what makes Terrace Café such an amazing fit for Utica. The fact that it’s a welcomed surprise of excellence in a sea of mediocrity. We are all aware of Utica’s reputation for…shall we say…roughness. It’s not a city that regularly wins vacation or tourism awards, but if you know it well enough, then you know it’s hidden charms. Take a look at Utica and you see just another broken rust belt town. Take a closer look and you’ll be surprised to see such gems as Munson Williams or the Aud. Take yet an even closer look, and you’ll discover that some of the most talented people on Earth populate this city. That process of discovery is the Terrace Café in a nutshell. They make an effort to make you feel welcome and not intimidated by its refined menu. This is not some gated Highrise café for the rich. This is a truly Utican thing. The food really is that good and what’s more, is that it’s no more expensive than your typical restaurant.
Terrace Café is an extension of the Munson Williams Art museum located in the Fountain Elms wing. Fountain Elms is a Victorian-style house masterfully furnished as such. The café residing on the balcony of the Victorian house gives the feeling of eating in the 19th century, an experience in its own right. However, if you take the longer entrance, through the museum, you’ll be privileged to gaze upon Dali’s and Hopper’s great works before arriving at the café. Better still is to eat first, and then once satiated to view the museum at your leisure.
In the warmer days, you can sit outside on the balcony to look upon the actual terrace itself. The interior of the café can best be described as classic European. Modest but tasteful.
The waiters, the most attentive in the whole city, literally run from one spot to the next wasting not one second in their service of you.
The menu is simple and refined. A single sheet of paper that shows a small but varied list of delicious items. You have the option of soups, appetizers, sandwiches, dinners, and desserts.
At last, the food itself is the true prize of this establishment. My first dish was the Cornish Hen with Rosemary Brine with Mustard Cream, and I’ve never had better. I’ve sampled their fish, beef, greens, and more all with the same pleasant result.
Yet another treat is the Fried Deviled Eggs appetizer. It’s become something of a personal obsession. They are delicious beyond any imagining and compliment any of the main courses.
The Munson William’s Burger, a favorite of the waiters, is typical of the menu. The very first bite is positive. Appropriately cooked; not too dry and not too greasy. The bun’s texture is perfect and there’s some kind of special sauce that gives such an indescribable zest. I hesitantly recommend this only because to order the burger means to deprive yourself of the opportunity to enjoy other items. It’s a special kind of hell to have to choose one amazing thing over another.
Finally, desserts. They’re simple, elegant, and perfectly executed. The Strawberry Tiramisu has a not-too-sweet quality with an almost silky texture.
In December, Fountain Elms (including the café) will be decorated in a historic Christmas style. I’m told that it’s something not to be missed.
This location will be temporarily closed in the dead of winter, so I urge you to go now while you can (while observing the proper Covid guidelines) and enjoy this fine experience. Go now and taste this wonder of Utica.