Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Fine dining brought to Northport

The empty building on the corner of 5th Street and Main Avenue in downtown Northport quietly opened its doors to a new restaurant last week. The tables were dressed, draped with white cloths and accessorized with wine glasses and silverware. The black and white tiled floor shone, and the bar was fully stocked.

“On Wednesday, we unlocked the doors to the public, but we didn’t tell anyone,” said restaurant owner Michael Allen. “We just let people discover Opus and walk in.”

Opus, the newest addition to Northport dining, offers fine dining with a multi-culturally inspired menu. This is the second restaurant owned by Michael and Claudia Allen, who are also owners of Kozy’s in Tuscaloosa.

After being with Kozy’s for nine years, Michael Allen said they were ready to try something new.

“Opus is a mix of all things,” Michael Allen said. “It has traditional aspects of Kozy’s, but this [restaurant] branches out with almost unlimited creativity for the menu.”

Robert Lewis, a UA alumnus and part of the wait staff, described the menu as a unique fusion of flavors.

“Opus combines a lot of cooking techniques, ranging from Spanish, French, Asian, Italian and American,” Lewis said.

While Opus offers an equivalent fine dining experience, both Lewis and Michael Allen said they believe this menu is more moderately priced than Kozy’s.

“Sure, students don’t eat fine dining all the time, but when they do want to go out, Opus is that option,” Michael Allen said. “Its contemporary part is directed a little bit more at students. We want to show that fine dining can be affordable.”

Soft jazz, the background music during the day, is switched out for more modern music at night.

The expanded martini and appetizer list encourages students to come and either eat or meet for drinks before going out, Michael Allen said.

“It may be a risk,” Michael Allen said of the contemporary elements, “but the student population and University in general is a major part of our community.”

The location and community were an important part of the growth of Opus. The previous two tenants were restaurants as well, and Lewis said the community was happy to see a restaurant take the space, which has been empty for more than three months.

“It fell into our lap,” Michael Allen said. “It’s a great building and a great location. We managed to give it a bit of a face lift — we have definitely made it our own.”

Despite the challenges of settling into a new place, Michael Allen said he has been pleased with the way that Opus opening has gone so far. Many of the wait staff, like Lewis, have come from Kozy’s and are already experienced.

“It’s a big job, but things are falling into place,” Michael Allen said.

Tuesday night, Opus served its first meal to close friends, new business neighbors and contributors to the restaurant.

“It was the best meal I’ve had in a really long time,” said Mary Cesar, owner of Mary’s Cakes, a bakery near Opus. 

The four-course meal consisted of quail “lollipops” wrapped in bacon, portobello lettuce wraps with gorgonzola cheese and tomato, a main dish of lobster pot pie and a dessert course of chocolate samplings.

Both Michael Allen and Lewis pointed out other notable menu items.

“The baked lobster macaroni and cheese has been a hit so far, as well as the appetizer menu,” Michael Allen said. He said the quail “lollipops” as his favorite.

Lewis pulled what he saw as the most popular dish from the gourmet sandwich menu— a blackened grouper sandwich. He also said the filet of beef au Poivre and the Newburg lobster pot pie as favorites.

During the lunch hour, three women leaving had only positive things to say. They described the meal as “tasty” and “delicious.”

According to Cesar, the Opus experience was not limited to the food. She said she found that the wait staff complemented the fine dining.

“It’s really unusual in Tuscaloosa to find service that pays as much attention as they did,” she said.

And it’s in serving the customer, Michael Allen said, that he finds his favorite part of the restaurant industry.  

“Every single day changes,” he said. “The menu changes, the specials change, people’s tastes change — but that’s what keeps it from becoming stagnant and complacent.”

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