To visit Host is to have an EXPERIENCE! An immersive, thoughtfully curated, extremely delicious one. From its phenomenal food, drink, service, and ambiance, this restaurant in downtown Utica checks ALLLL the boxes.
Host is unique. Not only is it a restaurant-slash-coworking space, it also offers rotating residencies to chefs. That means that every month or two, there’s a brand-new menu!
Take a look at Host’s schedule for the next several months. As of the writing of this post (February 2023), Chef Mark Camaj (who helped open SheWolf) has curated an enticing array of Italian dishes. German food pop-up DeutschTroit will take residence for the month of March. Then Italian returns when Chef Michael Murabito brings a Sicilian Mediterranean menu in April and May. And chef duo Breakin’ Cornbread will kick off summer at Host with a menu described as “Big Energy Comfort Food,” available from June to mid-July. There’s tastiness for DAYS!
I visited Host in early November. Chefs Davante Burnley (now Host’s Executive Chef) and Kiluanji Watkins curated a menu of extreme deliciousness. Dining with three friends who love food as much as I do meant sharing a variety of dishes. These included the Confit Duck Pontine, Smoked Plum and Burrata, and Crudites (a spread of smoked pepper hummus, confit tomato and garlic, fresh vegetables, and grilled pita). Yes, these dishes were all as amazing as they sound! With its hand-cut fries topped with shredded duck, pecorino cheese, chives, and a sumptuously rich duck demi glaze that I could drink by the gallon, the Duck Pontine in particular was to die for.
That spread could have been a complete meal in itself, but you know we had to try more! We continued by ordering individual entrées. For me, that was the Lamb Bolognese. I’m a sucker for lamb Bolognese! And chefs Davante’s and Kiluanji’s version did not disappoint. Their ground lamb arrabbiata tossed with bucatini noodles and accented with shredded pecorino and fresh basil was full of flavor.
After eating our own dinners, our group reconvened the family-style experience, sharing the Cider Mill Donuts. And you know, based on everything else you’ve previously read, that those donuts were ABSOLUTELY as good as you’re imagining. Better, even! The fresh-fried donuts were oh-so-delectably crispy on the outside, soft and cakey on the inside. Tossed in cinnamon sugar, they were served with a house-made caramel sauce. And they were LIFE. What a mic drop to an amazing meal!
Throughout this exceptional culinary journey, we were also imbibing exceptional drinks. I started with the Avocadica, an intriguing concoction of tequila and mezcal infused with lime and spicy avocado. I ended with a fantastic rendition of a classic: an Old-Fashioned.
While at Host, my friends and I were well taken care of. Our server was great, friendly and attentive, and both the bartender and Chef Davante paid us visits. The bartender gave us drink recommendations, and we enjoyed thanking Chef Davante for our exquisite meal!
Ambiance-wise, I was totally feeling Host, too. The decor incorporates both natural and modern elements. Cut-outs in the wall behind the bar are covered with verdant moss, while an arrangement of dried plants and pendant lights hanging from the ceiling highlight a long table in the center of the restaurant. The tables are bedecked with vases of fresh flowers, and an art installation comprised of what look to be large, neutral-colored dried leaves, moss, and feathers is emblazoned with the restaurant’s name in neon-light letters. It all meshes into a vibe that’s both chic and cozy. It’s an ambiance that enhances the immersive feeling you get when you visit Host. You leave the everyday world behind for one that feels intimate, special.
Speaking of ambiance: I’m thinking I need to check out Host’s coworking space. Judging from pictures on Host’s website, it’s got ambiance for days, with plush leather chairs, exposed brick, and velvety green curtains. Packages range from the Office – which, at a fee of $1,100 a month, presumably hosts a team – to the $29-a-day drop-in fee for individuals.
Not only does the restaurant offer dinner, but it boasts a brunch menu, plus what it’s dubbed a “Coffee & Pastries Pop Up” on Mondays. Check Host out for yourself, and prepare to have an experience!
7759 Auburn Rd.
Utica, MI 48317