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American Tobacco wants your restaurant opinions

The folks at American Tobacco have released a web-based survey on dining options and interests, noting that the District "is expanding, and as part of this, we’re thinking about adding more dining venues and would like your help deciding what they should be."

Currently, the ATC has four restaurants and a Starbucks; the eating venues range from the popular Tyler's and Mellow Mushroom, to the more mixed-bag Symposium Cafe, and Cafe Zen, which gathers a decent lunch business but far less business on nights and weekends. Meanwhile, the Starbucks -- which is actually operated by Duke University's outsourced dining vendor -- rolls the gates down at 4pm on weekdays and all day on weekends.

(As much traffic as these options get at lunchtime, one definite change I've noticed in the past year has been how much more frequently Ambacco employees are walking up Blackwell at lunch, breaching the railroad tracks and downtown loop and walking to Toast, Rue Cler, and other City Center locations. Twelve to eighteen months ago, you saw practically no one taking the stroll; these days, I usually see a few lunch bunches heading out and up to the rest of downtown.)

Still, as we've discussed here before, both the Power Plant and the coal shed on the ATC core campus are expected to gather new restaurants in the coming year, with the rumor mill still pointing to high-end dining options. And the Diamond View II/III complex brings an opportunity for additional food and shopping locations.

The survey asks how often you eat out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and what you pay. The poll also asks about how ATC diners would react to a wide range of meal options. Frighteningly, quick casual restaurant is listed as one poll option, stating -- I am not making this up -- "such as an Applebee's." (Somehow I'd be surprised to see such banality opening up shop in American Tobacco.)

More happily, questions include a desire for input about a deli/sub shop or convenience store/small market, two businesses that ATC regulars often complain are lacking. Fine-dining and a steak house are both listed, too; we wonder how this aligns with the very persistent rumors of a Ben Benson's steakhouse for the Power Plant building at the heart of the historic district.

There's also a question about what factors would lead you to increase your number of visits to the ATC for dinner. The questions range from the ridiculous ("better security" -- I'm assuming we're not talking about Team Segway here -- and "more nationally recognized chain restaurants") to the more sublime (like "higher quality offerings" and "more unique or locally-owned restaurants.")

Needless to say, you should surf on over to give your feedback on restaurant choices, lest the local chapter of the Fans of Applebee's discover it first.

Comments

Michael

Let's not forget Guajillos on Main St. I see ATC folks walk in the back door every single work day (my office is next to Guajillos). I'm glad that the ATC folks venture into downtown some. Hey, did they know about Locopops? Mmmm...locopops.

Dave

Apparently, you can take Starbucks off that list effective June 9.

Seth Vidal

Excellent, A chain-store closing down. Now, if we can just make sure nothing like panera or applebees or chilis or any of the generica-crap gets in there maybe we can make durham wortwhile as opposed to be just-another-chain-filled american city, just like all the other ones.

Sorry, Chains bring out my hatefulness.

Dave W.

Cafeteria.

Carol

We need a great Indian like Azitra at Brier Creek. Even though its at Brier Creek it is not a chain. Great food and decor with a sitar player on the weekends. Dale's is okay but there is no energy in that place.

Russ

I'm with you Seth. As soon as I saw Panera bread my blood started to boil. It's bad enough there's a Starbucks. Leave the chains for Cary.

Tar Heelz

Chains are bad because .... well, it's the hip urban thing to say that popular national chains are bad!

Valerie

Wasn't there a steakhouse going in there? I voted for Mex/veggie/Mediterranean. Although honestly I don't think I could ever get tired of Mellow Mushroom.

mike

My best friend, who is Indian, took her visiting parents(raised in India) to Azitra and they claimed it was the best indian food they had ever eaten. I too find it the best indian food I have ever had, and I used to eat at lots of different places in D.C. Anyways, a 2nd Azitra would be great in ATC.
As far as chains go, it's fairly close-minded to automatically claim to dislike them all. That being said, on the average their quailty doesn't compare to great local places like Piedmont or so.

mike

My best friend, who is Indian, took her visiting parents(raised in India) to Azitra and they claimed it was the best indian food they had ever eaten. I too find it the best indian food I have ever had, and I used to eat at lots of different places in D.C. Anyways, a 2nd Azitra would be great in ATC.
As far as chains go, it's fairly close-minded to automatically claim to dislike them all. That being said, on the average their quailty doesn't compare to great local places like Piedmont or so.

Dan C

What type of Indian cuisine does Azitra focus on (north, south)? I've always hoped that we'd get a Gujarati restaurant. It would be unique for the area and would serve two markets- those who love Indian food and vegetarians. More south Indian cuisine wouldn't hurt either.

Michael Bacon

Chains are bad because they contribute far less to the local economy, don't usually donate any money to local charities, and are far less likely to use suppliers that raise their food responsibly. There are the notable exceptions that break some of these rules. But in general, the franchise model relies on the commoditization of all of their food products, cheap and unskilled labor, centralized distribution, and large buyer price pressure on suppliers.

More specifically, Starbucks is bad because they over-roast their coffee and their pastries suck (not to mention their unfamiliarity with words like "small," "medium," and "large"). Panera is bad because their overpriced for what you get, and they have the worst commercials on the radio. And do you have to explain why Applebee's and Chili's are bad? They don't hire cooks. They hire microwaveists. You can get the exact same food in the frozen food aisle of Kroger's.

Mike

SO is Mellow Mushroom considered bad? It is a chain after all. While I seldom eat a National "Chains" I do frequent Regional and Local ones.

Carol

Dan, I'm not familiar with the regions so I can't answer your question. Their menu is online though: http://www.azitra.us/

Michael Bacon

Mike: Not as a strict rule, but in general, the less local, the less good. MM is based in Atlanta, so none of the aggregated profits end up around here. Similarly, I'd consider MM's pizza pretty good, but not fabulous.

Now, Locopops, on the other hand...

JNB

I voted for a Mexican place or a deli/sandwich shop. We're at Tyler's quite a bit but the food has always been kind of meh so we usually go to the 'shroom instead (if we can't wait for takeout from Cosmic or Randy's slow-a$$ delivery). Another place with a kid-friendly menu would be great. And no chains or sports bars - gag.

peetoteeto

how about a freakin' "stuff to do" place? Restaurants are great, but that area needs nightlife beyond the Bulls games (which are awesome, of course). Jazz nightclub, campy movie joint (aka Alamo drafthouse), Local 506-ish place...I don't know...something. Creativity shouldn't be confined to waitrons and menus. Or fancy steak joints.

KeepDurhamDifferent!

I'm sorry, but MM is too much of a chain for me. It's so family-friendly that they don't serve anchovies, allow smoking at the bar, or allow racy newspaper covers (i.e., last summer's Independent episode). How about a cigar store / head shop?

Derm is also lacking in Ethiopian cuisine since that place at Lakewood closed down. It'd have to be pretty upscale to afford ATC rents, but pan-African / Middle Eastern might work.

Carol

Dave,

Non-smoking isn't limited to family friendly. Plenty of us adults prefer it that way.

Allen

I agree that we might need something else besides a restaurant. Lets also get rid of Cafe Zen and Symposium. Overpriced junk!

Tar Heelz

Yeah! Let's get rid of the chains AND the locally owned businesses!

Woohoo!

Michael Bacon

TH: why is "get rid of the crap" so hard to understand?

durhamfood

Honestly, none of the places at ATC are any good. They also have a very corporate feel to them, so I don't find them in the least welcoming. I'd like something locally-owned by a local chef, maybe 'fine dining', if one considers Piedmont and Watts in that category (I wouldn't - the quality matches, but they're much more casual than restaurants often referred to as 'fine dining').

hd

I think Tyler's food is awful. And I'd take Satisfaction or Pizza Palace over MM any day. I wish there were better food at ATC, and as others have mentioned, more to do. Even an ice cream shop (Mapleview!), or a Locopops, something you can do w/your kids and hang out. Or a book store. It does have a very corporate feel, in spite of the cool architecture, but I think it mostly has to do w/the types of restaurants that are there and, above all, the MUZAC that's piped in everywhere!

hd

I think Tyler's food is awful. And I'd take Satisfaction or Pizza Palace over MM any day. I wish there were better food at ATC, and as others have mentioned, more to do. Even an ice cream shop (Mapleview!), or a Locopops, something you can do w/your kids and hang out. Or a book store. It does have a very corporate feel, in spite of the cool architecture, but I think it mostly has to do w/the types of restaurants that are there and, above all, the MUZAC that's piped in everywhere!

Masshole

It wouldnt fit at ATC, but I would love to see a Legal Seafood come to town.

I agree on the foot at ATC sucking - Tyler's is a huge disappointment. The beer is good, so how hard can it be to put together a decent set of pub grub? Apparently, the answer is impossibly so.

Masshole

food that is.

Ellen Ciompi

I'm jumping into the fray a few days late but I totally agree that: 1) the food choices at ATC are abysmal, and 2) it would be wonderful to have an alternative to a restaurant at the site. HOORAY for the person who suggested a jazz club! As a performer, I can attest to the need for more small performance spaces in town. I can't afford to rent space at the Durham Arts Council, for instance, and I couldn't sell enough seats to make it worth it anyway. A 40-50 person capacity club, with a decent sound system, a piano, snacks & a beer/wine bar would be a godsend. Any entrepreneurs out there interested in collaborating?

Toby

Here here for a jazz club at ATC!!

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