Downtown, no waiting

Chapel Hill didn’t make GQ’s list of Best College Towns (When Students Are Nancy OatesGone) as Durham did, but we’ve got plenty going on all summer long – including at least one spot that wasn’t here before students took off for their summer adventures.

Opening a new business just as a third of your customer base leaves town could spell disaster. But John Hanna, owner of Mina’s Grill next to the Franklin Hotel, knows from disaster. He opened his first deli on Sept. 9, 2001, a couple blocks from the World Trade Center in New York. Less than 48 hours later, the terrorist attacks forced him to shut down for 6 months. So he’s not fazed by a 3-month soft opening.

Mina’s Grill, named for Hanna’s favorite martyr, he said, is a real New York deli owned and operated by a real New York deli guy, which he still would be had two of his three daughters not decided to enroll at UNC. But here they are, and so is he.

Build your own salad, sandwich or pasta dish. Try the Garlic Melt. Next!

As long as you’re on West Franklin, saunter down to Sophie and Mollies in The Courtyard for two floors of competitively priced boutique fashions for college and professional women. Sales staff are committed to making sure your purchases make you look as good as you feel.

Commercial space at 140 West is filling up with the opening of Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom and Spicy 9 sushi bar and Asian restaurant, the former serving pizza and beer and the latter offering up sushi and menu items from Thailand, Korea, Japan and China.

But all is not chain restaurants at 140 West. A fashion boutique for men, Gentlemen’s Corner, opened a new store, its fourth, on UNC graduation weekend. A UNC alumnus opened the flagship store in Pinehurst shortly after he graduated and has since expanded to Wilmington and Palm Beach, Fla.

On the east end of Franklin Street, more women’s boutique fashions are available at Fedora, which opened in the former Carolina Pride location. You can’t miss the hot pink exterior. One of a six-store chain in North Carolina, the Chapel Hill Fedora targets college-age and young career women.

And Sup Dog is supposed to open today. The family-owned business with its original store on East Carolina University’s campus in Greenville is expanding to Chapel Hill, bringing its 23 exotic hot dogs, 15 specialty burgers, full bar and its secret Sup Dog sauce. Sup Dog fills the vacancy where Pepper’s Pizza had been. The owners carved out an outdoor dining enclave with wooden banquettes along the Franklin Street façade and installed a flat-screen TV, so you won’t miss a minute of programming though dining al fresco.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. George C

     /  June 9, 2014

    Thanks for letting folks know that there are a number of new and interesting businesses that they can visit in downtown Chapel Hill. And with the students gone for a few months it is a great opportunity to get out for a lunch or dinner and to stroll Franklin Street to see what’s new.

  2. Bruce Springsteen

     /  June 10, 2014

    Restaurants and boutiques? Wow, that’s a switch. Usually it’s boutiques and restaurants. It’s a wonder someone hasn’t opened a boutique with a restaurant in it yet.

    Note how this is one more instance of catering to non-affordability despite if we say we’re for affordability. Boutiques aren’t affordable to many (or even desirable to many if they were) and eating out at our kind of local restaurants isn’t affordable either.

    Has it occurred to anyone that even in 2014 when technology does so much for us, when it comes to the positive attributes of food of fast, inexpensive and nutritionally complete you still can only pick two out of the three? I mean, when you want a nice sit down meal with the aromas and the tastes and all that then that’s fine, but when you just want something fast, inexpensive and good for you, you can’t get it. That is insane.

    The guest on The Colbert Report this Wednesday is changing that. In what I think is a big embarrassment to anyone connected to the current food industry, he’s a computer programmer / engineer. instead of a person in the food industry.

  3. Geoff Green

     /  June 10, 2014

    Med Deli is fast, inexpensive, and the food is good for you.

  4. Nancy

     /  June 10, 2014

    I know we’re going off on a tangent from Bruce’s point, but the sandwiches at Mina’s are practically big enough for two meals.

    But back to Bruce’s point: Downtown has become an entertainment destination. You go there to have fun, spend money more profligately than you usually do, on restaurant meals, drinks, clubs, and impulse shopping for things you don’t need so much as want at the moment. Every dollar spent brings in a few cents of tax revenue to the town. From a revenue-generating stance, it’s more “efficient” for the town to have more places for lavish spending, and let us continue to do our functional shopping, for what we need more than want, in Durham, where we’re more likely to bring coupons than a credit card that earns airline miles.

  5. Bruce Springsteen

     /  June 11, 2014

    Well I guess it depends on what you mean by fast, inexpensive and good for you but if you try to hit all three of those targets simultaneously I’d think that the inherent disadvantages of a restaurant would be too much to overcome. You gotta own/rent property, you gotta pay taxes and electricity bills, you gotta pay people to cook the food, yadda, yadda. The restaurant experience that is inherently involved makes it expensive.

    Maybe Med Deli is fast, inexpensive and good for you by restaurant standards, I don’t know, but what would it cost to eat all your food from Med Deli? From the looks of their menu, if you ate some of everything you’d be looking at $30-50 per day? For most people that’s a lot of money. And Med Deli isn’t even expensive as restaurants go.

    Whether it’s nutritionally balanced is a separate issue but if you have to go to the restaurant to get the food then it can’t be too fast or inexpensive.

  6. many

     /  June 12, 2014


    Why don’t you open Chapel Hills first Soylent bar?

    Watch the video, its actually pretty funny.

  7. Bruce Springsteen

     /  June 14, 2014

    “Soylent bar” is an oxymoron because Soylent is all utility and no indulgence and leaving home for any kind of food is an indulgence. It’s why Soylent will never get really big but it’s also why Soylent or something similar will always have an inherent advantage in the niche market of those desiring fast, easy and cheap.

    That said, sometimes business takes utilities and turns them into indulgences for the entertainment purposes of people that have disposable income. It’s kinda like why bottled water exists. If Soylent became trendy then maybe instead of consuming it at home for $3 a meal people would go to Franklin St and consume it for $9 a meal. Except that in this area people are so against certain kinds of food that it wouldn’t work.

    I’ve seen that video you linked to and many other articles and videos on the topic as well. Many of them, like in that video, are either irretrievably negative (“There’s no way any normal person would really want to drink that”) or completely irrational (“If this was the only thing on earth to survive then what’s the point of living frankly?”)

    The reactions to Soylent are pretty fascinating. They’re all over the place and you can’t predict it by previous political orientation. For some reason many people are incensed that Soylent even exists.

    But now that it’s started, Soylent or something like it will be around permanently because it’s too practical not to continue to exist.

  8. many

     /  June 14, 2014


    I posted the comment “tongue in cheek” .

    I agree Soylent will be around because as the article points out it has the potential to be a portable, stockpile-able nutrition for fast or slow disasters like hurricanes or famines.

    What was interesting to me was the broad range of occupations the survey folks had, coupled with their universal dislike. The second quote you cite was necessarily hyperbolic because it came from a food critic.

    I suspect there may be a correlation between some of the aversion and those that either read the book or saw the movie.