Ahh, can you smell spring in the air? Major league baseball has started and the Durham Bulls are right around the corner. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a pitcher, toeing the mound for the first game of the season, ready to fire a fastball across the plate. I mean, you’d have to be pretty nervous and excited, am I right? And no different than an athlete or baseball game, I gotta believe the exact same feelings are going through the mind of a restauranteur during his (or her) opening week. I got the chance to experience a restaurant opening last month, Bull City Burger and Brewery in Durham. And let’s just say, there must have been some opening day jitters for the rookie!
Nowadays it’s so easy to keep up with local businesses through Facebook and Twitter, word gets out about new restaurants in a flash. Bull City Burger & Brewery had some wonderful buzz in the Triangle: hand-crafted beers, locally sourced, in-house ground burgers, home-baked breads and buns, and seasonal condiments when available. Thankfully I had a friend working with the owner, Seth Gross on the build-out of his dream restaurant. I tossed out some subliminal suggestions to Allison about inviting me to the soft opening and lo and behold, I was going in last Thursday for their last night before the public opening.
Inside Bull City Burger & Brewery, you’ll find a large open space with communal tables. Work your way to the back cash registers, drop in your order and grab a beer at the bar or glass of vino from their self-service wine bar! It’s a high-ceiling space with concrete floors so things can get a bit noisy but they’re aware. Most everything is made in-house and the brewery is just coming online so there are also some guest beers.
We started off with some delicious Bull nuts, peanuts with a candied bacon coating, flavorful stuff! The fried pickles are awesome: thin, lightly fried with a pretzel crust, definitely a must-do. And my Over Easy burger was solid, a thickish patty with egg and bacon. Griddled pound-cake with spicy chocolate sauce finished off the meal, even though I was already full.
My visit to Bull City Burger & Brewery was comp’ed and their primary goal was to work out kinks in their operations and get some feedback. Were there some problems? Yes, some minor ones which did show up during the public opening. Do I have faith that the owner Seth, will get things squared away? Absolutely. He is such a committed individual with a vision for his burger baby. I have no doubt that once things settle down from their opening rush, Bull City Burger & Brewery will become a Durham icon. Let’s just say they may have been a victim of their own marketing success! And if you’re looking for an another dining option for a DPAC show, add Bull City Burger & Brewery to the list…
Where am I going with all this? I do write a lot of restaurant reviews on my blog and the Internet and I admittedly tend to be a bit supportive of restaurant owners. I’ve seen far too many online, amateur food critics pan a restaurant or business due to a one-off, poor service situation. Or maybe even a bad customer attitude. Given the amount of time and energy that it takes to open a restaurant and given high failure rates, the restaurant business is truly a labour of love. And I’m always glad to be a guest at these newer hot-spots.
So when I am visiting a restaurant in its first couple of months of operations, I try to overlook the typical mistakes that occur when they first open up. I’m more concerned about the concept, vision and food quality of the restaurant. I’m excited to hear the story and passion the owners have for the place and what they’re serving. And I’m more then certain that in most cases, the wrinkles in service will get ironed out. Because the owners have FAR more invested than any online critics or writers. I’ve run into too many claimed foodies who in my estimation, are knuckleheads when it comes to online reviews and commentary. Their desire to be “critics” get in the way of appreciating all the risks new restaurant owners take in getting their business up and running…
So when you do visit a newly opened restaurant, please cut them some slack and imagine what it would be like for YOU to cook and wait on all these excited customers. If you’ve ever cooked for a large dinner party, you know exactly what I mean. And that overly harsh review you’ve been itching to write? Maybe you should put it on hold, talk to the owners and just enjoy the dining experience. Because you really are still a guest at restaurants even when you’re paying money. Bon appetit and good luck Bull City Burger & Brewery! Can’t wait to see what you come up with in the upcoming months…
Bull City Burger and Brewery– Durham
107 E Parrish Stree
Durham, NC 27701