Archive for Thursday, July 12, 2012

Town Talk: Signs point to Vermont Street BBQ reopening downtown; speculation that an Indian restaurant coming to Mass.; CornerBank, Vintage Bank call off merger

July 12, 2012


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News and notes from around town:

• Let’s consider this the appetizer version of Town Talk: The portion sizes are small and there’s not much meat on the plate, but if I could charge $7.50 apiece for them, I would. Anyway, here we go:

— It sure looks like Vermont Street BBQ is going to make a return to Massachusetts Street. There are signs up at 1004 Mass. — where Anglers has operated — that say Vermont Street BBQ will be opening soon. I stopped by the site, and indeed construction work on the interior is underway.

My understanding is that Chris Brann, the former general manager for the once-popular restaurant, is leading the new operation. Brann had previously acquired the rights and recipes for Vermont Street BBQ, and had struck a deal to reopen the restaurant in the 700 block of Mass., where Joe College used to be located. But that deal fell through last summer. It looks like work on this new place is farther along that Brann ever got in the 700 block.

Vermont Street BBQ, which — get this — actually used to be on Vermont Street once upon a time, closed in September 2009 after about seven years in business. When I talked to Brann last year, he said people still were lamenting the restaurant’s closing.

“I’ve got all those old recipes in my head,” Brann said. “It really has become a passion for me. People kept telling me how much they liked our barbecue, so I want to bring it back.”

I’ve got a call into Brann again, but haven’t heard from him. When I do, I’ll pass along a timeline for the restaurant to reopen.

— If you are a fan of the seafood restaurant Anglers and are wondering what this means for that establishment, it looks like it will continue on.

In the space at 1006 Mass. — just one door down from the Vermont Street location — there are a lot of signs indicating that Anglers, Oh Boy! Chicken and The Orient all will be located in the space. Currently, it appears all three restaurants are temporarily closed while remodeling work is underway at the building. The sign indicates the trio of restaurants will open in about two weeks.

One piece of construction work that already is completed, though, is the building has added a pass-through window onto Massachusetts, so that you’ll be able to make food orders from the sidewalk.

— Take this one for whatever you think it is worth, but word on the street is that an Indian restaurant will be opening in the vacant space at 918 Mass. Allison Vance Moore with Colliers International previously has confirmed to me that she has a deal pending on the space, which used to house the funky shop Beyond the Door. But Moore wasn’t able to spill the beans on the tenant. So, we’ll wait and see, but if it is true, it would continue a bit of a trend of Indian-based establishments locating on Mass. Recently, Cosmos, an Indian retail store opened in the 700 block of Massachusetts, and Curry in a Hurry last year set up shop in the 1100 block of Massachusetts.

• Here’s a little bit different piece of restaurant news for Downtown Lawrence. A company called Restaurant Link has moved into the U.S. Bank Tower at Ninth and Mass.

The company doesn’t serve up any food itself, but it helps restaurants around the country serve up food in more efficient ways. The company was founded years ago by Richard King, who used to be a partner in the old Molly McGees sports bar and restaurant in Lawrence.

The company had offices out on 23rd Street, but wanted to be part of the downtown environment. Plus, the business needed a bit more space because it has been one of the odd exceptions where a down economy has been good for business.

“Our business went through a substantial growth period when the economy was tanking,” King said. “When the restaurant business was down, there were more restaurants out there looking to save money.”

Restaurant Link works with restaurants on food and beverage purchasing contracts, online ordering systems and other bottomline boosters. The company recently grew from four employees to six employees at the Lawrence headquarters, but it has about two dozen employees scattered at branch offices across the country.

The previously mentioned Allison Vance Moore with Colliers brokered the deal for the U.S. Bank Tower space.

• One deal that is no longer being brokered is a planned merger between Corner Bank, which has some operations in Lawrence, and Vintage Bank Kansas, which is headquarters out of the small community of Leon.

We reported in March that CornerBank, which is based in Winfield, would sell its stock to Vintage Bank Kansas. The deal was a bit unique in that Vintage Bank is a smaller bank that CornerBank — $270 million vs. about $12 million — but Vintage had a plan to create a new bank holding company that would allow it to expand into several communities. Executives from both CornerBank and Vintage were expected to join forces to create the new bank holding company.

But now the deal is apparently off. A release from the two banks announced they had agreed to terminate the deal. No real reasons were given.

“Given the passage of time and specific requirements detailed in the agreement, both CornerBank and Vintage agreed it was in both parties’ best interest to terminate the agreement,” Steve Worrell, president and CEO of Vintage Bank Kansas said in the statement.

Both sides left open the possibility of merger talks between the two parties restarting at some point.


guppypunkhead 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm glad Vermont St BBQ is coming back, and I'm always up for trying out a new Indian place. And how great is it to get some new restaurants on Mass St that aren't pizza or Mexican? :)

Hooligan_016 5 years, 10 months ago

VT St BBQ always had good food I thought ... hope to try them again soon!

Unrelated ... isn't PepperJax supposed to be moving to their new location on Mass soon?

CreatureComforts 5 years, 10 months ago

I've never been a big Vermont Street fan myself...a couple of mediocre experiences. I've never found any BBQ in Lawrence that I really, really enjoy, which is a bummer since we're so close to great BBQ in Kansas City. What a difference 40 miles seems to make! :(

That being said, my favorite in town is probably Biemer's

Matthew Herbert 5 years, 10 months ago

Biemer's is the best this town has to offer. Sadly, that's not necessarily a compliment to Beimer's

Hooligan_016 5 years, 10 months ago

I had Bigg's for the first time last week ... Biemer's is much much better overall.

Topple 5 years, 10 months ago

Biemer's is pretty overpriced in my experience. It'd be different if they were KC quality BBQ.

My last trip into Biggs about a year ago rewarded me with a fried cockroach in my french fries. Lucky for the waitress and manager, I'm not the type to cause a scene.

puddleglum 5 years, 10 months ago

I also experienced the roaches at Biggs.... too bad, I liked the food,, but when I saw two large roaches chasing each other on the other side of the table, I informed the waitress to cancel my order, and she actually said, " ya, we see those here sometimes..."
I took the kids and hit the road!

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

Angler's is still open, their food now has hints of fried chicken and Vietnamese cuisine.

lawrenceanglers 5 years, 10 months ago

There will be no more Angler's Seafood House. They will only offer popular fried dishes at The Orient. Also, just to clarify Vermont st bbq has no affiliation with the other establishments. There food will be cooked on completely different equipment.

sandrat7 5 years, 10 months ago

I had heard a rumor that La Familia might offer Indian Tacos one or two days a week, you might check with them.

Matthew Herbert 5 years, 10 months ago

I will enjoy seeing India Palace face some competition. India Palace serves great food, but charges unbelievable prices. Perhaps a little bit of competition will bring them back to reality; and no, "curry in a hurry" is not competition.

sandrat7 5 years, 10 months ago

India Palace is way too pricey. I tried it once. Good food, overpriced by far.

Windemere 5 years, 10 months ago

And the service is sloooooow. Willing to wait for good food, but they are even slow bringing beverages.

Jimmy 5 years, 10 months ago

That was my thought too. I do love India Palace, and I used to eat there at least once a month. But now it's more like twice a year due to their ridiculous prices.

joes_donuts 5 years, 10 months ago

Downtown continues it's trend to become a restaurant and night-club district. Maybe the proposed riverfront development will help bring some businesses to downtown (or next to downtown).

With the current trend, the only thing downtown is good for is beer and food.

Matthew Herbert 5 years, 10 months ago

in a growing online economy, that's not going to change so why fight it? I can purchase everything sold downtown for far cheaper online. The only exception- food and beer.

Topple 5 years, 10 months ago

Agreed. I went into the Sunflower bike shop and was floored by their prices on even the simplest things. Apparently some townies are more than happy to pay the Mass. St. markup though, or they'd be out of business.

Also checked out the furniture place on ~7th and Mass the other day....$2700 for a couch that wasn't even that comfortable. Can go down to ~25th and Iowa to Room Makers and fill your entire living room with great (no, not Ashley) furniture for that much.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 10 months ago

Holy crap, KRichards and I are in complete agreement on something! Buffalo Bob's has been doing them in a similar way and they're actually pretty good. (Yes, I said that in a public forum.)

Topple 5 years, 10 months ago

I've eaten at Buffalo Bobs once or twice and was not at all impressed. Wasn't bad, but wasn't worth repeating.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 10 months ago

Oh no you don't - you're not tricking me into promoting the entire operation! I just thought the wings were pretty good. :)

the_realest_mccoy 5 years, 10 months ago

How about NO MORE restaurants downtown. There are now more than 572 restaurants in downtown Lawrence, and no adult novelty shops. What kind of city are we becoming?

Bob Forer 5 years, 10 months ago

It is downright unamerican to not be able to purchase an artificial vagina in a downtown business district.

Patricia Davis 5 years, 10 months ago

I think City Hall isn't nearly as gratifying. Stop giving vaginas a bad rep!

irvan moore 5 years, 10 months ago

remember when you could get plain old American food downtown instead of foreign stuff? i'd rather have woolworths back or tin pan alley or the bluebird and paradise. yeah, i know, i'm just a grumpy old man

Phil Minkin 5 years, 10 months ago

Remember when you could buy a bottle of aspirin, a bar of soap or some shoe polish? Now lots of places for a latte, a beer or a KU t-shirt, but not many places for day to day necessities.

Bob Forer 5 years, 10 months ago

When we moved here in 1970 Woolworth's was still downtown. They had a lunch counter. I loved the burgers, fries, and especially their grilled cheese sandwiches.
Greasy, unhealthy, etc. But really delicious.

And Paradise? Great place. I remember having to wait in line for a table. I can't believe that guy that bought the restaurant destroyed the business in less than a year. How the hell can you screw up the Paradise????? It takes a special kind of entrepreneurial incompetence at the very highest level.

Stephanie Hull 5 years, 10 months ago

Woolworth's in the early 80's: junior high girls -- grilled cheese sandwiches and Tab to drink -- fun memories

pizzapete 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm glad to see Vermont St. BBQ coming back to downtown. Just a suggestion, change the name (confusing) and set it up as a cafeteria style BBQ like Arthur Bryants. There is no need to sit down and wait 20 minutes for food that should already be cooked and ready to go. Let the customers form a line, fill a plate or to go box, pay at the register and go. Seriously, you'll sell a lot more food that way.

Topple 5 years, 10 months ago

Not a bad idea, though I probably enjoy sitting down and eating in at a BBQ more than any other restaurant. Let the smell seep into your pores!

pizzapete 5 years, 10 months ago

Yes, but you could still sit down and eat it there and let the smell seep in! Imagine a BBQ set up much like Chipotle Burritos. You step up to a counter and indicate whether you want the chicken, pork, or beef, which sides (corn, corn bread, beans, etc.), get a glass for your drink, pay at the same counter and then sit down and eat it there. This would speed up the whole process, so they'd have an opportunity to serve even more people.

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

Oklahoma Joe's does something like this. It works.

pizzapete 5 years, 10 months ago

Thanks, OK Joe's is a great example of how to run a BBQ restuarant. Now I'm hungry!

Topple 5 years, 10 months ago

Yup...OK Joes is one of the best places around. Z-Man please!

Shane Powers 5 years, 10 months ago

VT BBQ rocks, glad to see them back! Their wings are delicious.

Indian restaurant better bring their A game if they are going to compete with Sammys samosas!

Indian taco Tuesday @ Slow Ride is where you need to be for the tasty taco.

razz 5 years, 10 months ago

The Slow Ride over in N. Lawrence has Indian Tacos on Tuesdays. Very delicious!

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

So Anglers, Chicken, Orient and Vermont Street are all going to share one kitchen? That's going to be interesting.

Patricia Davis 5 years, 10 months ago

All fried in the same grease I am assuming.

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

I assume. I'd be a interested if it was going in as a stand alone restaurant, but not like this. Meh. It takes more than just some recipes to make a restaurant work.

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

Based the fact that the same people have opened and closed about 5 concepts there, I'm giving this a very low profitability of success.

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

which is unfortunate because Mass. could use some variety and I always thought Vermont was pretty decent BBQ by Lawrence standards.

Topple 5 years, 10 months ago

Going into restaurants is not good business...people with money just like the idea of having their own bar/restaurant, until they realize how much money they're losing.

lawrenceanglers 5 years, 10 months ago

Clarification . Nancy Nguyen has nothing to do with Vstreet

jhawkinsf 5 years, 10 months ago

Perhaps they should have advertised themselves as a fair wage establishment. Then those who support that sort of thing could go there and pay the premium when the check comes. Of course, the reason places like Wal-Mart, Sam's, Costco, etc. thrive is because when push comes to shove, people want lower prices. But I did really like paradise.

BTW - Not a single person has mentioned Grandaddy's BBQ. Maybe not as good as the better places in K.C., but as good as any here in Lawrence (when they're open).

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

Grandaddy's is great BBQ. It's the only KC class BBQ in Lawrence. I'd rank Lawrence BBQ of the last 20 years:

  1. Grandaddy's 2. Biemers 3. Bum Steer 4. Vermont Street 5. Biggs 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. Buffalo Bob's

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

'10' is dead last. I left space because I'm sure I forgot a few

irvan moore 5 years, 10 months ago

remember all american? the galloways were the barbque kings of lawrence

Topple 5 years, 10 months ago

Famous Daves, but it's too chain-restaurant for my taste. Not impressed at all by their BBQ.

CreatureComforts 5 years, 10 months ago

Man, I couldn't disagree with you more. Gran-Daddy's used to be OK, but I don't think it has been worth a dollar for the last several years. I tried it one last time late last year to see if it was better, and nope...they lost me for good. Bad BBQ, and beyond horrible sides.

Matthew Herbert 5 years, 10 months ago

Your theory is paying them a living theory is Skyler, the same guy who runs Creation Station. Those of you who know him, understand.

Bob Forer 5 years, 10 months ago

That's what I was trying to imply, Ren. The Paradise was able to survive and thrive despite its high payroll because they had great management, great employees, and put out a very delicious spread. When Skyler purchased the business from the original owners, he saw an opportunity to line his and his investor's pockets full of cash by cutting payroll costs. Of course, this didn't sit well with the dedicated and highly competent staff, and most of them left. I don't view Skyler as a malicious or mean guy. He's just kinda a doofus with no business sense at all. In this case, his penny wise pound foolish approach and his inability to lead brought the restaurant down in a hurry.

He was handed a turnkey successful business and he buried it in less than a year.

irvan moore 5 years, 10 months ago

i like skyler, i think it was pretty much done when he tried to save it

Budgets_Smudgets 5 years, 10 months ago

Amazing how we have been able to attract all of these restaurants without tax incentives. Just amazing. (eyes rolling)

auntmimi210 5 years, 10 months ago

I thought there had been some mention in Town Talk of The Orient & Oh Boy Chicken (the dumbest name I have ever heard for a restaurant, IMHO) moving into the strip mall near Paisano's? What happened to that? Just another one of her crazy half-a$$ed plans?

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

That was from an erroneous liquor license filing with the city. It was later corrected. I assume Nancy has to be involved in this endeavor considering the four restaurants will be sharing one kitchen.

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

Poor Corner Bank and Vintage Bank. Nobody seems to care about your falling out.

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

Poor Corner Bank and Vintage Bank. Nobody seems to care about your falling out.

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