Archive for Wednesday, September 26, 2012

TownTalk: Vermont Street BBQ deal falls apart; The Orient and Oh Boy! Chicken expanding; Lawrence home sales up for fifth month in a row

September 26, 2012


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News and notes from around town:

• I’ll exit a barbecue joint without sauce on my tie before I ever again believe that Vermont Street BBQ is going to reopen.

Back in July we reported that signs were up in the window at 1004 Mass. announcing that Vermont Street BBQ was making a return. Construction work definitely was under way at the spot, but I never could get anyone associated with the business to call me back.

Well, the signs are gone and the deal is dead. Nancy Nguyen, a longtime downtown restaurant owner who was going to turn over her Angler’s Seafood spot to Vermont Street BBQ, said she is no longer working with the group.

“The negotiations fell through,” Nguyen said. “That’s all I want to say.”

This marks the second time there has been a false start with the folks at Vermont Street BBQ. Back in 2011 signs also showed up in the window of the former Joe College T-shirt shop on Mass. Street announcing Vermont Street BBQ would once again start slathering pork butts, brisket, ribs, turkey and various articles of my clothing with barbecue sauce. But that deal too fell through.

So, who knows, maybe a sign will show up somewhere else. But I’m thinking if you want pulled pork, you’d be better off grabbing a pig and yanking (Or, I suppose you could go to any one of the other half-a-dozen barbecue restaurants that operate in the city. Take it from a man who spent a summer saving a 4-H pig: That might be easier.)

• It is not just my tie that comes out a winner with this latest news. Fans of The Orient and Oh Boy! Chicken also are beneficiaries of this latest turn of events.

Now that Vermont Street BBQ won’t be taking the space, Nancy Nguyen’s The Orient restaurant and Oh Boy! Chicken will be expanding into the space. Both restaurants already are operational right next door to the spot that was set for Vermont Street BBQ. So the two restaurants will use the remodeled space — which includes a full bar and seating for about 50 — to expand their offerings.

Nguyen has been operating The Orient in one form or another since 1978, which makes it one of the longer running restaurants in downtown.

But this latest episode with Vermont Street BBQ has taken a toll on her business, she said. Both The Orient and Oh Boy! Chicken closed for about a month to accommodate the remodeling work that was going on with the Vermont Street BBQ space, which is connected to her restaurants.

But Nguyen said she thinks customers got the wrong idea that Vermont Street was going to take over the entire spot, and now people don’t know that the plan was always that her restaurants were going to reopen.

Well, they are reopened now, and The Orient is much like it always has been. You can get dishes such as Phat Thai, Pho noodle soup, Canh Chua, which is a hot and sour soup with pineapple, onion, lime, hot pepper broth and seafood. There is even a dish called MI Nuoc, which comes with the option of homemade fishballs.

The bigger changes are on the Oh Boy! Chicken side of the business. The fried chicken restaurant has added a walk-up window that allows people to order from the Mass. Street sidewalk. Nguyen is keeping the window open Thursday through Saturday from midnight to 3 a.m. in an effort to get the late night-bar crowd that thinks a few pieces of fried chicken would be just the thing to settle the rumblings in the tummy.

Nguyen tells me she also plans to soon launch a chicken and waffle combination that she thinks will be popular with that crowd.

The restaurant also is playing up that it doesn’t serve your ordinary type of fried chicken. The chicken is dredged in seasoned rice flour, is glutten-free, and then is fried in a pressure cooker. (Ah, pressure cookers. Growing up, my grandma convinced me a pressure cooker was only slightly less dangerous than the Atom Bomb. Never go into the kitchen when the pressure cooker is going. But I like fried chicken, so I’m going to risk it. I just won’t tell my grandma.)

The restaurant also is trying to offer some sides like fried okra, hush puppies and sweet potato fries and jasmine rice.

As for Angler’s Seafood Restaurant, well it has ended like many of my fishing trips. (Well, actually nobody fell out of a boat or anything like that.) But the restaurant no longer is operating. Nguyen said the restaurant was flying in fresh seafood three times per week, and the cost to do so made it difficult to pencil out. So Nguyen is now focusing on the other two restaurants.

• Someday, I’m going to buy a second home to store all my stained ties and to play with pressure cookers. I haven’t done so yet, but people were buying Lawrence homes in August for one reason or another.

The latest numbers from the Lawrence Board of Realtors indicate the trend of a rebounding Lawrence housing market continues. Home sales in August were up 38 percent in Lawrence. Specifically, there were 94 homes sold in the city in August, up from 68 in August 2011.

For the year, home sales are now up 21 percent from the same period a year ago. A total of 646 homes have sold in the city, up from 533 during the same period a year ago. Sales of newly constructed homes also are up nearly 15 percent for the year, totaling 54 through August.

The numbers represent the fifth month in a row that homes sale totals are higher than the same month a year ago. The latest data has local real estate leaders now predicting the Lawrence market has turned a corner.

“With the combination of decreasing current inventory levels, low interest rates and strong activity, the current trend looks to continue through the fall, said Oliver Minnis, president of the Lawrence Board of Realtors.

The other trend that seems to be cementing itself is that selling prices have dropped. Through August, the median sales price was down 6 percent from the same period a year ago, now checking in at $158,000.

A couple of other interesting numbers include:

— The median number of days a home sits on the market actually is up slightly from a year ago, standing at 61 today compared with 55 a year ago.

— The number of homes on the market in August stood at 479, down nearly 15 percent from the 569 on the market at this time last year.


Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 7 months ago

I do plan to get some new numbers on how many Sheriff sales have been conducted this year, and how that compares to past years. Look for that in the next couple of weeks. Thanks, Chad

kufan1146 5 years, 7 months ago

How hard is it to open a BBQ restaurant, seriously?

Although, one of my old roommates did work for Nancy Nguyen and was constantly talking about how insane the family is, so it might have been on their end that the deal fell through. Pure speculation on my part, though.

RaynRavyn 5 years, 7 months ago

I have had that experience as well.... :/ Just wish they could get "my" bbq place opened back up! Lol

auntmimi210 5 years, 7 months ago

I used to rent from her... that would be my guess too, that the Vermont St group got tired of dealing with her insanity. If she owns the building, I'm guessing that her demands were unreasonable & that the costs just kept rising & rising. If Vermont St chose to part ways, they made the right choice!

Michael Rowland 5 years, 7 months ago

Fail. I miss Vermont St BBQ! It was the best in Lawrence, in my opinion.

Kendall Simmons 5 years, 7 months ago

I'm gonna miss Angler's. I admit that I hadn't been in quite a while since they didn't open till noon for lunch (how weird was that???) And I know it was too expensive for many folks. But fresh seafood? YUMMY!

I've often wondered why Nancy doesn't focus on getting one thing done at a time, rather than running in all directions at once.

Several of us went to Oh Boy! Chicken to try it out when they first opened on 10th St....and she told us that they didn't have the pressure cooker installed, but that we should go to one of her other places to eat. Huh???

Needless to say, we went somewhere else. Of course, we wouldn't have discovered Encore if it weren't for Nancy's chaos, so I should be grateful :-)

Richard Andrade 5 years, 7 months ago

It does seem that nothing in their little restaurant row stays the same for more than six months before they start shuffling things around again. Maybe Vermont BBQ can move into the space currently occupied by Nancy's son's "California-style luxury lounge and nightclub" (because, really, weren't we all clamoring for a "California-style luxury lounge and nightclub"? Admit it, you were.)?

Will Soo 5 years, 7 months ago

Hopefully the orient isn't expanding due to customer demand. It would be a shame to think the orient serves food worth paying for.

EJ Mulligan 5 years, 7 months ago

Vermont St. BBQ crew knows how to smoke meat better than they know how to run a business, apparently. This was the second attempt that we know of to re-start the business. Not to mention when they closed the Mass. St. location, it happened strangely abruptly.

Evan Ridenour 5 years, 7 months ago

The individual who has attempted to reopen Vermont St. BBQ is not the same individual who owned Vermont St. BBQ when it was operating on Mass. St.

The original owner sold the business assets and moved on. Hopefully the current owner will open a new location eventually... we shall see.

Jimmy 5 years, 7 months ago

Angler's had been in the death throes for a while now, so I'm not surprised. But I am sad to see a place that was very craft beer friendly go the wayside.

devilsrighthandman 5 years, 7 months ago

I have to agree with you ow. I would also like to see the breakdown of single family homes and townhomes. Seems to be a ton of townhomes that aren't selling.

somebodynew 5 years, 7 months ago

First Wilber, you would have to translate what you just wrote, so that Chad (and the rest of us) would know what to investigate !!

JackMcKee 5 years, 7 months ago

The Vermont Street guy is a typical neo Towny. Loser.

lawrencegirl87RAWR 5 years, 7 months ago

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