Business Columns & Blogs

March 19, 2010

New eateries springing up across Midlands

Despite a downturn in dining out, several new restaurants are set to open from Lake Carolina to Five Points, serving everything from steak to yogurt.

Despite a downturn in dining out, several new restaurants are set to open from Lake Carolina to Five Points, serving everything from steak to yogurt.

Last year, diners nationwide spent less money eating out than they have since 1976, according to a new study by market researcher The NPD Group. Restaurants posted a 3 percent drop in the last year as recession took a toll on consumers' wallets.

The hardest hit group was fine dining, which sank 13 percent.

That's why Lucien Hutcherson is going to sell hot dogs.

Hutcherson has spent three decades in the financial services industry. But with the economic downturn, he decided to sell the one thing he has always loved.

"It's just a great time for me to do that in my life," he said. "I've thought about doing this for 30 years."

He plans to open Lulu's Hot Dogs at 2303 Devine St. on a day many of us feel a little poorer -April 15. It's around back of the Publick House.

His menu will consist of griddle-cooked hot dogs with homemade chili and slaw, mustard and onions with chips and soda and beer. A typical lunch with drink would cost between $5.25 and $7.50.

Here are a couple more new eating ventures:

Fruiti Cup. A new locally owned yogurt store is opening in two locations.

The store in Sparkleberry Center, 10136 Two Notch Road in Northeast Richland, opened Thursday. And the store at 631-B Harden St. in Columbia's Five Points is set to open next week. Customers can get a free cup of yogurt with free toppings from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Two Notch store and March 28 at the Five Points store.

An Nguyen, who owns the Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Viet, on Decker Boulevard, decided to open the yogurt stores because he said yogurt is a healthier option than ice cream and is gaining popularity in other parts of the country.

Customers will make their own desserts, by choosing from a variety of flavors and toppings. The store will then charge by weight at 42 cents per ounce. The stores also will serve Boba Milk tea drinks, which are cold teas mixed with other ingredients, such as fruit, milk and tapioca.

N.Y. Butcher Shoppe & Grille. This gourmet grocery and full-service restaurant recently opened in Lake Carolina's Town Center in Northeast Richland.

On the chopping block are angus beef, pork, lamb, veal, chicken, quail, buffalo and fresh seafood.

On the menu are traditional entrees, such as lasagna, meatloaf and pasta.

Eddie Hargett is the owner. Chefs Chris Diehl and Dann Agostini will staff the butcher shop, and Chefs Kacey Carbery and Rob Peeler will operate the restaurant.

But the recession is taking its toll on some restaurants.

Solstice in Northeast Richland is dropping its dinner prices and scrapping its lunch menu in April after just four months.

"We're doing everything we can to stay in business," owner Ricky Mollohan said. He said his two downtown restaurants, Mr. Friendly's and Cellar on Greene, are still doing well.

Mollohan said he has had a decent response since dropping prices to $15 and under for entrees this month.

But he said lunch business has been thin since he started serving it in December. He said folks are in the habit of eating in the nearby chain restaurants for lunch, and, while he had some regular customers, he didn't have enough to support keeping the restaurant open during the day.

"We're going to have to try other things," he said.

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