07/09/12 — It's official: Two eateries taking over locations

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It's official: Two eateries taking over locations

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on July 9, 2012 1:46 PM

Vacancies at two of downtown's most prominent eatery spots have been filled and both restaurants should be open by the end of the summer with the return of Central Lunch expected by the first week of August.

Carlos Herriera, owner of Los Fogones on South Berkeley Boulevard, aims to revitalize the more than century-old franchise that has been a downtown staple for generations.

"Central Lunch has been around for 100 years -- it has to live," he said.

Herriera, who has 21 years of experience in the restaurant business, said he hopes to improve the menu not so much by changing the foods offered, but by reducing the fat content of some of the dishes.

"It will be nice food. Good food, cheap," he explained, adding that the biscuits the diner is so famous for won't change, but other dishes will likely see a reduction in fat content.

Pastas, dishes Herriera said he has a lot of experience with, will factor into the new menu, he said.

"I'll bring some things new so (downtown diners) can have a choice," he said. "I want to create a menu with options.

"I'm taking a chance, and I've very optimistic."

And property owner Larry Hill said there have been lots of entrepreneurs interested in taking a chance downtown due to the beginning of construction on the Center Street Streetscape project.

Hill, who owns several downtown properties including the Central Lunch building, said he has had more interest in his properties downtown in the past four weeks than he had previously in a year and a half.

Across the street from Central Lunch, downtown property owner David Weil reported he had been contacted by eight applicants about his property at the northeast corner of Center and Walnut streets since Murphy's Place closed for good June 2.

Plans for the owners of Brown Bag Cafe on Patetown Road to open up a new restaurant in the location fell through, but on June 29, less than four weeks after Murphy's shuttered, Weil signed a lease agreement with Serene and Noè Rivera, who intend to open up a New American restaurant called The Laughing Owl in its place.

The Riveras currently own and operate Lotus 1899 Bistro and Lounge on John Street and aim to bring in an additional partner from the Triangle for The Laughing Owl, which will combine upscale contemporary flair with traditional culinary favorites.

"We're hoping to bring some of the trendiness of Raleigh to Goldsboro," said Mrs. Rivera, who came up with the restaurant concept and is overseeing the renovations to the building.

The menu will utilize seasonal produce and sauces to create dishes from chowders and soups to pizzas created on an Indian flatbread known as naan.

The menu will also feature vegetarian options of dishes, including a portobello burger as well as gluten- and wheat-free options. The restaurant will also maintain a bar with full ABC permits and will specialize in having a wide selection of wines and craft beers and will offer mimosas for Sunday brunch.

The eatery, which Mrs. Rivera stressed would be a casual dining establishment, will feature paintings by local artists and seek to create an eclectic atmosphere similar to that of Lotus, she said.

The restaurant should serve as a contrast to chain openings along Berkeley Boulevard, she said, as LongHorn Steakhouse and Olive Garden will be opening later this year, with LongHorn scheduled to open July 30 at 4 p.m. and Olive Garden's opening scheduled for October.

Both Mrs. Rivera and Herriera said they're excited about bringing a new option to Goldsboro residents as other restaurants pop up.

"It's something exciting," she said. "All these new businesses opening -- it's going to draw people out."