The Kurama Express in Chapel Hill is a spin-off of the Kurama Japanese steak house near South Square Mall in Durham.
But unlike the Durham location, there will not be any hot griddles and flames at the tables in Chapel Hill.
"Right now, it's just sushi and noodles," said Mimi Scarborough, manager of Kurama.
The restaurant, located at 105 Columbia St., has a counter and five booths.
According to the menu, there will be 37 types of sushi and sashimi and four types of noodles.
Kurama, named after a sacred Japanese mountain, is the newest in a chain of five restaurants in the Triangle, Hilton Head, S.C., and Augusta, Ga. The chain has been family-run for 25 years. "I guess you could call it a chain," Scarborough said. "It's mostly myself, my mother and my godfather."
Robert Humphreys, executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Commission, said he was glad to have something new in the formerly vacant space. "It's never good to have an empty spot, and I'm glad that somebody is putting something creative in there," he said.
Humphreys said he is not worried about having another chain store at the prime downtown intersection.
"It's just a different way of doing business," Humphreys said. "The thing that is important is is that they become part of the community and tailor their services to the community."
Scarborough said she is happy with the restaurant's location because of the heavy foot traffic and the quality of downtown.
"Franklin Street has changed a lot in the past two years," she said. "Franklin Street is really improving."
Aaron Nelson, director of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, also said he was not worried about having this type of chain store downtown.
"I'd like to keep downtown Chapel Hill as diverse as possible," he said. "I like when businesses are owned by people who live in the area.
"I think there's a difference between chain restaurants and a restaurant with two locations."
Japanese restaurants soon will be very common downtown.
Directly across from Kurama, in the empty storefront where Roly Poly used to be, is a sign for Sakura Express sushi and noodles. The new restaurant is still under construction, but seems to be close to finished.
"If there are two, then you'll always know you can go to Columbia Street and know you can get into a Japanese restaurant," Humphreys said. "It will be like shoe stores in the mall."
The City Editor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.