When Mellow Mushroom opens on Franklin Street today, Chapel Hill will be taken back to the early 1970s.
The newest Mellow Mushroom location, at 310 W. Franklin St., is “flashback-themed,” with many neon colors and paintings and a large tie-dye bus that doubles as a booth.
The latest addition to Franklin Street’s dining options isn’t completely new to the area — co-owner Kent Hodges opened a Mellow Mushroom in Chapel Hill 14 years ago that closed in 2005.
“The old location wasn’t good, which is why we didn’t do well,” he said. “Coming back here now is the opportunity of a lifetime.”
The new restaurant will still have some of its old qualities — like a 15-year-old statue of a basketball player in the front of the restaurant, Hodges’ tribute to the former Chapel Hill Mellow Mushroom.
Hodges also created a mobile stage inside the restaurant for a bluegrass night, another tradition started at the former location.
Hodges said he decided to return to Franklin Street after seeing a need for moderately-priced food options.
“I noticed there isn’t a lot of casual dining on Franklin Street,” he said. “There are a lot of fast food places and a lot of fine dining, but nothing much in the middle.”
The restaurant was originally set to open last August, but construction was delayed after a sewer pipe was found under the patio.
Hodges said he hopes Mellow Mushroom will become the new “middle realm” in Franklin Street dining.
“I want people to be able to sit down, have a beer and a good meal and just enjoy themselves, all at the same time,” Hodges said.
And many students said they are eager to try some of the restaurant’s special food options.
“I’m very excited because I usually order cheese pizza, but now I want to try something crazy,” said UNC junior Briana Beanland.
Hodges said the restaurant features many of its classic menu items, as well as a specialty menu for Chapel Hill that will include mandarin salad and “funky” chicken.
The newest Mellow Mushroom also has vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.
“The gluten-free product comes from a local vendor,” Hodges said. “If I like it, it must be good.”
He added that about 80 percent of the restaurant’s employees are UNC students and that requests for applications are still being submitted.
UNC sophomore Scott Boyd said he is excited to start working at the restaurant.
“My friends keep asking me if it is open yet,” Boyd said. “Listening to the buzz on campus already, I know it will be a big hangout spot for students.”
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