The owners, Gray, Cara (his wife), and Jay all really love diners. “I mean, who doesn’t?” Brooks jokes. “It seemed strange to us that there wasn’t one downtown; somewhere you could go to get breakfast all day, every day. And my grandfather, Peter Ligets, who immigrated here from Crete, operated a few different diners here in Durham back in the day, so it just feels right to have it come full circle.”Location, location, location
The three owners adore the building that now houses the Unscripted Hotel, and the place where their diner and lounge will reside on the ground floor. “The building is a great classic example of that era (the middle of the last century), and it makes so much sense to have a diner in there,” says Brooks. Being in the center of downtown and across from the plaza is an ideal location: “Diners, to me, are where you expect to see everyone: policemen, the mayor, families, students all come together.”The Pizzeria Toro owners were already renting office space from the Austin Lawrence Partners in the South Bank building across from their pizzeria, so they were excited to learn that firm was purchasing the old Jack Tar Motel with plans to keep it intact and bring it back as a hotel. The deal to open a diner on the ground floor all just came together.
One of the things Brooks loves about the space, which has amazing, giant, north and west facing windows, is how the light in the space will move throughout the day. “It’s going to be really light and airy feeling during breakfast and lunch,” he says. “Being on that corner, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to have some pancakes and watch the city wake up and people walk by.” For dinner, they have a lot of cool, low-level lights that will sort of just emerge as the sun goes down and soften the room after dark while keeping it warm with lots of wood tones. Brooks shares that there will also be a separate bar room that will be pretty dark, “sort of like the old Denny’s that used to have a separate lounge,” he adds.Breakfast, Burgers, and Even Healthy Bites
Jack Tar will have classic early morning and late night diner hours: 7 a.m. until midnight every day, and you will be able to fulfill your cravings for just about any kind of food at any time of day: Breakfast all day; a cheeseburger and fries as 7:30 a.m. or eggs and bacon at 11:30 p.m., sandwiches, meat and three type plates, etc.
“We’ll also do some fun stuff that you might not expect to find in a diner, such as Japanese beef curry, egg foo young, dutch babies and more,” says Brooks. “On top of that, we’re planning to offer a slightly more chef-driven menu at dinner and during brunch on weekends.” This will be in addition to the regular menu (don’t worry, you can still get that burger).
While there won’t be any direct crossover from Brooks nearby restaurants, there will be some familiar accents, occasionally borrowing house made items from the sister restaurants to include in a dish at the diner.
Brooks is also looking forward to developing recipes that are health conscious. “To be clear, we’re still going to have fried chicken and a double cheeseburger, but I also really like the idea of taking a format like a diner, running classic diner food, as well as weaving in plenty of delicious healthy food,” he explains, giving a nod to the trend of more health-conscious cooking in the restaurant world.