Clayton’s newest eatery is also a familiar one.
La Cocina Mexican restaurant is moving out of its space in Clayton Corners shopping center and building a standalone restaurant on Shotwell Road.
The Clayton Planning Board on Monday applauded the success that led to the restaurant’s expansion but was cool to its building design, saying parts of the exterior were too plain.
The new La Cocina is planned for the corner of Shotwell Road and Cameron Way, and it’s going to be a big one, measuring nearly 7,000 square feet with 246 seats and a bar.
“I thought that was a spectacular amount of seats,” town planner Jay McLeod said, “so they must really be doing a lot of good business here in Clayton and need to expand that.”
The restaurant will be stucco and brick, with arched windows, an arched entrance and 83 parking spaces. Like most restaurants, the kitchen and coolers will be in the back, but the planning board took issue with the plain, windowless design of the restaurant’s rear, which will be fairly visible to drivers traveling south on Shotwell.
Speaking for La Cocina, engineer Jerry Dalton said the project is shooting for an upscale feel. “It’s patterned after a very nice restaurant in the Apex/Cary area,” Dalton said. “If it will come out near what that looks like, the place will be a tremendous asset to the Town of Clayton. It’s going to look very nice, inside and out.”
Dalton said the back of the house is the back of the house, and it’s generally not designed with aesthetics in mind.
“That’s the kitchen area; that’s the back area of the property; that’s the freezer location,” Dalton said. “It’s hard to decorate that area much more than what it is.”
Planning board member Bob Ahlert suggested painting fake windows along the plain panels to break up some of the monochromatic walls. Dalton said that would make the restaurant look cheap.
“We could do that, but after the amount of money we’re spending on this development, I don’t want it coming across as looking fake or sort of made up,” Dalton said. “I want it to have the real look of a real restaurant. ... I personally would hate to see it. Based on what we’re going to do to the building itself, it would be downgrading.”
“I think something needs to be done,” Ahlert said, with others on the planning board echoing his concerns.
Planning board members kicked around the idea of a mural and non-functional glass windows, but largely deferred to the town’s planning staff to work something out before the restaurant goes before the Town Council next month.
“Personally, this is a business that’s been in Clayton for a long time and always done a very good job,” planning board member James Lipscomb said. “I would hate to hold them up for a month, because I really am glad they’re going there, and hopefully it’s going to be a catalyst for other things in that area.
“With that being said, we also want it to look as good as possible,” Lipscomb continued. “I have faith in our staff.”
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson