How do you follow up a four-decade restaurant? Fried chicken is a not a bad start.
Spanky's restaurant became a Franklin Street icon in Chapel Hill, serving generations of UNC students and nostalgic alumni over 41 years. The restaurant closed in March but reopened in June after a two-month rebranding.
Meet Lula's, a fried chicken concept.
Spanky's was started in 1977 by Mickey Ewell and in more recent years became part of the Chapel Hill Restaurant Group, owned by Greg Overbeck, Pete Dorrance and Kenny Carlson. Ewell retired from the restaurant this year, and the group decided to retire the restaurant with him.
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"It was a difficult decision, but necessary," Overbeck said. "Some people were very upset. But a lot of old things have closed in the past few years in Chapel HiIl, and there's a reason for that. Spanky's had a good run. Any restaurant owner, if you told them when they opened the doors they'd still be there 40 years later, they'd call that a good run."
Overbeck said that within Franklin Street's crowded restaurant scene, Spanky's struggled to distinguish itself, serving menu items of burgers and chicken sandwiches.
Chef William D'Auvray, previously of Fin's and bu.ku in Raleigh, wrote a new menu for Lula's.
It focuses mainly on fried chicken, brined, marinated and air dried before being fried in cast iron skillets, not deep fryers, Overbeck said. There's also a short rib sandwich, pork chop and sides like collard greens and mac and cheese. There are biscuits and an SLT — a side-meat, lettuce and tomato sandwich.
Lula's is named after D'Auvray's great-grandmother.
"It's not fine dining, it's a Southern restaurant doing funky, cool Southern food," Overbeck said.
So far, Overbeck said, the rebranding has gone well for Chapel Hill in June while the students are away. Lula's looks to write a new chapter for the building on the corner of Franklin and Columbia streets.
"What made Spanky's different was its history," Overbeck said. "It was a very nostalgic place for those who came in as students, and their parents.
"With Lula's, the tagline is 'Simple food made the hard way,'" Overbeck said.
Lula's is at 101 E. Franklin St. For more, go to lulaschapelhill.com.