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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Striving to serve fickle diners

A visitor from South Carolina drove up to the Tractor Shed on Labor Day weekend, unaware that it had gone out of business. She was shocked to learn that it had closed.

"Food that good, and it's closed?" she said. "Where else is there to eat?"
Good question.
Not that Hendersonville has a shortage of places that offer a table and a plate of food. Plenty of restaurants, new and old, local and chain, serve the dining public.
Yet the recent experience of restaurant comings and goings does the beg question as to whether we're in a transition of sorts. If we know what we want, will we respond when a new place opens to offer it? Let's face it, as diners we're fickle.
Square 1 had a popular dining room; at times you had to wait for a table for two. The economy went down and the prices didn't and soon, so long, Square 1. We lost Expressions long ago. The impresario of that adventurous and well-loved restaurant, Tom Young, emerged after a long hiatus as the chef at Tractor Shed, run by Scott Surrette, late of the Peddler. When Young died suddenly of a heart attack last February, the Tractor Shed lost its inspiration. Again the recession has been no friend of restaurants of any kind and even the slightest change in public perception about a place — oh, Tom Young died, it's probably not as good — can make the difference between red and black in the profit and loss statement.
Flight downtown took the position as the big-night-out place on Main Street. But the property is tied up in so much civil lawsuit rope that we may never see it in use again as an eating place.
On the middle-brow end, longtime North Carolinians long for a barbecue joint that serves true Lexington or Eastern North Carolina barbecue — and some of us don't care which. (Funny how, if you're down in the Piedmont, you fight with long knives over which is better but up here in the mountains you'd love to have either.)
News that a restaurant would be one of the tenants in a proposed shopping center between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Seventh Avenue immediately set tongues a-waggin' and mouths watering. Might a Red Lobster be in our future.
Whether a restaurant thrives or dies is subject to market tastes, however capricious those tastes are. Few things in retail seem as fragile as the restaurant business. We predict we'll get a buffet of new choices soon, and we'll love them one day and spurn them the next.