Fine dining may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you visit the gas pump, but it turns out that more and more hip restaurants are opening at these historic locations in cities across the country.
Experts are saying the trend is a result of a good location combined with changing eating habits.
“Gas stations are almost always on corner sites, they have good visibility and great accessibility, so they make great locations for restaurants,” Ellen Dunham-Jones, a professor of architecture and urban design at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said to CNN‘s Polina Marinova.
Repurposed gas stations tend to be near residential neighborhoods, and many of the families who live there don’t have kids at home, according to Dunham-Jones.
“More people are eating out. And, instead of the school as the anchor of social life, those childless households are eager for more alternatives and options of places where they can be social,” she said.
In November 2012, Ben Poremba opened Olio in a dilapidated corner lot that was once a 1930s Standard Oil gas station. It wasn’t in the best neighbourhood, but it also wasn’t too far from the Missouri Botanical Garden and another beautiful park.
Today the wine bar and its attached restaurant (known as Elaia) are some of the most highly regarded eateries in the city and together were named one of the best new restaurants by St. Louis magazine earlier this year. Increased foot traffic to the restaurant has also helped improve the neighbourhood, and many of Olio’s patrons have bought homes nearby.
The Red Truck Bakery opened in an Esso filling station in Warrenton, Virg. in 2009. The owners kept the overhead garage doors and classic gas station bathrooms, added tile floor and aluminium fixtures, and now sell award-winning pies to happy customers.
Building a restaurant in a former gas station does come with its challenges, including following strict environmental regulations and fighting the stigma that may come with eating at the pump.
Once the restoration process is complete, however, diners at repurposed gas stations have the unexpected opportunity to enjoy a meal filled with character and tradition.
“The average person just fills up their tank, pays with a credit card and drives off,” food blogger Al Hebert said to the Washington Post. “But if you just walk a few feet from the pump to the store, you might discover one of the best eating experiences of your life.”
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