The staff at Motorco Music Hall has always referred to the club's office as the kitchen. Nothing more than a desk and a mess, they said, a room where plans unfurled as slowly as the venue's expansion in the three years since it opened.
Among those plans: a kitchen. Much like other music venues—Kings in Raleigh with the Garland takeout window, The Grey Eagle in Asheville with its full taco bar just a room away from the stage—Motorco wanted to eventually include an in-house eatery.
Today, the desk is gone, replaced by a gas grill, a flat-top oven, deep sinks and a vacant space measured precisely for a walk-in cooler. Co-owners Mike Webster, Jeremy Roth and Josh Wittman, along with chef Chris Holloway, are finally cooking.
By the end of the month, maybe as soon as Motorco's Oct. 26 Oktoberfest celebration, three windows will open at a bay between the main entrance and the garage bar, offering a full menu.
"When people are at shows, they want to watch a little bit of the show, they want to meander with everybody into the garage bar," says Wittman, also partner in The Federal in Durham and Milltown in Carrboro. "Then maybe they want to go outside and smoke a cigarette. We want to make the food very user-friendly: a meal, or a snack in between sets."
"Whether it's duck confit or pigs in a blanket, it's going to be fun," says Holloway, who runs the kitchen at Pitchfork Provisions at Duke. "I want it to have that attitude of rock 'n' roll."
Holloway played bass and sang in acclaimed indie bands Queen Sarah Saturday and Collapsis. (Holloway sings lead vocals on the Queen Sarah Saturday track "Seems," which opens the movie Empire Records.) His transition into cooking happened during a visit to New Orleans, and later with stints at the now-defunct Michel Richard's Citronelle (fine dining) and Morty's Jewish delicatessen, both in Washington, D.C.
A Durham native, Holloway, 45, returned nearly 10 years ago to witness the revitalization of his hometown.
"I saw Mike and Candy [Webster] standing in their driveway, their clothes dirty with black stains from working on something. They said they were going to open a rock club at the vacant space on Rigsbee. I thought, 'Yes! That's exactly what needs to happen in that building.'"
But Motorco's addition of a kitchen means the end of food trucks in the bar's parking lot. When it was announced two Sundays ago that the popular KoKyu BBQ truck would be serving its last day at Motorco, fans and foodies expressed their dismay on social media.
For KoKyu owner David "Flip" Filippini, this may further prompt him to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant. He is scouting places throughout downtown and the Old North Durham neighborhood. Along with a new truck, KoKyu Ondo, the team launched a Kickstarter campaign that recently passed $7,500 on its way to a $46,000 goal.
Rigsbee Avenue and Geer Street has been dubbed by Fullsteam owner Sean Lilly Wilson as Durham's DIY district. Fullsteam and Motorco became anchors for many food truck businesses, helping launch the trend. Since then, The Parlour (now downtown on Market Street) and Cocoa Cinnamon (at Geer and Foster streets) have transitioned from bus and bicycle, respectively, to permanent buildings.
"You can actually hear the heartbeat of the city forming in that few-block area," Filippini says. He parked there almost every single day for nearly three years. "And now it's growing into something more. No matter what anybody does, it's all good for Durham and for that area in particular."
Meanwhile, Filippini is unveiling a new menu with Ondo, tweaking it based on customer demand. He's already made street noodles, added hoisin and beet-cured quail egg to his signature duck fat tots, and played more with pickles and mustards.
He says that as he turned the corner after his last night in the Motorco lot, his final customers, a band of almost 100 motorcycles, trailed behind him.
"It was really wild. Durham really came out," he says. "It was like saying bye, and changing to the next chapter. We're ready for it."
Correction: KoKyu's new truck is Ondo (not Onde).