A diverse restaurant landscape

Published 9:15 pm Friday, June 26, 2015

Two popular area eateries are now calling Suffolk home after their newest locations opened in the city during the past couple of weeks.

The wildly popular Cook-Out restaurant continued the Hampton Roads expansion it has undertaken for the past couple of years by opening its latest fast-food location on the North Main Street property that used to house a decrepit motel.

It’s not often that a fast-food joint could be considered a major improvement over much of anything, but in this case, Cook-Out is literally a sight for sore eyes. It’s also a happy improvement for the location in the eyes of the police, neighbors and all who wanted to rid North Main Street of one of its seediest locations.

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One of the few downsides to having Cook-Out located where it is in Suffolk is that it sits right across the street from another of the city’s favorite drive-through restaurants: Chick-fil-A. If all the chicken lovers and all the burger lovers in the downtown area have a hankerin’ for carryout fast food at the same time, North Main Street could be shut down from the waiting traffic. Fortunately, both restaurants are not just popular; they’re also fast.

It’s probably not accurate to call Taste Unlimited a fast food restaurant, though the Hampton Roads chain does plenty of carryout business. Opening its seventh Tidewater location in Suffolk this week, there was a sense that the sandwich and specialty food shop was coming home when officials cut the ribbon on the 5,000 square-foot facility on Wednesday. That’s because Taste is a family-owned company that’s owned by one of Suffolk’s best-known families.

The Pruden family’s business history in Suffolk goes back four generations to a produce business that eventually evolved into Pruden Packing Co., which, coincidentally, had its facility not far from the location of the new Cook-Out. That building was torn down around 2000, and the Prudens bought Taste Unlimited from the family of founder Peter Coe in 2006. Since then, they’ve been expanding the business model, relocating and renovating all of the six locations that existed at the time of the sale.

But a Facebook campaign helped nudge Taste to set up its new North Suffolk location, bringing the Pruden business back home. That social networking campaign is evidence of the chain’s wild popularity with foodies around Hampton Roads. And it clearly bodes well for the company’s future here in Suffolk.

For Suffolk foodies, both Taste and Cook-Out are great new entrants into an increasingly diverse and interesting restaurant landscape. Grab a napkin and prepare to dig in!