Fins Closes, Reopening as bu•ku

January, 13, 2010, by Jedidiah

Fins Closes, Reopening as bu•ku
Advertise on NR

One of the more upscale restaurants in Downtown Raleigh has closed and will become a new restaurant


in January (according to their website). According to Dean McCord, over at Varmint Bites, Fins, which was located at the corner of Davie and Wilmington Streets in the Progress Energy Building, has closed and will become bu•ku. The current Chef of Fins will stay in place and the restaurant will continue an Asian-themed menu with a French twist. As well, bu•ku will be a bit more casual than Fins and eventually serve dim-sum style brunch, a first for Downtown Raleigh. “In the near future, we look to test the waters with the area’s first dim-sum style brunch, inspired street carts that cater to the discerning pedestrian diner, and delivery and catering that rivals that of much bigger cities.”

The name “bu•ku” itself, is derived from a French-Asian twist (with a hint of Southern twang) on the internationally acknowledged phrase, “Merci, beaucoup” meaning, “Thank you, very much.”

Fins stopped serving lunch in the middle of 2009 and there were lots of rumors flying about its closing back in 2008 but fortunately it held on. Luckily, the new restaurant will focus on the lunch crowd and according to Dean it will “at some point to have actual street carts downtown and to offer a dim sum brunch”. Fin’s received a handful of awards in its few years open including being named one of the best seafood restaurants in the nation by bon appétit magazine back in December of 2008. I will definitely miss the Vietnamese Pork Sandwich (which will hopefully make an appearance on the new restaurant’s menu) and a few other aspects of Fins. It’s sad to see it go, but good to see a new concept being formed in its place.

Also, gotta love bu•ku’s website which says in simple html font: “The future awaits…”.

Actually, it looks like we had a slightly different version of the site, so here’s the correct one with an odd side scroll but has some great info the upcoming restaurant.

Follow bu•ku on twitter

bu•ku on Facebook

Chef William D’Auvray’s fantastic downtown restaurant, Fins, is no more and will soon reopen under the name bu•ku.  With its name coming from the mispronunciation of the French word, beaucoup, the restaurant will continue D’Auvray’s focus on Asian-influenced food, but will emphasize a “global street food” concept.  Small plates will be the norm at bu•ku in a manner “inspired by the pushcarts of street vendors.”  Fortunately, the restaurant will also focus on the lunch crowd.  bu•ku will have a dedicated happy hour along with a strong craft beer and artisanal cocktail program.

D’Auvray has always been one of my favorite chefs in the Triangle, but Fins struggled in its large downtown location.  With this new concept, I’m hopeful that more folks will discover this amazing chef.  More details to come after I get a chance to talk to Chef D’Auvray.

Edit:  Interestingly, D’Auvray intends at some point to have actual street carts downtown and to offer a dim sum brunch.  Now that’s very cool. 

Block text from Varmint Bites

Sun-Th 11:00 am - 12:00 am
Fri-Sat 11:00 am - 2:00 am

110 East Davie Street
Raleigh, NC 27601



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  • gd
    01/13 09:43 PM

    Damn.  Fins was by far, the best food in Raleigh.  R.I.P. Fins!

  • Christian
    01/13 09:50 PM

    Fins was a good place (I was particularly fond of the bar), but to be honest I am not at all surprised to see it go. They never even had a website! I don’t understand how restaurants think they will attract new customers without an Internet presence. I think the lack of a website was compounded in Fins situation partly because they moved downtown after a successful run in North Raleigh.  They could not simply rely on existing clientele to survive but really needed to capture a segment of the downtown market. I’m sure the nearby hotels recommended visitors to Fins, but a restaurant in a city the size of Raleigh really needs a devoted local following to survive in the long run. Particularly one as pricey as Fins was.

  • Chris
    01/13 10:38 PM

    The space was just too big for Fins’ concept and price point.  Even on nights when they might have been making money, its odd to be in a half-empty restaurant on a weekend night. 

    Here’s hoping they can make a go of it this time.  But it will probably be too clean to have really good dim sum.

  • mindcrime
    01/13 11:57 PM

    Wow, newraleigh, your only 2 blows about fins were about closing. Where were you guys when they won restaurant of the year and were named the second best seafood restaurant in the nation? Pitiful. If the chef is still involved its bound to be excellent. Can’t wait to see the menu and eat there! Sorry, Fins you were one of the best.

  • JRD
    01/14 12:35 AM

    Wow!  Hearing all this makes me wish I had tried it…....or heard of it.  I wish I did, sounds really good.  Ill definitely try it out this go round.  Makes me think how somthing like Edison across the street would def help this kinda place in that location thrive.

  • gd
    01/14 09:01 AM

    JRD:  yeah, it was far superior to any other restuarant here.  I agree with what mindcrime said.  Long as the chef is still involved, the food at the new place will be great, but not having fins is a huge blow to downtown Raleigh.

  • RaleighRob
    01/14 09:39 AM

    I hate to hear Fins is closing.  That leaves 42nd Street as the only seafood restaurant inside the beltline, I think.  (Correct me if I’m wrong.) And frankly, Fins was far superior.

    The problem was obviously the high prices.  As much as I craved their food…it was a very very rare treat to go there.  And even then, I skipped drinks and appetizers just to be able to afford the entree. 
    Perhaps if they had tried to make it more affordable they would have had more business…who knows. 

    I hope the new place is good and succeeds.  Also hope they bring over some of Fins’ excellent seafood dishes!  :-)

  • gd
    01/14 10:01 AM

    You could eat at fins for 20 bucks before tip. The entrees ranged from like 18 to 30 something.  I had a 50 dollar gift certificate i used for 2 people there - we both had drinks and ate at the robotaki (spelling?) bar.  That covered everything.  50 bucks for 2 people isn’t bad - especially at a place that was as good and as unique as Fins.

  • Varmint
    01/14 10:21 AM

    The problem wasn’t the prices, quite honestly, as gd pointed out that the entrees were quite reasonably priced.  The problem was that the space was too large, the restaurant was not very visible or accessible, and it just got lost.  The D’Auvrays simply bit off more than they could chew, and their timing absolutely sucked.  This place opened in 2007, just before the market went to hell.  This new concept—along with some solid management assistance—could be what is needed.  We certainly know the food will be good.

  • Crash Gregg
    01/14 10:57 AM

    bu•ku will still be serving William’s seafood dishes and much more, at a lower, more competitive price point. So Raleigh is really only losing the Fins name, nothing else. Plus we’ll be gaining another evening destination that will remain open after 10pm, and all run by William and some new great partners.

  • gd
    01/14 11:19 AM

    Yeah, I just read through the new website (hopefully they find a new web designer - site is awkward as hell and doesnt look like it would be very mobile friendly).  I look forward to this opening.

  • Ivory
    01/14 11:27 AM

    Wish I would have tried fins before it closed but buku looks like a fantastically interesting concept. I hope the execution matches the vision.

  • VaNC
    01/14 12:15 PM

    I also loved the food, but stopped going after two meals with serious issues with service there.  Paying those prices, the service should be flawless, or at least good.  The service the last two times we went was TERRIBLE.  It started when we got yelled at by the front desk for being 5 minutes late (the restaurant was empty), then proceeded through the dinner with such things as waiter leaving and never checking back, wine never being delivered, food being mis-described and when questioned the response being “opps, I forgot we were out of that part”...then walking away, etc. etc. etc. 

    With so many places in Raleigh these days where you can have good service experiences for the same or less money, it is no wonder that they were having issues.  I think the chef is great, but hope he can work on his staff issues.

  • ct
    01/14 02:48 PM

    Very tough for high-end restaurants in the current economy. Repositioning downscale makes sense for Fins/bu-ku, and it’s difficult to reposition successfully without changing the name.

    Given the lousy economy, let’s not jump to any conclusions about the survivability of restaurants in downtown vis-a-vis OTB. It’s tough everywhere. I’m surprised that we haven’t seen more failures on both sides of the Beltline; only the most secure high-end restaurants (Angus Barn, Second Empire, etc) seem to be holding their own.

  • tmb
    01/14 04:36 PM

    the food at Fins was awesome, but couldn’t afford to eat there often.  man, and i wanted to try the hot pot.  the sea bass was scrumptious as well as the vietnamese sandwich.  and the sashimi was like being in heaven! i would eat there every day if i could.  looking forward to the new menu though!  and buku better advertise!!!  half the people i told about Fins never heard of it or, if they did, they just saw $$$ and wouldn’t even go for lunch.  yet they would spend $9 on a mediocre lunch!  but anyway, time for a change and hopefully it will bring life to that corner of davie and wilmington.

  • gerritsz
    01/17 09:24 PM

    Sorry to hear Fins is closing as it was our favorite restaurant downtown. Chef D’Auvray’s talents kept us returning in spite of the prices that were a little higher than some other restaurants, but we didn’t mind because everything was consistently superior in presentation and flavor. We too liked sitting and dining in the bar, especially when Jay was working, as his personal attention and warmth were highly valued. The look of the bar is phenomenal, with the huge glass fountain and the curving wood ceiling element. You could actually have a conversation in the bar with a normal tone of voice, while at the same time enjoying the music because it wasn’t overpowering. Having said all this, we are looking forward to the new format, but hope some of the positives of Fins will remain. Best of luck bu ku.

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  • finnishedfan
    02/27 06:24 PM

    VanNC writes, “I think the chef is great, but hope he can work on his staff issues.” I, myself, was a huge fan of Fins, for quite a while. I reccomended it to everyone I knew, and almost always took special out-of-town guests there. But the service was spotty—sometimes fantastic, sometimes very poor. One night, after spending well over a thousand dollars for a large, pre-booked dinner party, I realized that the problem most likely came from the top (staff problems almost always do). We had perhaps 15 people, and were assigned only one server. She made a valiant effort, but had a hard time keeping up. One of the owners seated us, and never returned, never apologizing for the short-staffing, nor even thanking us at the end of the evening. I made a point to sincerely thank her on my way out (the food was, as always, fantastic), and she responded with about as much enthusiasm as one might expect after buying a happy meal at McDonalds. It suddently hit me that it had always been this way. In spite of all my business and referrals they had never really done anything to make me feel very welcome or appreciated. Some of the staff did, but not the owners. I never even met William, though on one occasion, with an almost empty restaurant, I asked to speak with him so that I could complement him on an especially fine meal, only to be told he was too busy. I’m in a customer service oriented business myself, and have made my share of mistakes. No one is perfect. But systematically showing indifference toward the loyal patrons of your business eventually erodes that loyalty. I eventually stopped reccomending the place, and spent my money elsewhere. Miles Davis was so electrifying a musician that he could, famously, show contempt for live audiences and still pack the venue night after night. William is a great chef, but he is not the cullinary equivalant of Miles Davis. He, his spouse, and everyone in the restaurant, would do well to remember that good food is not enough. People expect, and deserve, to be treated as though their business is appreciated.

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