Talking about the culinary scene in Durham wouldn’t be complete without a little tipping and sipping. I’ve listed our current favorite spots for you to peruse Be aware, Durham is growing, so there are bound to be new favorites added to this list.
Cave Taureau Wines: (pronounced Kav-2-Row) A newish wine shop downtown where regular tastings are held. They specialize in wine from smaller producers that grow their own grapes organically or bio-dynamically. Their website is still undergoing some tweaks, so check their Facebook Events listing or call the shop for tasting dates. Co-owner Noel Sherr told us he’s stocked the shop with a range of prices. For instance, in addition to what you’d expect, he carries boxed wine and fortified wines (Port, Madeira).
When you stop in, ask if the 15% off on a purchase of 12 bottles, same or mixed/beer or wine is still being offered.
339 West main Street
Alley Twenty Six: A hip, urban cocktail lounge open since early September, 2012. I had the Jibe Ho! – Scotch, housemade pineapple syrup, lime, drambuie, egg white & bitters ($12). Sounds a little strange, right? Scotch and egg whites? It was fabulous!
PIC opted for a . . . Sorry, details sketchy on this one. I was enjoying that Jibe Ho! too much. Note taking fail.
320 E. Chapel Hill St
Fullsteam Brewery: Owner Sean Lilly Wilson describes Fullsteam’s craft product as “distinctly Southern beer” flavored with things like grits, persimmons, barley, sweet potatoes and more. Kind of an agriculture – urban approach. He referred to some of their beers as “foraged”. For instance, rather than let persimmons hit the ground and rot in Durham backyards, Fullsteam paid $3 per pound to locals bringing them to the brewery. At last count, they were up to 550 pounds of persimmons purchased. Also impressive – grains are smoked on site.
They’ve been in this location for two and a half years, and there are currently 12 taps on site – 10 to 12 of them ready to pour at any given time.
We did our fair share of tasting (El Toro, The Common Good, Working Man’s Lunch, First Frost and new year-round brew, Cackalacky), during which Sean said, “when people tell me they’re not really a beer person, I tell them it’s probably because they haven’t tasted the right beer yet”. After the Bull City Food & Beer Experience and a tasting at Fullsteam, I’ve stopped saying I’m not a beer person.
A few changes are in the works, including two new 60 barrel tanks, a bottling line and maybe a canning line. Free tours are offered once per month. Our tour was courtesy of Patrick Coleff. A nice guy who knows his beer.
726 Rigsbee Ave
The Brothers Vilgalys: For something different and completely delicious, stop in at The Brothers Vilgalys Baltic-Style Spirits for a brief tour and tasting. They make Krupnikas, an 80 proof spiced honey flavored Lithuanian liquor. In fact, they are the only confirmed commercial maker of Krupnikas in the United States.
This is such a great entrepreneural story! Rimas Vilgaly, pictured in the gallery below, watched his father make this traditional drink at home for years before deciding to take it to commercial production. His start-up set-up reminds me of my Dad starting out with his first factory. Everything done by hand with the help of friends and family. After waiting six months to get a distillery license, Krupnikas has been in production for about four months now.
They aren’t distilling their own vodka base yet, but it’s in the works. Wildflower honey from Busy Bee Apiary in Chapel Hill gives Krupnikas it’s unique flavor. I wondered if it would taste like Mead, but no, it has it’s own unique flavor. Not overpowering, but definitely tasting of honey and a mix of spices (pictured in the gallery below), you definitely know you’re tasting something special.
That work is paying off. More and more North Carolina ABC stores are stocking the Vilgaly’s product, the latest being in Boone.
803 D Ramseur St.
Market Street Coffee: In the process of changing their name from Bean Traders to Market Street Coffee, this is a great spot to read, study, or just hang out. There’s free Wi-Fi and plenty of coffee. One of the barista’s, Charlotte Cooper, cracked me up when, as she was cleaning table-tops she said, “everyone should have a clean experience”. She and fellow barista, Sydney Carlson took good care of us. Good lattes – good scones!
Five locations, but we went to:
714 9th St
Cocoa Cinnamon: Another great entrepreneurial story. I first became aware of Cocoa Cinnamon when they launched their Kickstarter campaign trying to raise funds to open a brick and mortar location. They’d been serving Durham fans coffee, chocolate, and tea from their mobile bikeCoffee rig for a while and it was time.
We stopped in for hot cocoa & sipping chocolate and got so comfortable, it was hard to leave. Most seating is “vintage”. Although in good condition, a couple of the sofas looked like they’d been pulled out of Memaw’s basement rec room. Be sure to check out the floor right inside the front door. Very cool.
Both drinks were rich, smooth and lusciously chocolaty (proper English?).
420 W Geer St
Parker and Otis (Coffee): I’ll be posting a review of Parker and Otis, but wanted to include their coffee shop portion of their store here. They serve good coffee that you can enjoy outside on a huge deck, at one of a few counter stools in the coffee shop area, or at a table in Parker and Otis’ main dining area.
While we were getting coffee and later, scarfing down seriously tasty breakfasts, we watched a steady stream of coffee-seekers file by.
112 S Duke St
Bull City Food & Beer Experience: No mention of glass-tipping in Durham would be complete with out including the Bull City Food & Beer Experience, held for the first time this year. Look for this celebration of craft beer and Durham food to become a huge annual event.
Read about our experience at the Experience here.
If you haven’t gotten the message yet, Durham’s culinary scene has evolved – and is continuing to evolve quickly. I can hardly wait to share pictures and descriptions of meals from some of the newest, loved Durham restaurants. And – hold on to your napkins – I’ll also be writing about two Durham bakeries that are hittin’ it outta the park – one of which has a 2013 “Outstanding Pastry Chef” James Beard semifinalist at the helm!