Durham History Hub and a new online project both trace Durham's dining past | Food Feature | Indy Week
Pin It

Durham History Hub and a new online project both trace Durham's dining past 

A chalkboard outlines how various Durham kitchens through the years have been connected.

Photo by Alex Boerner

A chalkboard outlines how various Durham kitchens through the years have been connected.

One of the most coveted items in the History Hub's new food exhibit is a white T-shirt with maroon raglan sleeves—the kind worn by adult softball teams that use kegs as bases. The shirt bears the restaurant name: "Annamaria's Pizza House" and under it, an illustrated plate of pasta, with the words "Spags and Balls."

Someone donated this gem from yesteryear to the History Hub for the exhibit F is for Food, part of the museum's "Durham A-Z" series.

The city's restaurant and bar scene has become so volatile—openings (Dashi), closings (Pop's), relocations (Monuts Donuts), that it can be difficult to remember what was where and when.

A selection of menus may jog your memory. The Ivy Room at 1000 W. Main (now Fifi's, a consignment clothing boutique) served fried chicken while sporting the slogans: "a bit of New York" and "chicken in the rough." A can of PBR at the Blaloc Cafe, 108 Morris St., (now Caktus) cost $1 and a bowl of vegan chili would set you back $3.95 in the mid-'00s.

In addition to the ephemera inside the museum, a crowd-sourced history continues on a chalkboard out front. There, a restaurant family tree has been drawn—note how many local chefs and restaurateurs cut their teeth at the Magnolia Grill—plus the names of beloved restaurants gone by: Honey's, AnotherThyme, the Green Candle and the Donut Dinette.

"We intentionally left it detailed but not comprehensive," says Patrick Mucklow, director of operations at the History Hub. "We wanted people to put their own voices in."

On the other side of the board, people have written their memories of specific restaurants. Someone had her first cup of coffee in Durham at Beyù Caffè. POW and KDS celebrated their first date at Sitar India Cuisine. For 20 years, Whit's Grill served a mean plate of smoked sausage links.

In the audio room you can hear oral histories of Durham's food scene, such as recollections of Annamaria's Pizza House, a Duke hangout from 1958-1986: "We had 13 tables and everybody was crowded in there," recalls one waitress. "We never had tickets. When people went to the cash register it was the honor system."

You can stroll down Durham's culinary memory lane online now that local cartographer Tim Stallman has built the mother of all rabbit holes, a digital time machine of the last 25 years of Durham restaurant history.

Using county digital restaurant inspection reports, Stallmann, who works at Savas, a web-development shop in Durham, mapped the comings and goings of local eateries since 1990. (Stallman is also a co-founder of the Counter Cartographies Collective; he teaches mapmaking at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke.)

If you wonder why Ninth Street Bakery is on West Chapel Hill Street, that's because until 1997, it was located at 776 Ninth St., where Elmo's Diner is now.

On the East Side, 950 E. Main St. was home to four restaurants in just three years: Lunchbox Express, Mary's, The Rib Man and Jeffrey's Take Out. Now it's Durham Convenient Tobacco.

In the 1990s, Guess Road near Carver Street was packed with oddly named restaurants: Lizard's Lick, the Dome and Lil Dino Deli and Grill. And In 2005, there were just three restaurants at the American Tobacco Campus. Trivia: Starbucks had a small shop there, but apparently couldn't make a go of it. Yes, you read that right: Starbucks could not survive in downtown Durham.

Besides the obvious nostalgia value, the map drives home just how difficult it is to operate and maintain a restaurant both in the best and worst of times. That said, does anyone really miss the Romano's Macaroni Grill?

This article appeared in print with the headline "Menu memoirs."

  • Check out F is for Food, part of the museum's "Durham A-Z" series.

Related Locations

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Food Feature

Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

Using a stand mixer, whisk for about 10 minutes or until Swiss meringue is firm and bowl feels cool. best …

by jadegraham on A New Local Cookbook, Southern Breads, Celebrates a Storied Southern Staple (Food Feature)

I love collards. My friends and family tell me I cook the best they've ever eaten. I got that from …

by Kitty Hegemann 1 on Despite Urban Sprawl and Industry, a Durham Family Collard Farm Lives On (Food Feature)

There's a huge difference between the food stuffs you see at Kroger/HT/Publix and the real deal you can get when …

by whatdoiknow on Mind the Food Gap: Who Does Farm-to-Table Serve? (Food Feature)

I found this recipe years ago and have made it often. Best pumpkin pie I have ever had. …

by Jan Bauman on Mamie Eisenhower's Pumpkin Pie recipe, rescued from oblivion (Food Feature)

Had dinner at Northside District this past weekend and everything about our experience was excruciatingly slow. Empty drinks went unfilled. …

by Shocka Kahn on The Restaurant Merry-Go-Round at 403 West Rosemary Comes to a Strong Stop at Northside District (Food Feature)


Everything very unprofessional. They just want to charge you an "revolutionary fee" with all the service making pressure on you. …

by feullies on Blue Note Grill (Durham County)

Simply the best caribbean food in town!

by prince on Golden Krust Caribbean Grill & Bakery (Durham County)

Most Read

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation