Durham's City Beverage | Restaurant Beat | Indy Week
Pin It

Durham's City Beverage 

Hip, retro, suburban

If someone magically transported you into the Durham restaurant City Beverage and asked you to guess where you were, you'd probably guess a trendy neighborhood of a big city. The funky retro decorations, the kitschy records that adorn the walls, the curved bar and the pool table would all throw you off. At the very least, you'd think you were in close proximity to a college campus or a trendy town center.

You'd be wrong. Step out the door of City Beverage and you'd find yourself in a low brick strip of storefronts and offices in suburban Durham. It's about the least charismatic or bohemian place on earth. And yet, having just celebrated its first anniversary, City Beverage is going strong.

The restaurant is located at the intersection of Garrett Road and N.C. 751, between Hope Valley and N.C. 54, across the street from Woodcroft shopping center. It's the type of restaurant many of us wish we had in our neighborhood: multi-use, open from early morning 'til late at night, serving as a coffee shop, restaurant, bar and general neighborhood hangout.

And more than that, it's somewhere with personality, something one of a kind. Good independent places like this are rare outside of urban centers. Or at least they have been until now. It's possible that City Beverage is a glimpse of good things to come--genuine, fun restaurants with personality cropping up far away from the Ninth Streets, the Franklin Streets and the downtowns of our cities.

City Beverage opens at 7 each morning, serving Counter Culture coffee, pastries and specialty coffee drinks. By lunch time they are serving an eclectic American and international menu that has an almost Californian feel with its emphasis on fresh bright ingredients. Cilantro-crusted tuna tacos with black bean salsa and avocado and walnut salad are the most expensive items on the lunch menu at $9. The sandwiches are full of distinctive and well thought out ingredients, and starting at $6 are a really good deal.

Come dinner time, the menu expands and becomes more varied and slightly more serious. Appetizers range from Asian-style pork dumplings to a cheese plate to crab dip. Entrees include herb-crusted rack of lamb, five-spice pork chop and pan-seared organic chicken.

When I ask chef Chris Harris how he would describe his food, he says, "I call it Chris' food. I just make the food I'd want to eat." And he tries to keep it fun. "We want to have serious food but not be too serious about it. You can't be too serious when there's orange polka-dots all over the place," he says, referring to the interior paint job--purple with orange spots. "We don't want to exclude anyone," Harris says. "We want this to be a real neighborhood place."

As part of this effort, Harris and the restaurant's owner, Jim Earnhart (former owner of 23 Steps in Chapel Hill), have kept the menu affordable, with nothing over $20 and many items under $10. The idea is that the restaurant should be just as welcoming to someone who wants to drop in and have some "mini-burgers" and a beer, as it is to a couple looking for a three-course romantic dinner. The room, which the word "colorful" hardly does justice to, begs to be hung out in; this is much more restaurant-as-second-living-room than restaurant-as-destination.

Later in the evening the bar scene picks up, and City Beverage has an impressive martini and margarita menu to accommodate the drinkers, as well as 20 draught beers and 26 wines by the glass. On Wednesday nights beginning at 9:30 they host Trivia Night (which is apparently so popular that they have people sitting on the floor), and when the weather warms up they plan to have Thursday night jazz on the patio. Food is served until midnight or later, and the bar is open until 2 a.m. City Beverage is closed for only five hours each night.

I'm still not sure exactly who the clientele is at City Beverage. While the area surrounding the restaurant is mainly residential, it is also highly suburban, mainly subdivisions in one direction and the big fancy houses of Hope Valley in the other direction. I would think that the people living in these neighborhoods would be more likely to frequent the national chains and family restaurants that line 15-501 at the other end of Garret Road, or the restaurants at the nearby Streets at Southpoint mall.

It just goes to show that even I can underestimate people's good taste when it comes to eating out. Perhaps I am just jealous that City Beverage isn't in my neighborhood.

  • Hip, retro, suburban

Latest in Restaurant Beat

More by Besha Rodell

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

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 Restaurant Beat



Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

Vit Goal is excellent. We like it a good deal better than Cho Sun OK. Incredible selection of tofu soups, …

by J.P. Jen on Beyond bamboo (Restaurant Beat)

Where is Ashley cooking now?

by probono on Enoteca Vin's Ashley Christensen (Restaurant Beat)

The best place to go after work and vent... To bad she had to leave but family is a better …

by daviddryparry on Joe & Jo's, a downtown Durham institution and innovator, closes (Restaurant Beat)

I am so so sad to see that JnJ is leaving us. Its just not right!!!!! Ah...well thanks for the …

by dollycake on Joe & Jo's, a downtown Durham institution and innovator, closes (Restaurant Beat)

Just reading about Joe & Jo's closing. Shocked! The place will be missed by many. JoAnne and company have layed …

by Smokey426 on Joe & Jo's, a downtown Durham institution and innovator, closes (Restaurant Beat)

Comments

Vit Goal is excellent. We like it a good deal better than Cho Sun OK. Incredible selection of tofu soups, …

by J.P. Jen on Beyond bamboo (Restaurant Beat)

Where is Ashley cooking now?

by probono on Enoteca Vin's Ashley Christensen (Restaurant Beat)

Most Read

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

© 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