There are no surfboards or tacky tiki torches at Surf Club, a bar that quietly opened in mid-December on the corner of Rigsbee Avenue and Corporation Street in an area of Old North Durham that is increasingly becoming a hub of the city's nightlife (294-9661). Instead, the squat brick former office building houses an oversized blue-and-white Hamm's beer sign and a dark interior with a slick black bar and white tile walls.
It is a look that perfectly blends the feel of some of owner Rhys Botica's existing Durham establishments. The metal Hamm's advertisement seems plucked off the Federal wall (which could spare one beer sign) and the small open room, where gold wall sconces dimly light five black booths, brings to mind the Whiskey. The result is a good-looking, low-key bar where the wine list reads "Red" and "White," three bucks apiece.
Surf Club, a name that reportedly alludes to Botica's days in New Zealand, continues the development of Old North Durham, where it's a stone's throw from other late-night staples including Fullsteam, Motorco and Geer Street Garden. Unlike those spots, however, Surf Club is fairly bare bones in the best of ways. There is no live entertainment, just one TV and a dartboard tucked into a cubby-like area near the bar.
In lieu of fancy cocktails, there's a thoroughly stocked well for those who prefer simple spirit-based drinks. As for beer, there is a range of cans—from Miller Lite and Pabst tall boys to Guinness—and 12 reasonably priced drafts that also run the gamut, including Budweiser and Founders Red's Rye (none of the current drafts are listed above $3.75).
Surf Club does not stock food other than a few cups of wasabi-covered peanuts at the bar. As a result, the private club requires a fee for entry: $1 for a lifetime membership. The bar is open 4 p.m. until 2 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Also in Durham, at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Patrick Coleff of Reliable Cheese Company will lead a panel discussion on Piedmont cheesemakers at the main branch of the Durham County Library.
Coleff says the event, "Blessed Are the Cheesemakers," will involve four area cheese artisans, including Chapel Hill Creamery, Hillsborough Cheese Company and Prodigal Farm of Rougemont.
"We will talk about the history of the cheesemakers, about the cheesemaking process and, in general, about cheesemaking in the South, because it's a relatively new thing," Coleff says. Unlike in many Northern and Midwestern states, the trade of cheesemaking didn't take off in this region's warm climate until after refrigeration became popular. Now, says Coleff, there's a "surge of new Southern cheeses out there." Last year marked the launch of the Southern Artisan Cheese Festival in Nashville, Tenn.
The Durham event won't be all talk. Coleff says to expect samples of many of the local cheeses highlighted in the discussion.
The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit the Durham County Library at durhamcountylibrary.org or call 560-0268.