A warm, tasty evening at Durham's Oval Park Grille | Food Feature | Indy Week
Pin It

A warm, tasty evening at Durham's Oval Park Grille 

Carolina Mountain Trout, with oyster mushrooms, corn and grilled kale, all topped with Tabasco fried onions at Oval Park Grille

Photo by Jeremy M. Lange

Carolina Mountain Trout, with oyster mushrooms, corn and grilled kale, all topped with Tabasco fried onions at Oval Park Grille

This is what Iceland tastes like.

With our spoons, we cut a vanilla fjord from a glacier of house-made ice cream. We carved skerries of cake from a lava bed of warm chocolate. If we could have, we would have swum in a thermal pool of Molten Chocolate Cake, but the ramekin was too small.

This dessert capped a meal at Oval Park Grille that rivaled those at swankier Durham restaurants. Open just two months, OPG, as it's abbreviated on the menu, occupies a comfortable middle link in the city's food chain; it is neither plankton nor whale. Downtown has become a construction zone of new restaurants, coffee shops and bars, only the hardiest of which will survive. Ninth Street, known for its funky eateries, is being run over by invasive species like Panera Bread and soon, Waffle House—the kudzu of restaurants. Meanwhile OPG has settled in the space formerly held by Broad Street Cafe. This block near Club Boulevard, which includes Watts Grocery, Palace International and Joe Van Gogh, still feels like Durham before hard hats became haute couture.

With clean lines and high ceilings, the dining room is inviting, not fussy. Long shafts of light brighten all but the darkest corners—and sometimes a dark corner is exactly what you want—while a long bar (flanked by two TVs, but they were unobtrusive with the sound off) invites the sociable. Once the oppressive humidity breaks, the covered front patio will be ideal for autumn evenings.

We started our meal with an ample salad of Tiny Farms lettuce, dotted with red and purple heirloom tomatoes—just delivered by a local farmer, according to our cheerful waitress Claire—cucumbers, feta cheese and tzatziki sauce. Fresh and crisp, the lettuce tasted like it had been pulled from the ground that day, as did the tomatoes. While inexperienced hands would have bathed the greens in tzatziki—why, to make us forget we're eating vegetables?—the amount of sauce was modest, enough to enhance but not overpower.

My husband ordered the grilled pork tenderloin, swaddled in a broth of summer succotash and sweet and sour tomatoes. Tender as a kiss, it submitted to a knife and fork.

"Outstanding. Lean, not one bit of fat," he said, nodding his head. "And the vegetables stand up to the pork."

If I were a meat-eater, I would have chosen the padron burger, if only for a vehicle for fried padron peppers, which are in season right now. Instead, I chose the grilled vegetable sandwich, a strata of zucchini, arugula and avocado. The olive oil, roasted garlic and lemon imbued the entire dish with a delicious earthy flavor, and the ingredients gave it textural diversity: crunchy, smooth and silky.

The only dim spot in the entire meal was the side of Mediterranean potato salad—although it gets points for skins-on red variety. Compared to the rest of the dishes, it tasted bland, or perhaps I was too full to enjoy it.

The wine, beer and liquor selection is well-curated, proving that a list need not be vast. The West Coast IPA was a respite from our daily beer, Two-Hearted Ale. The hops, not the alcohol, were the centerpiece of this beer, and tasted fresh, bright and green.

It was my husband's birthday, and to honor another year on the planet, we ordered a glass of 15-year-old Dalwhinnie. Since earlier in the meal, I had mentioned the occasion, the pour was probably more generous than usual. Smoky, amber, rich: Dalwhinnie is one of those Scotches that you hold in your mouth, back by the soft palate, in order to fully enjoy its depth.

The meal ended. Our plates were scraped clean. Not a drop of Dalwhinnie was left. We looked at the empty ramekin, not even a streak of chocolate remaining, and closed our eyes.

Lisa Sorg is the INDY Week editor. She can be reached at lsorg@indyweek.com.

Tags:

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

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

Comments

A great little family Italian restaurant. Good menu. Quiet setting. Good service. …

by Anthony Dean Morgan on Pulcinella's Italian Restaurant (Durham County)

The Refectory is no longer on the Duke Campus. Their new, permanent location is on Chapel Hill Blvd, and yes …

by Beth Owl's Daughter on The Refectory Cafe (Durham County)

Most Read

Most Recent Comments

Please make a Gluten Free version, for the many true Celiacs in this area.
I am disappointed at the lack …

by Joules on La Farm Bakery's Carolina Gold Rice Bread Shares Gems of the Past (Food Feature)

Oh Vitamin B once a week is no matter to these types . youd have to be a daily to …

by Tom Dee on It Took More Than Biscuits and Donuts to Make Rise the Triangle's Fastest Growing Food Empire (Food Feature)

Thy've Used Andy Seamans and then got rid of him . He put Rise om the Map and had them …

by Tom Dee on It Took More Than Biscuits and Donuts to Make Rise the Triangle's Fastest Growing Food Empire (Food Feature)

I wonder how many businesses the reporter has started herself? How many jobs has she provided to the community? …

by rbrown on What Do Lakewood Residents Think of Their Neighborhood's Newest High-End Restaurant? (Food Feature)

When I read this article, my immediate reaction was: "Here comes another Gordon Gecko type who's driving out the (in …

by rbrown on What Do Lakewood Residents Think of Their Neighborhood's Newest High-End Restaurant? (Food Feature)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation