Want Interesting Bar Food on East Franklin Street? Imbibe Has You. | Food Feature | Indy Week
Pin It

Want Interesting Bar Food on East Franklin Street? Imbibe Has You. 

The Simple Truth, The Soy Division, and a pint of Gizmo's IPA, at Chapel Hill's delightful Imbibe

Photo by Jeremy M. Lange

The Simple Truth, The Soy Division, and a pint of Gizmo's IPA, at Chapel Hill's delightful Imbibe

If you visit the new Chapel Hill restaurant Imbibe and don't order the chickpea sticks, re-evaluate your life and your choices. Trust me: you need these chickpea sticks.

They arrive looking like a Jenga game already in progress. About the size of really thick steak fries, they're much lighter, with a barely there shell wrapping the interior's delectable fluffiness. A mix of chickpea flour and salty ricotta, they're like samosas reshaped into divine rectangular cubes. Ramekins of warm marinara and chilly Greek yogurt ride shotgun on the plate, ready for dipping. After sampling both, I declared the yogurt the winner.

No, actually, that was me—I'd ordered the chickpea sticks.

Imbibe co-owner Mandey Brown describes the fare of her new restaurant, which sits below her East Franklin Street hideaway and pub Zog's, as "elevated bar food." She's right: the dishes are uniformly interesting but comforting, full of personality but not too off-putting to suffer from being on the student side of town. For a strip now overrun by the lowest-common-denominator chains, Imbibe offers a necessary new respite.

The Soy Division pizza, for instance, puts a rich peanut curry sauce beneath bell pepper, scallions, and ginger-soy tofu. The sauce delivers enough heat to tantalize, but only enough to overpower the most timid of palates. That pie satisfied this carnivore, but if you're skeptical, the Thai Me a River (they've got no shortage of puns at Imbibe) mostly subs chicken breast for tofu. And for the future, I've already got my eye on the Goodie MOBB and its house-made marinara, port-caramelized onions, bacon, and blue cheese—well, unless I opt for Pangea Tacos, stuffed with cucumber, cilantro, lemon, Greek yogurt, and either curried chicken or paneer.

I tried—and probably failed—to maintain some sense of decorum while continually wolfing down orders of chickpea sticks. A nearby diner who hailed, like Brown, from New Orleans didn't seem to mind; instead, he waxed glowingly about the authenticity of the Mumbo Jumbo Gumbo and expressed amazement that chef and co-owner Jedd Tyler hails from Oregon, not some swampy bayou.

It's another highlight of the small, selective menu. Otherwise, there are two types of salads, three variations on fries ("curly," "dirty," and "filthy," meaning plain, topped with meat and cheese, or served up with that gumbo), two more pizzas, and Swedish meatballs that fall in the "specialty" category. For dessert, you can choose between tiramisu and the Spumoni Chalice—"a normal amount of cherry, pistachio, and chocolate ice cream topped with pistachios and cherries, served in a ridiculously oversized goblet." Its visions of Bishop Don Juan wandering the streets of Chicago while wielding a giant sundae had me giggling ... well, maybe that was just the sugar.

click to enlarge The Chickpea Sticks at Imbibe consist of nutty chickpea flour and salty ricotta fried into sticks, with warm marinara or cold greek yogurt for dipping, - PHOTO BY JEREMY M. LANGE
  • Photo by Jeremy M. Lange
  • The Chickpea Sticks at Imbibe consist of nutty chickpea flour and salty ricotta fried into sticks, with warm marinara or cold greek yogurt for dipping,

A bar runs along one side of the narrow, rectangular space, with a dozen tables scattered amid the sleek, dark wood décor. Behind the bar, sixteen taps dispense wine (one red, one white), cider (three selections), and a nice array of beers—The Guilty Party ESB from Gibb's Hundred Brewing, for example, and Saranac's S'more Porter.

Despite Zog's upstairs, Imbibe, as the name suggests, takes this part of the business as seriously as the food. Evan Crouch, resident Cicerone and retail manager, is training Imbibe's staff in the Cicerone program, designed to create more knowledgeable beer providers. Along with what's on tap, there's a small retail corner consisting of a couple of sets of tall shelves and a refrigerated case. You can drink any of the beers or wines from there on the spot.

If you're wondering about the rationale behind opening one bar below another established haunt you already own, know that Imbibe and Zog's complement each other like yin and yang. Already, people are showing up at Imbibe to have dinner and a beer before migrating upstairs to cap off the night at Zog's. One night, I recognized more than one face that I had seen a short time earlier downstairs.

I see the appeal. Where Imbibe is streamlined, Zog's is a cluttered mélange of pool tables, dartboards, pop culture signifiers, and New Orleans flair. ("Welcome to the inside of my mind," Brown says, laughing.) Imbibe has beer on tap but no liquor, while Zog's has an excellent liquor selection, including a surprising set of Scotches, but no beer on tap. Imbibe opens at 11 a.m. and strives to be "study-friendly," at least until the sun goes down. At night, expect jazz, either on the sound system or, on Mondays, live. Zog's, on the other hand, doesn't open until 5 p.m. Don't go expecting to study.

Zog's patrons can order from Imbibe, too, and have it brought upstairs, an excellent remedy for billiards-induced hunger.

Just remember: whether you're upstairs or downstairs, you need those chickpea sticks.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Over and Under"

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 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

This is what community is FOR! Many thanks to Ms. Miel.

by Anne Havisham on A Durham Crowdfunding Campaign Still Needs $50,000 to Pay Down Student Lunch Debt (Food Feature)

@irene_krys We apologize for not catching that. The link is now in the story.

https://www.gofundme.com/pay-down-durham-s…

by victoria_foodeditor on A Durham Crowdfunding Campaign Still Needs $50,000 to Pay Down Student Lunch Debt (Food Feature)

Why in the world would you post something like this, with that headline, and NOT give the link for contributions?

by irene_krys on A Durham Crowdfunding Campaign Still Needs $50,000 to Pay Down Student Lunch Debt (Food Feature)

Sad to see the lie repeated that U.S. citizens won't do the work. Yes they will if the employer pays …

by citizenshame on The Immigrants Packing Your Butterball Turkey Are under Threat (Food Feature)

In a state where minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, there is always a waiting list for jobs at Butterball. …

by easternnc on The Immigrants Packing Your Butterball Turkey Are under Threat (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