Durham Alivia's Bistro
Has anyone been yet? What are your thoughts? I stopped by just to peek and liked the look. The menus look interesting and the wine list seems fun.
I've enjoyed myself the two times I've been (once for lunch and once for drinks). My entire lunch was too salty however -- even the salad dressing. Me no like to much NaCl.
The entire inside space is non-smoking. Awesome! I can enjoy a beer without smelling like smoke.
For a much more complete review, check out fellow foodie Brian Z's musings:
We stopped by for drinks & an app last night. The draft beer prices for their selection of 8 micros & imports are in the $5-7 range, which is kind of the direction things have been heading, but it's still slightly jarring to not see any good beers for $4 or $4.50.
We shared a leek, vidalia onion & chanterelle tartlet, which took a good long time (~20 minutes) to appear, despite having been ordered at around 6, before the dinner rush really started. When it arrived, the rim of the crust was a deep brown (not burnt, but dark enough that it couldn't have spent much more time in the oven without protection), but the interior wasn't set, it was runny. The ingredients & the seasoning were nice, and the crust was actually really good, so I'm going to chalk this up to still working the kinks out.
I have to echo what peetoteeto said about being able to get a good beer on that block without enduring the smoke (though the back room at Federal is nonsmoking, it's also kinda bleak). The decor & the atmosphere at Alivia's are kind of Glenwood South-y, but I still felt more comfortable there than at Tyler's, which continues to feel completely devoid of humanscale comfort, even after having been open for a year.
I continue to be impressed at the ambition of Durham restaurateurs . . . Alivia's is going to be open from like 7:00 a.m. til 2:00 a.m. 7 days a week (or so they claim). Between them, lunch & late-night at Piedmont, and cafe stuff at Rue Cler (albeit just on weekdays), Downtown Durham is suddenly maybe way *too* outfitted for actual urbandwellers. Hopefully they can all hang on to these ambitious plans until more people actually move down there . . .
The food is the most creative of the "new crop" and quite promising. Lots of little quirks to be ironed out, but its a promising, albeit ambitious, concept. Some stuff is indeed over-salted, and I LOVE salt. Based on what Ross has written, it seems they're still working out proper cooking times. I was not able to visit Piedmont in its first couple opening weeks and cannot compare, but I felt as though Rue Cler was running more smoothly in its early, early days. The scope of Alivia's is much broader, however, so it might take more time. Again, I'm counting on the creative food to set this place apart.
A friend of mine had a somewhat unpleasant experience there that I was not a part of. We'll have to see how this pans out.
That link above ran in print this past Thursday, so it is current.
They still have not worked out the kinks unfortunately. Slow, slow service. Food uneven and often overcooked. Nice atmosphere for sure, but general sense of disarray Report from a friend who had dinner there a few nights ago, "Worse than disappointing." For a sure thing, better to head over to Vin Rouge on Ninth Street. Quality consistent, atmosphere less self-conscious. Service prompt and professional and bistro staples have pizazz.
I added this to a Piedmont thread a couple of weeks ago but got no response, here's my Alivia's experience:
Large crowd and an impressive-looking menu (the lunch and late-night appeared especially good). However, for my situation, it was all down-hill after the drink order. (And I understand they just recently opened and that was certainly taken into account, however...) The first courses were decent: pork bone soup and a whole leaf romaine salad (complete with a cold, stiff "poached" egg). Then we waited for 45 minutes for our second course, all the while never being asked if we needed a drink (or anything) or given any info on when we might get our food. When we did inquire what was happening our server immediately offered the explanation of kitchen mix-up (which we did not doubt, just didn't understand why no one would let us know) and an offer to speak to the manager. We declined and finally received our plates. My companion had a tartlet which was rather enjoyable but I had a truly awful and deceptively-worded dish. The menu listed "spice-rubbed half chicken" with chickpea fritters, vegetables and fried okra. There was no okra and the chicken was baked and extremely heavily breaded, not to mention bland except for the taste of salt. I literally had to play "find the chicken" and once I had, my plate was covered in castaway breading (which most resembled the coating of a cheap seafood place). There was no "spice" and the whole thing was a $15 rip-off. The service did not improve from there either, no asking of how things were (especially troublesome in light of how long we waited). Most other diners appeared to be enjoying things and the place was bustling. I'm curious to know what experiences other diners have had there. Until then I am very reluctant to return.
And I agree about the beer prices, too high. The late-night menu looks tasty but they seem to only want to serve that after 11pm. And $9 corrected coffees? no thanks.