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Sep 19, 2007 06:53 AM

Watts Grocery in Durham, NC

Has anyone heard when it will open? I saw it mentioned on the Slow food Triangle site and checked out their web site. It looks very good. No word on an opening date, though.


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  1. Matt, I think they are aiming for late september, early october. This was discussed in a post last week, i think, so you can probably find more info there. I think everyone is looking forward to another exciting restaurant in Durham.

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. I'm adopting this as the official Watts Grocery thread. The other thread, with significantly more responses, appears to be more about anticipation for the restaurant. And the title is spelled wrong, after all. I hope other posters will follow my lead.

        So anyway, I do have the scoop on Watts Grocery, however preliminary that scoop may be. I was at the F&F soft-opening tonight. To be clear, Watts IS NOT open to the public as of right now. The plan is for this weekend, but that's not a guarantee. I piss off enough restaurateurs calling them for opening dates and showing up at doorsteps unannounced (though not in this case) that I would rather no one try to scope this place out on my accord.

        Given that this was a soft-opening, I'll refrain from too much discussion until a later time to let the staff have a chance to change anything they may wish to. I will say, the space actually surprised me with how nice, welcoming, and large it is. There's a nice bar dining area, which I really like. The presence of a well-selected, if brief, list of wines, beers, and cocktails (I enjoyed seeing the Sidecar, in particular) is also well-appreciated. Too often restaurants ignore one of the trifecta, and the dining experience often suffers.

        The menu in its current guise, which I will comment on because it is posted online, maintains some Nasher-esque favorites but also goes further. The proteins are well-sourced--porky pork, tender quail--and for some reason whatever butter the restaurant was serving was crazy delicious. If prices do not change significantly from what I saw tonight, everything was very fair.

        The service was relatively organized for what must have been a hectic evening for the entire staff. Although small quirks will hopefully be ironed out, there was a genuine sincerity and excitement that pervaded throughout the entire staff. One of my biggest problems with restaurants in the area is staff that seem so disconnected, either through apathy or ignorance, from the food they serve. Watts Grocery exudes honesty, and I hope this will continue.

        Overall, I came away with a very favorable impression of this new addition to the dining scene. So close to campus, it presents a great alternative to 9th St. or Hillsborough Rd. eateries. I'm extremely excited to watch the restaurant continue to grow.

        I will be back frequently to explore brunch and late-night options. The prospect of fried chicken gizzards and a real (non-Cookout) burger at 1 AM as a break from other intoxicating pursuits is incredibly exciting. I feel like I'll be buying people lots of meals in exchange for rides.

        3 Replies
        1. re: BryanZ

          Sounds promising. Thanks, Bryan. I looked at the menus posted on their website and the impression I got was that they were going to try to serve well-sourced, high quality simply prepared food rather than complex dishes. Smart approach. I'm sure they'll broaden their menu once they get into their groove.

          1. re: bbqme

            I had the same impression. Good local food, prepared with a kind of Southern twist. I aree with your take on the approach - done right, it has the makings of a great restaurant. Can't wait to try. My mom is visiting next week. I think that is where I'll take her.

          2. re: BryanZ

            I wish my experience had been as positive as yours! When we arrived for dinner last weekend, the restaurant was really busy. A pleasant hostess greeted us at the door; and we decided to get a drink at the bar while waiting for our table. The bar was also packed and there were only two bartenders, so I assumed we would be waiting for awhile. To my (happy) surprise, the lady bartender greeted us (also very pleasantly!) right away and made my husband and me each a drink. His mojito (apparently a house specialty) was fabulous; and I think she made the best cosmopolitan I've ever had. She offered us menus and was even able to give some [excellent] recommendations for food-pairings. After a bit, we were shown to our table. Sadly, that is where our wonderful experience ended.

            The waitress service was excruciatingly slow. When we inquired about some of the of the entrees, we were informed, rather rudely, that 'they were out of that, anyway'. She (the server) seemed to be quite annoyed that we had asked, at all, and seemed like she couldn't get away from our table quickly enough. We ordered an appetizer - fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade, which were delicious - and placed our orders for dinner. Our entrees took almost 35-40 mins to come out after we had finished our appetizer. The wine was an excellent compliment to the food (we had taken the advice of the lady behind the bar), but our glasses sat empty for quite awhile before the server even thought to ask if we'd like another round (and the water we asked for never showed up).

            All in all, the food was good-very good, but took a VERY long time, and the atmosphere has a casual elegance about it. The table service came with quite an attitude, when it came at all, but the knowledge of (SOME) of the staff seems to be quite extensive. If my husband and I decide to give this place another try, rest assured--WE'LL STAY AT THE BAR!

          3. It's now open. Just got an email.

            4 Replies
            1. re: termite

              Fantastic. Thanks for the heads up. Is anyone else having trouble with the website? I can't seem to see the menus.

              1. re: LulusMom

                Some of the menus aren't up yet (thought last time I checked the dinner one was up). You may need to enable pop-ups in your browser.

                We're going tonight, I'll report back tomorrow. If their menus are printed on paper like Piedmont's, I'll ask for one so I can share :)

              2. re: termite

                Per the Noble press release, this place seats 110. For a neighborhood spot, that's pretty damn big.

                1. re: BryanZ

                  I went for lunch yesterday. I had the turkey sandwich with chow-chow. I have to say, any restaurant that will serve chow-chow will get five stars from me. The sandwich was awesome, the chow-chow was fresh, and the hand-cut fries were great. I strongly recommend the onion rings because the sauce that accompanies them is out of this world.

              3. We had dinner there last night, between around 7:00 and 9:00. It was never 100% full during that time, but I'd say it peaked at around 90% full, not counting the bar-table section at the front.

                It being their first official night, I was ready to cut them a lot of slack, but I really didn't have to. The service was fine, especially for a busy Friday night, and all the food came out plated well & at the appropriate temp, etc.

                The three of us had the following dishes:

                Local Greens tossed with Slow Roasted Tomatoes, Roasted Red Peppers, Spiced Pecans, Roasted Garlic and Balsamic Vinaigrette: This was actually the standout of the evening for me. The greens were just so fresh, and the balance between them, the roasted tomatoes & peppers, and the dressing was perfect. And! the portion was a normal salad portion, not the giant-plate-of-bagged-greens portion that you get a lot of places nowadays. (this was actually a drawback in this instance, however, as all 3 of us really liked it & would've loved more. If it were just mine, though, it would've been just the right size.)

                Fried Green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade: the breading was very light, lighter than that at the Barbeque Joint (and lighter than C's dad's recipe as well, she said). It really let the flavor of the tomatoes dominate, which was ideal. I didn't manage to get enough of the remoulade to be able to comment.

                Glenn’s house country terrine served with house pickles, grainy mustard, baguette toasts, and seasonal compote. : The country terrine (roughly similar in size & composition to the country pate's served at Federal and Piedmont) wasn't up to the standard set by Piedmont, but that's a really high standard. Was as good or better than a similar terrine I had at Bonne Soiree. The house pickles were nicely sweet-savory--not full-blown sweet pickles, but rather just enough sweetness to give them complexity.

                Grilled NC Wahoo with Slow-Cooked Field Peas and James’ Grilled Corn and Sungold Tomato Salad. : I didn't get my hands on enough of this to be able to comment, but my companions thought the peas & the corn-and-tomato salad (*not* a peas-corn-tomato salad, which I think they would've preferred) hadn't had enough attention paid to them. The bite I tasted could've used salt. HOWEVER, Watts Grocery, to their great credit, have salt and pepper shakers on the table, so if you need to adjust the salt level in a dish, you can do so.

                Rockfish Muddle with Onions, Potatoes, and Carrots in a Bacon studded broth and served with Braised Greens and Hush Puppies. : OK, first things first: the hush puppies were AMAZING. incredibly light and fluffy. They were the big-round-ball variety, which I tend to avoid at BBQ and seafood joints, as they're usually the density of golf balls. These were the complete opposite; they nearly floated off the table. No idea how they got them so light, but they were the hit of the evening for our table. The rest of the dish was great as well--clearly a lot of fresh quality ingredients, brought together in the service of plain/simple comfort-style food (without the heavy salty/fattyness that "comfort" seems to connote). If it would ever get cold around here, this would be a great cold-weather stew.

                We weren't planning to have dessert, but then we looked at the menu, and realized we couldn't NOT try the Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding with coffee creme and coffee sauce. NOR the root beer float with cinnamon ice cream, NOR the fruit & berry crostada with ginger ice cream.

                I have to say, I found the Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding to be simultaneously irresistible and appalling. It made me feel about the same as I feel when I'm on the fourth KK of a half-dozen-KK binge. The coffee sauce (a coffee syrup, basically) was like liquid crack, too. Everyone at the table expressed a desire to have it piped directly to our homes.

                I didn't get enough of the other desserts to be able to comment, but my companions thought the ice creams stacked up favorably with our other local ice-cream faves (Maple View & Jujube, basically).

                Decor-wise, it's just a nice simple space. Bar on one side, banquette down the other side, a few 4-tops down the middle (which makes the walking space a little tight between the front & the back, but not unpleasantly so . . . we were seated at one of these middle tables & I didn't feel like I was getting bumped as people walked by). After the bar ends the room widens out & there are quite a few more tables in the back. It was loud-ish when full last night, but not nearly as bad as a lot of our other local faves.

                The website says they're doing late-night Thur-Sat, but I thought the menus last night said *every* night (which seems crazy, so I assume I'm misremembering that).

                I will *definitely* be going back, for dinner, yes, but most assuredly also for lunch/brunch/late-night. I don't even know if Durham needed or deserved another awesome local/neighborhood restaurant of this quality, but I'm not going to complain (especially not with all those barstools & bar tables hopefully ensuring I'll be able to get a quick casual bite even after the word gets out).

                Watts Grocery
                1116 Broad Street, Durham, NC 27705

                2 Replies
                1. re: rossgrady

                  The menu does say everynight, which I also found strange. Sounds crazy, but maybe they're trying to make it an industry hang-out. Is there enough of a critical mass of Durham restaurant folks to support such a place like in a major city?

                  And, yes, the bar will too become my friend.

                  1. re: atornquist

                    I have to say, the menu looks like one of the more promising ones I've seen in the Triangle. I'm excited and will stop on by for dinner sometime this coming week.