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Jun 3, 2008 08:16 AM

Need Leisurely Saturday Lunch Spot in Durham

I have about 10 - 15 folks from a travel website (Virtual Tourist) that will converge in Durham the end of August. Looking for a restaurant that will accommodate a group, not try to shoo us out quickly and yet be tasty and not high-end pricey. We will linger and eat... and probably drink.

I've seen EXCELLENT restaurants listed on several threads for the Durham area, but we will need just the right spot for this chatty group!

Any suggestions?

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  1. Federal, James Joyce, Alivias....all have pretty decent food, good prices, and full on bar atmosphere, with outside seating too.

    I want to say Toast also, because while they may be small...they have an entire city plaza in front of their doors with tables and benches. and just a few steps to their left is Bull Mc Cabes, a town bar that also serves good food!

    our food lovers are drunks, and our drunks love to eat. ;)

    4 Replies
    1. re: TSQ75

      While I love the Federal and Joyce, it can be smoky if you're sitting inside. At the end of August, it might be too hot and humid to sit outside. As a plus though, the Federal offers a $5 soup/sandwich lunch special and has a great beer selection (good NC selections).

      I was going to suggest Toast, but also agree that it could be too small. Dain's Place on Ninth would pose the same problem, but they do have great burgers and a non-smoking bar environment, with a great selection of bottled microbrews.

      Tyler's is another option with great beer selection and ample space, but the food quality and service can be spotty at times.

      Watt's Grocery has great drinks and appetizers, that, when ordered and shared tapa-style is a relatively affordable way to taste their great food. It probably gets busy for 12-1 lunch, but I bet a later lunch would allow for more lingering. I've lingered there for breakfast and dinner before with no problems.

      As a tip, at both the Federal and Tyler's, they serve half-pours of draft beers which, IMO, allows for greater sampling that is less intoxicating and less filling.

      1. re: sarahUNC

        Many thanks to you both. "TAPAS" sounds like a plan. That way folks can still chat and eat and not have hunker down for a big ole entree.

        Hate to be a pain, but do you happen to know if Watt's Grocery is smoke free?

        1. re: hexepatty

          i think it probably likely wouldnt be nearly as "hip" if it wasnt

          1. re: hexepatty


            I don't think you'll be disappointed. I went there about 2 months ago with a foodie/beer person from NYC who raved about Watt's afterwards. It is Southern food with an edge, but without being too pretentious. Plus, the chef/owner uses local products as much as possible.


      2. If you don't mind a more self-serve environment, check out Parker and Otis. The sandwiches are fabulous, and you can buy a bottle of wine or beer and enjoy it on the deck. (at least I one has ever stopped me!)

        You won't feel pressured by any waitron, that's for sure.

        3 Replies
        1. re: peetoteeto

          One of the local Durham members suggested "Piedmont"...

          Any thoughts on this restaurant?!

          1. re: hexepatty

            piedmont is wonderful...and quite a great atmosphere...but slightly more high end on price. I love hunkering down at the bar with a friend and having awesome apps and drinks...but i dont know how a crowd would do.

            they do have a nice lil mezzanine, and if you call ahead and its in the middle of the day, you might have a good chance of reserving it...

            1. re: hexepatty

              here's their website, (actually a blog) the main body of the blog is their constantly changing menu, and on the side, you'll find their lunch menu.

              it really is lovely, and they have a nice selection of apps, and first courses, cheeses, housemade pates and sausage, soups, salads, bruscetta's, etc. also lovely house cocktails (i love the Rose Marie


              but it is decidedly slightly more upscale, while still very relaxed and casual...they do have a mezzanine, and at times of day when it is a bit slower, you can call ahead and see about possibly reserving that mezzanine for a lil group...

          2. Watt's is unique and I think probably less pricey at lunch. If I were going somewhere that generally closes between lunch and dinner I would call ahead and ask about the whole want-to-hang-out-and-not-be-shooed-away business. If I were going somewhere for a late lunch and wanted to hang and drink, I would definitely go to the Federal (the back room is not as hip, but it's smoke-free). Tyler's is excellent for the beer and the location. The food is fine, if you want a decent burger, but Watt's and the Fed both make more interesting food and use local ingredients. The Fed is in a slightly more interesting part of town for new visitors to Durham. I like the food at Piedmont a lot, but my experience has been that they're shooers. Again, you could always call ahead and make sure they don't do that.

            4 Replies
            1. re: suse

              Thought I would report back. Chose the Federal. Good thing I knew in advance about the service being somewhat lackluster - but with our group of 11, I really can't complain too much.

              The food was very good. Fresh, inspired and reasonable. Can't beat that combo. All were delighted with what they ordered. Many thanks for all your suggestions!

              1. re: hexepatty

                We had dinner there the other night and it knocked my socks off. And, maybe surprisingly, the service was good too. Wish we had something this good of this type in Chapel Hill (sadly, Milltown isn't anywhere close to this good).

                1. re: LulusMom

                  Must admit, not knowing Durham at all, the outside of the restaurant was a bit odd. I thought it was a college hang out bar! But man, what a surprise in the kitchen! ; )

                  1. re: hexepatty

                    it's both! LOL

                    actually, i dont think i would ever venture to call it a "Restaurant"
                    moreso than a bar with good food...