James Beard Award-winning chef Andrea Reusing has partnered with the developers of The Durham, a new independent boutique hotel in downtown Durham, to run the hotel’s restaurant and rooftop bar.
The venture represents new territory for Reusing, who was a rising star chef in the late ‘90s at Enoteca Vin in Raleigh and went on to solidify her reputation as owner-chef of the acclaimed Lantern in Chapel Hill.
“I never imagined I would open a hotel restaurant,” says Reusing, Then she was shown a picture of the Home Savings Bank building, an elegant six-story mid-century modern structure that was to be home to the hotel and restaurant, and she was hooked.
The food at The Durham is a marked departure from the contemporary Asian menu at Lantern, though the chef has repeatedly demonstrated her versatility with special dinners that explore a variety of cuisines. The common thread, regardless of cuisine, is a strong focus on local farms and sustainably-produced foods.
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At The Durham, that focus is filtered through the lens of classic American and American regional flavors — elevated, naturally, by Reusing’s trademark knack for treating humble dishes with the same respect as luxurious ones.
Whole hog scrapple is given a place on the starter list alongside local mushroom soup with oloroso sherry. A Southern riff on caviar showcases N.C. trout roe on ice with Durham sour cream, red onions and locally milled buckwheat cakes.
The entree offering continues the theme. Steak Diane sits cheek-by-jowl with fried wild catfish. Local chicken, roasted to order and served with field peas, shares space with a dry-aged bone-in rib-eye — which you’ll want to supplement with a couple of vegetable sides. Beef fat French fries for sure, and maybe some charred okra or pole beans with country ham.
For now, the restaurant at The Durham (315 E. Chapel Hill St., Durham; 919-768-8831; thedurham.com/dining) is open for dinner, Tuesday-Saturday. Hours will expand to include dinner nightly on Nov. 1, with plans to add lunch and Sunday brunch down the road.
In the meantime, a full breakfast (Anson Mills oatmeal with almond milk, dates and roasted pecans; smoked bacon from The Pig in Chapel Hill; house-baked pastries) is served daily from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. And you can further sample Reusing’s wares (beef tartare, fried chicken with bread and butter pickles, oysters on the half shell “from the South and beyond”) at the rooftop bar, nightly from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Greg Cox, the longtime N&O restaurant critic, also covers restaurant news. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.