The growing commercial hub of the West End neighborhood, located around the intersection of Kent and West Chapel Hill streets, is set for a new restaurant this year with the team behind Nosh in the midst of renovating a 61-year-old service station on West Chapel Hill Street.
The restaurant, which will be called Grub, will be the fourth project from Durham-born restaurateur Wendy Woods, who co-owns Piper’s in the Park, Nosh and Jo Rae Cafe.
Woods described the new project as a “neighborhood watering hole/upscale diner” with a blue-collar feel. The restaurant is expected to open at the beginning of May.
Getting a restaurant in the West End has been a two-year journey for Woods and partner Stacey Poston. The two have lived a few blocks away from where the restaurant is going for more than 20 years.
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"We've been conceptualizing (Grub) for a while, then we were looking for real estate and then we were really trying to get on this street right by our house,” Poston said.
The new restaurant will transform an old Pure gas station that has sat vacant for many years. Woods and Poston worked with Self-Help Credit Union to acquire the property, which needed more than $60,000 worth of environmental remediation due to soil damage from the property’s gas station days.
Durham-based architectural firm Ellen Cassilly Architecture and Georgia-based design firm Bunker Design were tasked with remaking the 2,400-square-foot space to feature indoor and outdoor seating as well as a rooftop bar. The interior design features several details from local businesses, including upholstery from Raleigh Denim and metalwork from local artist Cassandra Gooding.
The customized space will also feature a wood-fired grill, a luxury that Woods hasn’t had since she worked in Atlanta.
“I used (a wood-fired grill) in Atlanta, and I couldn't quite get the space at Nosh to do it there,” Woods said. “I said if I ever get the chance to (put in a wood-fired grill), I am going to because everything you put on that grill is exceptional. When you own your own space you get to do a few extra things.”
The wood-fired grill will allow Grub to operate differently than Nosh, offering rib-eye steak, an 11-day smoked pastrami and a Brunswick stew, which is a family recipe Woods has been attempting to perfect for four years.
Grub is one of two businesses, along with Local Yogurt, that are renovating former service stations on West Chapel Hill Street with the help of Self-Help. The addition of those two businesses, along with a thriving Durham Co-op Market across the street, is helping make the area a destination, Poston said.
“There’s definitely synergy,” she said. “Those are all female-run businesses, and we like the energy that is going on down here. The Cookery has got some great stuff going on, you’ve got the Emily Krzyzewski Center and you have the Pauli Murray House that is nationally recognized now.
“All that energy is building off each other and is quickly making it a destination.”
Poston added that a group of merchants in the neighborhood is also attempting to rename the West Chapel Hill Street corridor the Pauli Murray District.
Woods agreed that the neighborhood’s growth in recent years, mixed with students from Duke University and young professionals, has made the area conducive to launching a new restaurant. She added that being able to put her fourth restaurant in the neighborhood she has lived in since the 1990s is a “dream come true.”
“This is definitely a statement piece,” Woods said. “Did I ever think I would end up with four restaurants? No, but life takes you where it takes you.”