Our roundup of soon-to-be and recently opened restaurants at American Tobacco Campus
By Hannah Lee
Restaurants across Durham continue to open their doors more than a year and a half into the coronavirus pandemic – sometimes because their concepts adapted to the new normal, but more often because their owners saw no other choice but to forge ahead. There’s no better example of this than what’s currently happening at American Tobacco Campus, which has recently had a hot streak of foodie news. The national historic district lost beloved favorites like Saladelia and Only Burger last year, leaving vacant spots that, thankfully, new restaurants are filling. Here’s what to expect so far:
Parker & Otis: We said it once and we’ll say it again – the 14-year-old cafe, wine shop and retail haven brings out the fun-loving child in every customer. Owner Jennings Brody announced in September 2020 that her popular store would move down the road from the Brightleaf District to the former location of Tyler’s Taproom at the end of the year. Though smaller than its previous location by about 3,000 square feet, the move provided Jennings the opportunity to give the store brand a new face lift. Expect the same offerings – chests of candy, piles of puzzles and all the knickknacks you didn’t know you needed – but in a brighter (and more pink!) space with easier parking access. Oh, and don’t worry, the No. 9 – the shrimp BLT, a crowd favorite – is still on the menu.
Press Coffee, Crepes and Cocktails: The corner of the Diamond View III building at ATC has gone through many iterations, including a putt-putt pop-up, a barbecue restaurant and a bar and wing joint. Now, it’s home to Durham’s first and only crepe-focused restaurant. The 3,100-square-foot space is open for weekday breakfast and lunch and weekend brunch, with a menu boasting European-inspired coffees, crepes, salads, sandwiches and craft cocktails.
QueenBurger: Sean Umstead and Michelle Vanderwalker flipped the concept of their cocktail bar inside out and opened the burger pop-up in the parking lot behind Kingfisher as means to survive the pandemic. Little did they know that their double patty “smash burgers” and beet-rich vegan and veggie burgers would be wildly successful. So much so, that the idea of closing the pop-up once the cocktail bar was back up and running was not an option. Their 1,849-square-foot brick-and-mortar will open in the same building as Press and include a 15-foot cocktail bar as well as floor-to-ceiling foldable windows to create that same open-air setting that resonated with diners at the initial pop-up.
Five Star: The most recent bit of ATC news (just announced this past week!) is that this longtime Raleigh-based Chinese restaurant is opening in the former Cuban Revolution location. It plans to offer a similar menu to its original location – think crab fat caramel wings and Taiwanese pork belly buns – as well as an extensive cocktail program. Redesign plans also include an enviable patio directly adjacent to the Lucky Strike Water Tower.
Zweli’s Ekhaya: It feels like it was just yesterday when Chef Zweli Williams and her husband, Leonardo Williams, opened the Zimbabwean restaurant Zweli’s off U.S. 15-501 in 2018. The gamble was well worth it, as the restaurant garnered Best of Durham awards year after year. Now the couple is ready to spice things up yet again and open an African tapas restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Saladelia in the Crowe Lobby. Zweli envisions high-end small plates focused on Bantu-fusion, a mix of flavors and delicacies from the Bantu indigenous ethnicities across Africa. In fact, the couple heads to Zimbabwe next month to further hone and add to the Ekhaya concept.