Downtown Durham continues to expand and brings culture, great dining, and retains its original feel with preserved Mid-century modern buildings restored to their original luster and lending the downtown its own identity. One example of such architecture is The Durham Hotel, a 53-room structure including five suites, plus a rooftop penthouse with private terrace. It was originally the Home Savings Bank designed to its present day aesthetic by Commune Design, while James Beard award-winning chef Andrea Reusing of Lantern fame is at the helm of the hotel’s signature restaurant.
The rooftop bar is a hotspot where the younger set flocks to in the evening, and serves as a raw bar, opening in the late afternoon, with hand-crafted cocktails, seasonal brews, and sweeping city views. Keep an eye on the hotel’s events schedule online for not-to-be-missed happenings taking place on site.
We attended one such event–Ari Weinzweig & Andrea Reusing in Conversation: Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading–an evening with Andrea hosting serial entrepreneur Ari Weinzweig, best know for his flagship specialty market, Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and what Inc. Magazine calls, “The coolest small company in America.”
During the event, Ari sat casually crosslegged as he shared a few leadership nuggets from his astonishing success. Number one rule, make a point to learn everyone’s name, and he does, all 700 employees of his. He also advised to stay humble, remember your roots. You may often find Ari in the dining room of his restaurants (yes, he has a few of those too) filling guests’ water glasses, bussing tables, and in the back doing dishes.
“[Zingerman’s is] a national treasure. It is the center of my gastro-deli universe.” – Mario Batali
Admitting to being an introvert, he commits to a few solo hours of journaling every day. He has authored a series of books that gets any entrepreneur, or one with an entrepreneurial spirit, in the game with a leg up in any endeavor they choose to pursue.
Happening this month, The Durham Hotel is playing host to The Art of Cool festival coming up April 28-30. Their mission is to “present, promote, and preserve jazz-influenced music.” They are a nonprofit jazz-presenting organization bringing together a diverse mix of people, cultures, creativity, and experience while delivering musical concerts in unique venues throughout the Raleigh/Durham area. A three-day melange of artists featuring Common, Rakim, Revive Big Band, George Clinton, and dozens more artists, see full lineup on the site. Venues are scattered throughout the Durham area and span from the rooftop at The Durham Hotel, DPAC, and intimate spaces such as The Blue Note Grill.
If you miss it, the hotel holds a monthly jazz night presented by Art of Cool on Thursdays from 6-9 pm. Other gatherings include a disco brunch, rooftop yoga, cocktail classes, and foodie events.
No leisure weekend is complete without a few tastes of the locale. A unique touch of the Durham Hotel is that the mini bar items are all from local purveyors and include good-for-you granola bars, chocolate bars, ginger beer, and even peanut butter.
A recommended stop for an afternoon snack or lunch is Toast. The owners are Italian which shines through on the menu offerings, everything from the wine we sipped, Casina Barisel Dolcetto from the Piedmont region, warm marinated olives, crostinis with imaginative toppings, and paninis, to the writing (literally) on the wall giving three definitions of the word toast. The Italian interpretation is a paninoteca, an authentic sandwich shop found throughout Italy. Simple yet exceptional menu offerings with friendly, informed, and efficient counter service. We tried the cauliflower soup finished with a drizzle of olive oil and the perfectly-dressed side salad with shaved pecorino cheese.
For weekend brunch, pay a visit to Scratch around the corner. Come with a sweet tooth for homemade pies and other bakery items. The well-rounded menu items include what we hailed as the freshest, most flavorful spinach salad ever, made beautiful with seasonal watermelon radish slices. Other offerings include Shak shuka (trust us), duck egg sandwich, green tomato torta, plus many more enticing options, and the coffee is equally as good.
Reasons to Return
For music buffs, a visit to the Carolina Soul record store is a must-do. Next door, I spotted another Italian-influenced establishment, a wine bar called Bar Brunello serving light bites to accompany their interesting and diverse wines.
Next time we’ll stay put and dine at The Durham. The all-day coffee shop and lobby lounge area transition into a full-service restaurant with Andrea Reusing holding the kitchen’s reigns. She uses locally-sourced produce, items from local food purveyors, and high-quality items from partner/friends like Zingerman’s. The menu changes seasonally, so check in often.