The quest for good noodles in Durham can lead you down various paths, including Juju on 9th Street and Dashi downtown. Both are highly acclaimed, but for something unique, head to the Brightleaf District for a hybrid bakery and noodle shop. Rose’s Noodles, Dumplings & Sweets was born in 2017, the result of Justin and Katie Meddis’ dream of opening a restaurant where they could fuse their skills in the kitchen together to produce a welcoming concept for people of all backgrounds. Worry not: they manage to execute the idea impeccably.
Adjacent to a fencer’s club and across from Brightleaf Square, Rose’s is unconventional in location but powerful in presence. With a black and white color palette from outside, it almost seems retro; a place forgotten by time and monotonous in content if you evaluate it on its exterior. Walk inside and it’s a completely different story. A bustling space permeated by the aromas of fresh baked goods and spicy peppers, with cooks bustling behind a counter and conversation permeating through the air like clouds. You need not walk far for a seat, as it’s likely less than five steps from the door. Evaluate the menu and choose wisely — though it would be hard to go wrong with any of your options.
Feeling particularly healthy that afternoon, I opted for a vegetarian dish of belt noodles, hoping they would be hearty enough to satisfy my hunger and delicious enough to leave a lasting impression. I’m happy to report that it was indeed a delicious meal, with all components fusing seamlessly together to create what felt like chicken noodle soup’s more solid, spicier relative. It should be no surprise that the noodles at Rose’s are excellent: it’s in the name, so they better be good, right? They were chewy upon first biting into them but then soft and smooth at the touch of my tongue.
They acted as an agent for conveying the ingredients that populated the rest of the bowl — a harmony of mushrooms, peppers, spices and a spicy sesame sauce. All the veggies were well placed in the bowl, with each one playing a distinct role in accompanying the noodles. The noodles absorbed the spicy sesame sauce with grace and finesse, laced with the deep notes of sesame and hint of pungency from an added pepper. Combine all these components and you arrive at a bowl of pure comfort, with each noodle acting as a sort of blanket to envelop your emotions, hugging your soul and squeezing it with the warmth of a heater in the middle of the winter. Go when it’s colder, and the feeling will be more authentic.
But the noodles are only one-third of the eatery’s name. The sweets, in the same vein, are akin to a warm embrace, only they’re served to you from behind a glass display. I opted for a blueberry crème brûlée tart and found it to be a wonderful way to tie up the meal. The top of the tart was beautifully caramelized, and the interior a jubilant smooth and fluffy amalgam of custard and blueberry. The combination of the delicate crunch of the caramelized top, the smooth-as-butter custard interior and the bright sweetness of the berries works perfectly. Yet, this will likely be gone if you visit. But that’s part of the beauty of Rose’s: the offering of baked goods changes regularly, making it unlikely to find the same pastries a few weeks after you try one with the exception of some mainstays. Just be sure to snag at least one before you take off. You won’t regret it.
Rose’s has the potential to become a Durham mainstay that can withstand the test of time. With a unique business model and a soothing taste, I can’t foresee them dishing out any subpar plates during their tenure. Come for the main dishes and stay for the pastries... or vice versa. There’s truly no way to go wrong. The only mistake you can make is not paying them a visit.