An unabashed mid-century modern style at The Durham hotel immediately transports guests back to some six decades ago. The Durham opened in 2015, yet its architecture traces back to 1968, when it housed the Home Savings Bank. The gold and white stripes of the building facade have remained through the years, exuding a timelessness that distinguishes it from the red bricks typical of downtown Durham. To this day, The Durham is the only independently owned and locally operated hotel in downtown Durham.
Situated in the ground lobby of The Durham is the Restaurant. The intentionally vague name was created by its first Executive Chef, Andrea Reusing, with the idea of creating fluidity in the holistic hospitality experience.
Eight years after the Restaurant’s opening, changes have taken place within its timeless exterior. Reusing was succeeded by Shane Ingram in 2020 and subsequently by Monika Harrison in March 2023 as the Executive Chef of the Restaurant. Harrison, who hails from the Midwest, previously worked at luxury brand hotels, in university dining and as a travel chef during the pandemic.
The Restaurant identifies its culinary style as New American. “Very much so a melting pot,” Harrison said in reference to this style. “The food industry has expanded in the past ten to fifteen years, not only looking to the French for the culinary standard, [but] to any regional cuisine.”
Sweet and savory is her flavor profile of choice. “It gives you balance,” Harrison said. This blend of flavor shone through in various New American style dishes with Durham flairs in the Restaurant’s menu for Triangle Restaurant Week (TRW), a semi-annual culinary celebration in Durham, Chapel Hill, Raleigh and surrounding areas. Participating restaurants in the most recent TRW offered special prix fixe three-course menus June 5 - 11.
Corn featured heavily on the Restaurant’s TRW menu this year, paying homage to Chef Harrison’s Midwestern upbringing while bringing in Hispanic influences.
My friend and I sampled the TRW dinner menu at the Restaurant. Fresh corn fritter, one of the options for starters, was crispy and golden on the outside. The inside is of a mellow yellow color, soft and moist with a few corn specks. The herb crema dipping sauce, with creamy basil flavor, is the highlight of the dish.
The pan-seared flounder is a prime example of a balance between sweet and savory. White flounder is carved and seared to slightly crispy on the top, above a tender swath of meat. The flounder is cushioned by farro and sautéed greens soaked in a subtly sweet corn broth. For dessert, while the choco cremeux takes the crown in flavor, the TRW sweet corn coconut pudding wins in creativity and novelty. It is refreshing and light, with coconut flakes and thin strips of what seems like candied pear.
For newcomers to the Restaurant in TRW, Harrison recommends either the ribeye, the monkfish or the gnocchi.
Being integrated with the local community is one of the goals that The Durham holds dear. Ingredients for food and drink at the Restaurant are sourced locally, from the Durham Farmers Market to Durham-based Counter Culture Coffee to chocolate from Asheville.
Moreover, The Durham is a vibrant hub for community-facing events, including free live jazz series “Al Strong Presents”. Lately, the hotel has collaborated with local bakers in its creation of recurring event Cookie Hour with Phoebe Lawless and a June 14 pop-up event Sweet Social, which features Rose’s Sweets.
A blend of culinary tradition and innovation is available in the TRW menu. Guided by a steadfast community-focused mission, the Restaurant invites both old and new to meet and fuse in Triangle Restaurant Week, right at the heart of Durham.
The Restaurant at The Durham is located at 315 East Chapel Hill St., Durham. It currently offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. It participated in Triangle Restaurant Week from June 5 - 11. Details about its operating time and menu can be found here.
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Katherine Zhong is a Trinity junior and local arts editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.