If you don't have a coveted Duke University parking pass, you could probably grow your own tomatoes in the time it takes to plant your car near one of the Refectory cafes on West Campus.
The visitor lots are usually full or roped off. The city bus (No. 6, if you're wondering) will drop you within a half mile or so of the divinity or law schools, where the cafe has become a destination for Duke students and faculty. But if you, the Visitor, are on a short lunch break, forget about the Refectory and its famed vegan dal, vegan chili, cherry pie and grilled cheese and tomato soup.
Forget no more. Laura Hall, who owns the Refectory Cafe and its catering company, is opening a new off-campus spot at 2726 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd., in the former Asia Market building near Guglhupf and Foster's Market. It is scheduled to open Labor Day weekend.
"We're slowly turning the boulevard into foodie central," Hall said.
For the past seven years, the Refectory Cafe has built its reputation on using sustainably grown, local ingredients and accommodating a variety of diners: omnivores, vegans, vegetarians and those who are gluten-sensitive.
The boulevard location will feature the same items that made the on-campus spots an institution: the dal, chili, salads, homemade pies—and for breakfast, local eggs, sausage, bacon and baked oatmeal with fruit, so addictive that students call it "crackmeal." Unlike the campus cafe, which is alcohol-free, it will serve beer and wine.
Hall plans to host farmers events on the weekends. Although she is closing the divinity school location, the cafe at the law school will stay open and a food truck will begin roaming Durham in August, featuring the same menu (follow its Twitter feed @Refectory).
Bridget Fletcher, a Refectory regular for five years, prefers the cafe over other campus options because it offers humanely raised meat. "I'm very particular about the meat that I buy," said Fletcher, assistant director for student services in the professional master's program at the Pratt engineering school.
The cafe also makes its meals from scratch. "Cafeteria-style food can be mushy," said Fletcher. "But the Refectory makes things fresh, so it's not."
Fletcher uses the Refectory's catering services for engineering students, many of whom are from other countries. "The Refectory has been a good way to talk to students about American food and what it means," Fletcher said. "They think we eat only fast food. But I tell them that actually quite a few people think very carefully about what they put in their bodies."
Hours for the new Refectory Cafe will be Monday–Friday 7:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m. and Saturday–Sunday 9 a.m.–4 p.m.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Townies rejoice."