"Amuse-bouche" is the INDY's new, sporadic series where we give you our hot take on a recent restaurant opening. It’s not a critique or a review, just a taste of what to expect.
Jack Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter
202 Corcoran Street, Durham
What defines a diner? An around-the-clock menu, counter and booth seating, or snappy kiss-my-grits service? Jack Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter—commonly known as the Jack Tar Diner—takes fine-dining food and puts it into an available-all-day format, delivering a downtown neighborhood restaurant that’s both friendly and upscale. The newest entry on the ground floor of Unscripted Hotel comes from a dream team that brought Neapolitan pizza and comforting small plates to Durham via Pizzeria Toro and Littler, including owners Gray Brooks and Cara Stacy, plus veteran area chef David Alworth of Guglhupf and Watts Grocery. While JT’s menu is distinctly different from its sister restaurants, you can expect a similar commitment to local and homemade ingredients. A greasy spoon it is not.
Vibe: A mid-century modern feel meets millennial pops of color, which is a natural fit for the retro building (the restaurant is named for the original 1960s motel; Jack Tar is a slang term for a sailor), welcoming with warm blonde wood and large windows to let in maximum light. Watch the magic happen at the behind-the-counter open kitchen or nostalgic orange juicer machine. A range of cocktails and craft beer is poured at the separate, attached bar or at your seat in the diner.
Menu: The full menu is available from seven a.m. to midnight, with suggested bowls for a.m. (oatmeal with pecan milk or Le Puy green lentils) and p.m. (tomato soup and potted ham over rice). All the diner staples are present and accounted for, from biscuits and gravy to a double cheeseburger with fries, alongside Southern favorites like shrimp and grits and fried mackerel. All baked goods are made in-house, from English muffins to Hawaiian rolls, along with the “processed” cheese in the grilled sandwich and cream cheese on the bialy plate.
Price range: Sides from $2–$7; plates, bowls, and sandwiches $9–$15.
What to order: Pancakes are always a good idea, especially with real maple syrup. The pastrami cheesesteak gets some punch from carrot and cabbage slaw, and the fried oyster banh mi fits right in with the classic American sandwiches. A Bloody Mary based on the Harry’s American Bar recipe is a good accompaniment regardless of the hour. Save room for dessert: made-to-order crullers and rice pudding are especially comforting.
Perfect for: Brunch with babies, a working lunch, a late-night date.