(Updated January 2015) The Durham Performing Arts Center is a downtown gem and magnet that draws people from all over the Triangle for its line-up of great theatre, drama and music. I’ve written up several posts about great dining and restaurants around DPAC but man (and woman) does not live by food alone! What if you’re up for a quick glass of wine, cocktail or beer, pre or post-show? Well thanks to this booming little area, bars and cocktails are slowly making a comeback in this neighborhood.
Bar Virgile is the closest and newest entry in the DPAC bar scene. Dimly and perfectly lit, Bar Virgile feels like you’ve stepped into some small cafe in Paris. There’s definitely an old-school European feel to the place. Medium sized bar with a nice array of bottles on display and small list of beers on tap, they cover all the classics. A small kitchen handles food for the bar and dining room dishing out charcuterie, sandwiches and more. Even though it’s only been open a couple of months, Bar Virgile is already quite popular. It splits the difference between bar and cafe quite well.
A newer cocktail choice on Chapel Hill street is the very popular, Alley Twenty Six! Discrete front face, inside the space goes in deeply and you’ll find old-school bartenders behind the long bar. Similar to Foundation or C. Grace, Alley Twenty Six has a short list of seasonal specialty cocktails along with tried and true favorites. They make most of their mixers in-house so there’s some serious love in their drinks. Which is also why they’re at the higher end of the cocktail price range: $10 – $12. The interior is better-lit and more modern than other bars in this categories so don’t expect a dark, speak-easy vibe. But there’s plenty of space to move around in, though I’ve heard it can get super busy and packed.
Another option within reasonable walking distance is the West End Wine Bar! Located a bit further west on Main Street, West End is an interesting spot for a beer or glass of vino. Small patio outside, loft on the inside, there’s a lot of space to stretch out here. While West End obviously focuses on wine, but they’ll typically have a couple of beers on tap along with some cocktails on the list. They’ve also got some small plates and pizza’s but West End is really mostly a bar with some lightweight food offerings. While it’s not nearly as interesting as its sister location in Chapel Hill, West End Wine Bar- Durham is perfectly fine for a quick stop and drink before a DPAC show.
One final DPAC bar you might want to consider is the new Surf Club down on Riggsbee Street. It’s more of a drive but this laid-back hipster bar is worth the effort before or after a show. Part dive-bar, part pub, part hang-out, the place has a great casual feel and some games to keep you entertained. With a nice selection of draft beers and cocktails, you will definitely find something to keep you happy! Crowd will be mostly 20 or 30-somethings hanging out in the hood along with Fullsteam and Motorco. But yes, I like the place and give it a thumbs-up!
Given the alcohol laws in NC, true bars are much less common in the Triangle than most other areas I’ve lived in. There are quite a few restaurant-bars around but not too many bar-bars! But thankfully, more and more are popping up and staying true to their cocktail culture heritage. While this list of bars around DPAC is a bit short, I’m expecting it to grow over time and I’ll be adding entries in when I can! Because while beer always brings cheer, wine can be fine, well sometimes you just need a cocktail. So just enjoy Whiskey, Alley Twenty Six, West End Wine Bar and the Surf Club for their sophisticated adult beverages. Cause before or after a show at DPAC, a cocktail may be the perfect way to cap off an evening…