We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“Great place any time of day”
Review of The Refectory Cafe

The Refectory Cafe
Ranked #5 of 803 Restaurants in Durham
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $5 - $29
Cuisines: Bar
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Dining options: Dinner, Breakfast
Description: "Slow Food, Fast", this award Winning, local family owned, restaurant is focused on Hot, healthy, homemade & Local fare. The Refectory Cafe® was Duke University's first "Green Cafe" established in 2005, it won best food on campus 7 Years in a row and Duke University's Environmental Leadership Award four times. The Refectory Cafe "on the Boulevard" opened September 2012 and continues the tradition of great homemade soups, fresh local produce, eggs, local line-caught fish, local grass-fed beef, chicken and simply amazing desserts. Vegan, vegetarian, Gluten Free, Raw or Plant Based The Refectory Cafe caters to all dietary preferences. Award winning VEGAN, GF DAL, Chili and soups; delicious panini on locally made bread; "breakfast of champions" with amazing grits, local eggs, biscuits, Tofu scrambles, baked oatmeal, local sausage and more; Delicious Dinners of Chicken Marsala, Surf & Turf, Lobster, Linguine with clams, Crabcakes, Slow-cooked short ribs, Blackened or Grilled Salmon, Vegan GF Tempeh, Indian DAL, soups, salads & more. Full bar, craft cocktails, martinis, fine wines and local beer with Table Service Evenings 5pm-9pm. Monday through Saturday. Excellent seafood, steaks, soups, salads, vegan & vegetarian fare. The award winning desserts are created on site and are simply fabulous! Reservations encouraged and available on-line.
Reviewed September 7, 2013

The menu is limited but the food is really good and the staff truly cares about the customers. The food is fresh, well seasoned and not your run of the mill "comfort food."

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank Practicality
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Laura H, Owner at The Refectory Cafe, responded to this reviewResponded September 10, 2013

Hello Practicality! Thank you very much for the "5-Star" review. We do care a great deal about your entire experience. The menus cover all diets - Vegan, vegetarian, GF and Omnivore. We use as much local content as possible and make everything from scratch. The Fall menu comes out this month - the VEGAN DAL & Chili will be complimented by Local Chicken & Dumplings, Spicy Chicken Verde and of course the Tomato soup & the Potato Leek Soup. We have 5 paninis daily, many different salads, local beef burgers, salmon burgers, veggie burgers & Entrees. The lunch menu runs from 11am-8pm; From 5-8 pm we run the dinner menu PLUS the lunch menu for those looking for a lighter meal.

Thank you again for taking the time to place this excellent review. On behalf of the entire staff, we appreciate your support! We look forward to seeing you again soon - "any time of day"!

Laura

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Write a ReviewReviews (220)
Traveler rating
Traveler type
Time of year
Language

208 - 212 of 220 reviews

Reviewed August 28, 2013

The Refectory offers fresh options cafeteria style like berries in a cup, salads and a simple menu. There are outdoor picnic tables on the porch, but the inside has an easy going atmosphere with nicer tables. Employees are incredibly friendly and the chicken is soooo tasty. Their ingredients are local and sustainable.

Highly recommended for vegans and vegetarians as well as meat-atarians.
M-F curbside pick-up

Thank ILikedTheColor
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 24, 2013

We have been coming to Durham for a year with a student at Duke and so have been trying all the various "foodie" restaurants -- places that have been recommended by websites like TripAdvisor or friends. Finding the Refectory Cafe was a real treat. This restaurant has its origins in a dining hall at the Duke Divinity School -- hence the name -- that has branched into serving Duke students at the law school. This cafe marks a movement from the Divinity School to the public and the Divinity School's loss is the public's gain. We went for Friday lunch, and came back for dinner, and then came back for brunch on a Saturday. We have never before eaten three meals in a row at one restaurant, but it was worth the experience!

Entering the cafe you notice that something is different. The staff is hospitable and makes it clear that the cafeteria is really kind of self-operating. You can pick up a salad, order a bowl of soup, or order from the menu at the cash register. The staff must be picked for their servant attitudes -- everyone I encountered was very helpful. There is no pre-set way that they try to help you. They are just trying to serve and it felt a bit different than most restaurants. (This may sound strange, but I got the feeling the owners are trying to do something different with the restaurant experience.)

The cafe has a wide variety of foods -- you can get a steak (the Steak Frites was great) or a dish prepared with the right mix of amino acids for the vegans. The menu marks its gluten free choices and they said they could prepare gluten free for any item.

The salads are amazing. The kale salad was made with kale that was hand-massaged, as one of the owners told me. The kale was accompanied by cranberries and walnuts with a very interesting miso dressing -- light and citrusy.

The soups are also amazing and the items that are the hallmark of the Refectory. The owners and servers encourage sampling of the soups. We enjoyed very much the spicy chicken verde soup, but one of the owners told me that the dahl -- which can be a simple dish -- has 23 ingredients, including 14 herbs. Several dishes left me with the thought -- "How did they create this particular flavor?" I sampled the vegan chili, and would go back to try that sometime.

They had a special salmon lunch -- a ground salmon patty with a sriracha sauce -- that was one of the best renditions of salmon I have ever had. The sliders were good and well presented and the grilled cheese and tomato soup is apparently a favorite -- the tomato soup is especially flavorful. But -- and this is a drawback of sorts -- if you are not a fan of bread or trying to go low gluten for diet, the cafe seems to use heavy breads. Not a lot of dishes have that, and I ordered the excellent salmon sandwich without the bread and found it filling -- in fact I will try to go back and get it again sometime.

The veggies were good -- homemade potato chips, good fires, but nice seasonal vegetables, not overcooked to keep the flavor and nutrients in.

We went back for brunch the next day because we were invited to try the baked oatmeal, which apparently is called "crackmeal" by some of the students. The omelets are well-prepared (it's hard to go wrong with an omelet, but they are really great when you get them right, and Refectory Cafe gets them right). The chicken and waffles is a local tradition, and the Refectory version does not disappoint -- the warm syrup helps! The grits are special as well as part of a more traditional breakfast, but the baked oatmeal is really worth trying.

We also ordered some desserts -- the fruit fillings are well done, but the zucchini bread was so good I ordered some to go. The restaurant sells some small pastries to go, and for $2 a slice, I figured I could splurge on some items for the road. Even the beverages reflect a desire to make the meal a special experience, with Republic of Tea teas, good wine for the imbibers, etc.

Finally, the price is right -- $3 or $3.50 buys a kale salad, and most of the entrees -- meat and two sides -- come in at around $10.

I reluctantly give the restaurant lower marks for atmosphere and special occasions, because it is a simple atmosphere (spring green and yellow decor -- very appealing, clean and fun) sitting on a busy road (4 out of 5 and I may be being generous). Don't expect white tablecloths, but even the furniture seemed to have been selected with the idea in mind of creating a new dining experience -- heavy chairs for sitting, heavy wood tables with laminated tops, nicely done. In my mind, just feeling like you are in control of a great meal makes it worthwhile. That so much thought has gone into the preparation makes it a very unique dining experience. I will be back with the idea of trying as many of the items as I can.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank TouristSB
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Laura H, Owner at The Refectory Cafe, responded to this reviewResponded August 26, 2013

Hello Atlanta TouristSB!
I cannot help but smile at the many details you noticed regarding The Refectory Cafe®. We are delighted that you enjoyed your experience so much that you returned 2 more times in a very short period of time. Thank you very much! :-)

Our baker does make Gluten Free Bread for a much lighter version, there is also a Vegan bread available.

We are grateful that you took the time to write such a fabulous review. It makes our day to make your meal a pleasure.

Thank you again, See you soon.. :-)

Laura

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 31, 2013

This is a wonderful restaurant. Very casual but excellent food. I had a lentil dish that was superb. Really great soups and all fresh ingredients. Really good desserts. They do catering as well and take out.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank jfran
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Laura H, Owner at The Refectory Cafe, responded to this reviewResponded August 4, 2013

Thank you jfran! Having just opened last September we are thrilled with your "5-Star" review. Dedicated to providing our customers with all diets (Vegan, vegetarian, Gluten Free, Plant based or omnivore) it always makes our day to have such accolades as "really great soups" and all "fresh ingredients" appreciated and recognized. We look forward to serving you again. Thanks for sharing!

Laura

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 29, 2013

The Refectory has a new location on 15-501 (Durham-Chapel Hill Rd). More parking!
The food is outstanding. Everything is made fresh from local sources. The desserts are all made from scratch too. They have several soups, including the much requested chicken and dumplings. They have a sample station to try any and all of them. I had the shrimp po'boy with choice of sides - homemade regular and sweet potato chips, kale salad, citrus salad, or berry salad. i tried both the chips and kale salad. Both were excellent. The shrimp were very large and tasty. I shared desserts - a no bake greek yogurt cheesecake and a blueberry pie. The cheesecake was delicious and creamy. I would definitely get it again! The blueberry pie filling was thick with mashed blueberries - no juice or filling. Not as sweet as most blueberry pies you are used to. The staff could not be any friendlier or helpful. Overall a great lunch.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank SouthernVoice10
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Travelers who viewed The Refectory Cafe also viewed

 

Been to The Refectory Cafe? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Owners: What's your side of the story?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing