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“Hard to Find Fault”
Review of The Refectory Cafe

The Refectory Cafe
Ranked #13 of 771 Restaurants in Durham
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $5 - $25
Cuisines: Bar
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Dining options: Breakfast, Dinner
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.
Level 4 Contributor
40 reviews
27 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
“Hard to Find Fault”
Reviewed February 28, 2014

I am a pretty good cook and baker. But unfortunately, it renders me a strong critic of eatery fare and I don't always enjoy eating out. But The Refectory was an amazing surprise!

I am being treat at Duke Hospital for a foot injury and upon our recent visit, I wanted to visit a different restaurant for lunch. We went to our reliable Tripadvisor and The Refectory came up #1 in Durham! Really?! YES!!! Outstanding! Here's why...

1. CLEAN - All of the staff were cleaning as they were restocking glassware, clearing tables, or serving food. Floors were shiny and spotless.

2. FOOD - There's a LOT to say! Fresh, local and organic. The menu offerings are put together in creative and palatable combinations that tickle your senses and taste buds with flavor, texture and color. The servings are large, but with the healthy ingredients, one feels good eating it all! (See below for our personal menu experience.)

3. Staff - Excellent! Everyone! We had never been to The Refectory, so when we walked in, we weren't sure what to do next. We were soon greeted by a woman with a gentle smile who gave us clear but thorough instructions about how the ordering process flow was handled. (It turns out that she was their Nutritionist!) And because I have an assistive walking device, she encouraged us to sit at a particular table that would accommodate my walker. She got our drinks and set up our table for us while we went to the counter to order. Everyone behind the counter was really helpful, smiling and friendly.

Then we had the pleasure of meeting the owner, Laura! Eight years later, she's still enthusiastic about her customers and offering healthy, but delicious meals to them when they come in. She taught us about how food can make you actually FEEL better, not just fill you up. She even brought us a complementary bottle of (made on the premises) Energy juice (Juice offers instant absorption of nutrients). She suggested that we try it instead of coffee in the morning. Boy, she wasn't kidding! Ninety minutes later on the way home, I felt like I could run a marathon! We brought 2 bottles home!

My husband chose the cobb salad that came on a platter with lettuce covered in hard boiled egg, bacon, chicken, tomatoes, avocado, etc. It came with a balsamic dressing that he really enjoyed. I had a Panini with mozerella, spinach, tomato and a pesto that was EXCELLENT! Their pesto wasn't the heavy garlic tasting pesto but instead, light and full of fresh ground basil - the way it should be. It was covered with a homemade Panetta bread and grilled to perfection. I was really curious to see was they would do with french fries in a "healthy" eatery, and I was NOT disappointed! They are shoestring fries that were done to a dark golden brown. I never had fries with so much flavor! After such delicious food, we wanted to try the desserts. My husband had blueberry and mango pie. Sounds odd, but it was absolutely delicious! TONS of naturally sweet fruit flavor without the throat tightening sweetness of sugar. Their crusts are all homemade by their pastry chef. I selected the "Cheesecake" made with Greek yogurt and Farmer's cheese. First of all, it's immense! I promise, it will be the richest cheese cake you've ever tasted. This is the ONLY place I can offer a suggestion, and that is to put some lemon rind or juice in the cheese mixture.

We were SO impressed by The Refectory that we'll be back again and again to savor their daily specials. It's always exciting for us when we find a gem like The Refectory. We encourage everyone not to miss this eatery when in Durham.

  • Visited February 2014
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank flightnurse1
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 review, March 2, 2014
Thank you very much! We were equally pleased that you found us and were delighted with the huge array of scratch made offerings from The Refectory.

Thrilled that you loved our new nutrient dense juice! Yes, they are a great way to get all of those terrific veggies in to your blood stream. :-)

Thank you so much for sharing your experience - we are delighted that we made your day. You have certainly made ours by applauding our food and our staff.

We look forward to seeing you again soon!

All the best,

Laura
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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187 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
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Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Portuguese first
  • Any
English first
Durham, North Carolina
Level 3 Contributor
15 reviews
10 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
“Brunch”
Reviewed February 9, 2014

I met a friend who is vegetarian for brunch here. There were tasty and healthy selections available. The kale salad was delicious.

Visited January 2014
Helpful?
Thank Mojo708
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 review, February 15, 2014
Hello Mojo,

Glad you enjoyed the Brunch! We are also supporting the Bull City Vegan Challenge this month with an amazing Pesto Polenta Lasagna and an absolutely decadent Dark Chocolate Macadamia Torte! In addition, there is a complete Vegan menu in addition to the fabulous Cafe Brunch that includes Steak & Eggs, Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, Eggs Benedict, Local Chicken & Waffles, Carolina Cobb Salad & more! We look forward to serving you again soon. :-)

Laura
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Durham, North Carolina
Level 4 Contributor
36 reviews
21 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
“Complete change of pace from the ordinary; fresh and healthy cuisine.”
Reviewed January 25, 2014

We dined here with a group of 6 for brunch and we got very different things. Everyone enjoyed what they ordered. This isn't fine dining ambience wise--more like very upscale cafeteria, but you can see the food before you order and there is a wide variety of healthy offerings to chose from. This is the kind of place you can go to again and again and get something different every time--but you probably won't because everyone seems to find an irresistible favorite!

  • Visited December 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
2 Thank GilG294
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 review, February 3, 2014
Thank you GilG! I love that you identified with the wide range of healthy offerings and diets to please all palates. Our goal is to provide you with a comfortable space that you will frequent again and again! Appreciate that your assessment included the "again & again" visits! You are correct on the "irresistible favorites" as well. We delight in the way our guests cherish their favorites. We are constantly working to create new favorites every day!

We appreciate the 5-star review and the time you took to share your experience. We look forward to serving you again soon!

Kind regards,
Laura
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Durham, North Carolina
Level 5 Contributor
70 reviews
39 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 33 helpful votes
“Good, solid breakfast fare, though choices are limited”
Reviewed January 20, 2014 via mobile

I eat here a lot, usually for breakfast. The food is fresh, always good and the service (such that it is - you order at the counter) is excellent. There are vegetarian options on the menu.

Only quibble is that the menu is limited.SC On any given day there are only three omlette choices, for example. Maybe that's why it is so good, they only concentrate on a limited number of things.

Helpful?
1 Thank Jonathan F
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 review, January 22, 2014
Hello Jonathan,

Thank you for the 5-star review! Love that you enjoy The Refectory so much. The omelets are the Chef's suggestions - if you love variety and want to request your own combination you can! Everything is made to order. We also scramble those fresh local eggs and vegetables. We are also happy to poach or fry those eggs and put them on a sandwich. :-)

The baked oatmeal & cheesy grits are also huge favorites of our customers.

We are grateful for your support and your kind review. We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Laura
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
alexandria, va
Level 4 Contributor
32 reviews
21 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“Great breakfast decent coffee.”
Reviewed January 20, 2014

Decided to try this place out for breakfast prior to leaving the area since the reviews were so high and it did not disappoint. The omelets were fantastic, fluffy, and filled with quality meat and veggies. The biscuits were excellent as well, right from scratch and the apple pie was also quite good. The espresso I had was pretty good which is always a plus as most southern coffee is never that good. That was the only small complaint.

  • Visited January 2014
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
1 Thank Brett B
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 review, January 22, 2014
Hello "manonthemoon"

We are delighted that you decided to check us out. We love our fresh local eggs & veggies! Our pastry chef is phenomenal and always creating simply delicious desserts. Our espresso is Lavazza - Italy's favorite coffee. I will confirm that we are doing everything correctly there.

You are wonderful to take the time to talk about our favorite cafe. Thank you for "Five Star" review and we look forward to seeing you again when you are back in town.

Many thanks!

Laura
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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