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.