Way out on Ninth Street in Durham, after all the casual sandwich and pizza eateries you’ll find two restaurants sharing a parking lot, Blu Seafood and Vin Rouge. As two of the fancier restaurants on the strip, both of these spots are Durham classics and I finally got in to try Vin Rouge for a quick meal. From the outside Vin Rouge is a bit bland: bright yellow awning, dim lighting and gravel parking lot. Step inside and you’ll be hit with wonderful smells coming out of the open kitchen. You’ll immediately notice a crowded cafe like space with a small hostess stand right out in front. I grabbed a seat at the classic bar in the main dining room, there looks to be two other dining rooms in the back and on the side of Vin Rouge but I wasn’t able to check them out. Vin Rouge has a warm continental feel to the space albeit a bit cramped. The menu is in the $15 – $30 entree range which means it’s a touch above-average in price but that’s not unusual for French food. I ordered up the classic steak frites, hangar steak version.
Fifteen minutes later I get a large oval platter with a heaping pile of crispy fried, greens and a small strip of steak charred well-done. A nice balanced meal of veggies, carbs and protein with an emphasis on quality over quantity. The fries were excellent, heavily salted and crispy but a great side. The steak was a bit chewy and cooked medium-well as I ordered, I’m good with chewy because hanger steak is not about a soft texture, it’s all about taste-texture and this small steak had plenty! Paired with a light bleu cheese sauce, it made for a nice flavorful meal. Service at the bar was excellent, Vin Rouge is very well-staffed and trained but since they’ve been around for a while, I’d expect that to be the case. Overall Vin Rouge struck me as a very traditional, classic French bistro and I’d like to come back for a full meal in one of the side rooms. One concern I do have is the open kitchen which is great from a visual perspective but the main dining room picks up all the odors coming from the kitchen! Not a bad thing but it skews your taste a bit given your smell and taste are connected. But yeah, a nice bon appetit to Vin Rouge and I’ll be back!