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, cocktails and ciders 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 for a solid pre-show dinner. Bar Virgile walks the fine line between restaurant and bar really well!
Next up on Main Street is the new Oak House offering up a selection of coffee, beer and wine in a casual setting! While it’s a more casual setting a solid selection of beers and wine will keep you humming along! And with a very affordable menu, the Oak House is one of the more wallet-friendly drinking options out there near DPAC.
Next up on the list is Kingfisher on E. Chapel Hill Street! This subterranean bar next the Durham Hotel does a LOT of things right. Cool and sexy ambiance, check. Beautiful ceramic barware, check. Creative and flavorful cocktails, check! With a lot of space, private booths and even a short food menu, you’ll love your visit to Kingfisher before or after a DPAC show.
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.
A fun spot to grab a pre-show drink is the super modern and artsy, Counting House! Located in the 21C Museum Hotel, grab a cocktail at the long bar and sure you could hang out there. But the 21C Museum Hotel is exactly that, a hotel AND modern art museum. So stroll around with your cocktail up to the second floor and check out their latest exhibits. Both the cocktail list and art rotates pretty frequently so you’ll always have something new to check out at the Counting House!
New to the DPAC scene is the Pour Taproom in the Unscripted Hotel. This modern beer bar offers a large selection of self-serve brews along with a handful of ciders and wine. Pass your credit card up front for a sensor wrist band, grab a glass and then head on over to the automated taps! With about 50 different choices across a variety of styles, I’m sure you’ll find something to quench your thirst. Wave you band over the sensor pad and you pour as much or as little as you want. You’re charged by the ounce so enjoy! The space at Pour Taphouse is very modern with high ceilings and a lot of wood. It does get a bit loud in here and the crowd is pretty casual but I can see it being a quick pit-stop before or after your DPAC show.
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.
Two final DPAC bars you might want to consider is the new Bull City Ciderworks the Wine Feed on Roxboro Street. It’s perfect if you’re gluten-free and/or not a beer person. Bright, open casual space with a lot of Durham 20 or 30-somethings hanging about! I’ve done most of the ciders that Bull City Ciderworks puts out and they are solid, usually a bit on the sweeter side but a good beverage to cap off the evening.
On the flip side of the Bull City Ciderworks is the popular Wine Feed! A modern wine bar and wine shop, you can grab an interesting glass of vino here just steps away from DPAC. With a great crew of wine advisors and a small lounge, the Wine Feed is a very comfortable spot to meet up at, before or after your DPAC show.
Given the alcohol laws in NC, true bars are much less common in the Triangle than most other areas I’ve lived in. But thankfully, more and more are popping up and brewery options continue to pop up, frequently. While this list of bars and breweries 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 a night out at DPAC is a special event so who really wants it to end?! So just enjoy Bar Virgile, The Oak House, Criterion, Alley Twenty Six, Pour Taproom, the Wine Feed and Bull City Ciderworks for their adult beverages. Cause before or after a show at DPAC, a drink may be the perfect way to cap off an evening…