I have eaten at Watts Grocery several times for lunch and thoroughly enjoyed it each time I have eaten there. The restaurant features ingredients from local farms, and typically uses items that are in season. Chef Amy Tournquist grew up in Durham and has been very committed to making this an icon in the restaurant scene and she has certainly succeeded in fulfilling her vision. But I had never been to Watts Grocery for brunch until a few weeks ago when my niece and her boyfriend were in town for a visit.
The restaurant is clean and simple. Black tables, white napkins, nice artwork on the walls, exposed duct work and big, yellow, wooden shades can slide over the windows to cut down the sun. We had to ask our waiter to close the blind because two of the seats at our table were going to be fully in the sun.
Our waiter suggested we start our brunch with the Southwestern Churros, which were long pieces of fried dough that are coated in cinnamon sugar. They come in a cone shaped dish and have a nice, dark chocolate ganache in which to dip the churros. The inside of the churros were warm and mushy while the outside was nice and crispy. They were so good, we ordered a second helping for the table!
I had the Eggs Benedict, though it was hard to choose just one item from a really great menu. The eggs, most likely that came from Latta Eggs, were poached perfectly and were laying on top of an English muffin and some smoked ham. The hollandaise sauce was creamy and rich. I decided to have the hash browns with it, which I think gave the dish a nice contrast. The hash browns had some saltiness and crunchiness which played well with the softness of the eggs and sauce. Of course, I will have to hit the gym after eating this high calorie meal!
My husband had the omelet with barbecued pork, arugula and cheddar cheese. It was really fantastic! The eggs were fluffy and filling. The pork was really well seasoned and tender and the arugula gives a fresh taste to the omelet. The omelet was accompanied by grits, which were very creamy and smooth. It was also really good. I didn’t try his biscuit, but it looked good as well.
My niece had shrimp and grits, sans the bacon, because she is a vegetarian (actually they served the bacon on the side, so someone else could add it to their food). The dish is even described as Bill Neal’s shrimp and grits. Bill Neal was one of the Triangle region’s more famous chefs, and was the person who founded Crook’s Corner and co-founded La Residence in Chapel Hill. I later learned that Amy Tournquist studied under Bill Neal, so that must be why she has this item on her menu. Indeed, the dish is just like Bill Neal’s with a very creamy grit base, very generous portions of grilled shrimp that cooked well and farmer’s cheese, which is a mild, white cheese that gives the grits more creaminess. The mushrooms add a tone of earthiness to the dish.
If you go for brunch, be prepared to take your time as it was quite busy when we got there. We were served quickly at the beginning of our dining experience, but then it seemed like the waiter forgot about our table after we were served drinks and the churros. I had to track someone else down to get some coffee and kind of remind them that we were still there waiting for our main dishes. I’m going to chalk that up as a one time blip in the system though, as normally I have not had problems getting served there in the past. If you have eaten there before, what has your experience been like? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Watt’s Grocery is located at 1116 Broad Street in Durham and is open on Tuesday – Friday from 11am – 2:30pm and from Tuesday – Sunday from 5pm – midnight. They are also open on Saturday and Sunday from 11am – 2:30pm. You can follow them on Twitter at @WattsGrocery.