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Watts Grocery launches new winter menu, cuts late night

Watts_grocery If there's a recession going on in Durham, you'd be hard-pressed to tell by walking in to Watts Grocery on a typical evening.

I've tended to find that even mid-week, there can be a wait for a table during the busiest dinner hours -- a sign of how well locals have taken to Amy Tornquist's restaurant at the edge of Watts-Hillandale.

One of the things that keeps visitors coming back is the refresh of the menu, a quarterly event that brings new ideas and tastes from the kitchen to the tables.

And Watts Grocery has launched its winter menu -- though with it comes the news that the late-night hours and menu have ceased.

Tornquist told BCR that the restaurant will still be serving dinner until 10pm every night, but that at least for now, the post-10pm late night menu and hours would be on hiatus.

"I didn't think we truly knocked it out of the park late night," Tornquist told BCR in an email, citing the lack of a "consistent crowd" and demand as also factoring in to the change.

"I wasn't convinced that we would get enough response, even if it was totally amazing all the time," she noted, adding that the return didn't seem worth it for the imposition the late-night hours put on the restaurant's limited staff.

With that caveat, the winter menu looks pretty good. Among the new additions:

  • At lunch, an "Old South Fish & Chips" with buttermilk and cornmeal catfish; a yellowfin tuna sandwich; Jeremy's Philadelphia steak sandwich; and Zuke's country pate on a buttered baguette, plus a grilled portabello sandwich.
  • Dinner appetizers additions include an avocado and pink grapefruit salad; fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade; a "raw, pickled, and smoked plate" with deviled ham, deviled eggs, and house charcuterie; and a winter cheese plate.
  • Dinner entree adds include molasses barbecued pork ribs; roast poulet "rouge de Piedmont" with Lee Brothers’ pimento cheese potato gratin and pecan pan sauce; and red wine braised lamb shanks over Sea Island pea ragout. Pimento cheese potato gratin and chipotle mashed sweet potatoes are among the new side options.
  • Brunch stays fairly consistent, with a weekly farmer's scramble (eggs with potatoes, vegetables and house-cured meat) and Lilybet's toasted pimento cheese sandwich the big additions.
  • Not to be left out: dessert! "Old School" banana pudding, warm spiced apples with ice cream, flourless chocolate cake with espresso ice cream and a caramel layer cake are just some of the seasonal options.

Look for the new menu to crop up in the next few days on the Watts Grocery web site, or view them here: Download Lunch & Dinner, Download Brunch & Dessert.

(Hat tip to the blog "Eating in Raleigh" for the news.)


Steve Bocckino

Please, Amy, keep the Reuben on the lunch menu. Or . . . maybe the muffaletta.
And don't mess with the ice cream sandwiches.

amy tornquist

Reuben is still there, dear! Never fear...I love it, too. And ice cream sandwiches, unlike late night, will be back on the spring menu. We only took them off (and added a chocolate pot de creme) during the cold months. thanks for being a friend to Watts!

Victim Of The Law

All to be expected. The people that propped her up have figured it out and ran. With all respect to Zuke he keeps her somewhat legit. Good thing he needs the money. She is left to her own devices as she was at Nasher. Watts as it is is not long for this world. Exposed again.

Bitter Much?

Hey Victim: Wow, with a comment like that I'd guess you must be continuing the long tradition of ex-restaurant employees getting bitter with their old boss, huh? From what I see of the crowds i really don't think they could be in trouble over there. You got a personal agenda on this one?


Very sad about the loss of late night at Watt's! I occasionally go for brunch, but late night was the main draw for me...


I brought my out of town relatives to Watts this past Saturday and they couldn't get enough of the delicious southern cooking! The shrimp grit cake was to die for, and as always the hushpuppies, yum.... Thanks for the wonderful time!

Katie Towne

I feel the need to respond to the comment from 'Victim of the Law'. I agree with the comment following the post that it seems extremely likely that it's from a bitter ex-employee and would like to add most likely a drunk one if the time of the post is any indication. I've been an employee at Watts since almost the first day as a server and now manager and know all of the major players that have been associated with the restaurant. I like and respect most of them both professionally and personally. That being said, and speaking strictly for the kitchen and food (as that seems to be the target for this 'victims' bitterness), I have yet to see or hear that the restaurant has skipped a beat in any changes that have occurred with our staff. With the exception of Aaron B. joining Rue Cler in which I've continued to hear great things about the restaurant and food he's sending out, I've also yet to hear or read in print anything regarding the wonderful things these 'runners' have done upon leaving their positions as 'props' at Watts. I believe that Amy is a wonderful chef and has done a lot to support the area and it's local farmers. I very much enjoy working for and with her. (She will undoubtedly be unhappy with my stooping to respond to such a blog.) As a manager I appreciate any and all criticism and comments that can help us better the restaurant, however, potshots from the cheap seats I find hard to ignore. At the very least, man up and leave your name if you feel so strongly next time. My apologies to the other bloggers.


I have only been to Watts one time for drinks with friends. I never returned because the vegetarian and vegan options on the menu are just totally lacking. I don't understand how a restaurant that focuses on local ingredients doesn't understand that many locavores are also vegetarian and vegan. Probably 80% of my friends are. I wish we could go to Watts - whatever the time of day.

Seth Vidal

I'm a vegetarian - lacto-ovo - have been for about 13 years. I've never had trouble finding things at watts. Their pasta and vegetarian plates are 1. always different 2. always excellent and 3. frequently the recommended thing by the waiters for anyone, independent of dietary habits.

For brunch the vegetarian options are very good, not so much for vegans but that's true almost anywhere. There are a number of items you can simply ask for them to leave the meat off of at brunch, too. The watts breakfast comes to mind as one. Leave the meat out and get both grits and hashbrowns.

You should probably give watts another try.

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