Bull Street Gourmet & Market (Durham, NC)
Hope Valley Square was once was a no-mans land shopping center south of Durham but is now home to some great tenants: Only Burger, Pop’s Backdoor South, Tonali, and Bull Street Gourmet & Market to name a few. The latter is the most recent to open, and is an offshoot of the venture’s original location in Charleston, SC. It features a small but well-stocked grocery section and a casual eatery. In the grocery you can find all manner of local and hyper-local staples (peanut butters, jams, relishes, cheeses, plus a few meats and some tempting ice cream sandwiches), as well as, somewhat incongruously, a decent selection of mass market candies. Otherwise, you can get breakfast here, or a pastry, or even a quick pre-made dinner-to-go, but the main culinary focus seems to be soups, salads, and sandwiches. These feature gourmet ingredients in classic pairings, and are priced accordingly. The atmosphere is completely casual; just place your order at the counter and take a seat at one of the mix-and-match tables, or at one of the stools that run along the counter.
I chose a club sandwich (ham, smoked turkey, bacon, cucumber, lettuce, $8.99) and my wife opted for the “Chappy” salad (romaine/green apple/shaved red onion/walnuts/feta, $7.99). Our orders were brought out promptly by the very friendly staff. Although the sandwich didn’t come with any sides, it was definitely big enough to be a full meal. It was served in a small basket, and cut in half, but it was nearly impossible to eat thanks to some insubstantial focaccia and a massive amount of dressing. On the menu description, this was a dijon mayonnaise, but in the sandwich I got it was a horseradish mayo – pretty disappointing for a person who doesn’t love horseradish. The bread itself was very good (tomato-parmesan focaccia from Guglhupf) but, being very soft and thinly cut, it simply could not hold the sandwich together. I almost resorted to a fork and knife, which probably would have been a wiser choice than amassing a pile of about 20 napkins. I thought the ham was outstanding, the bacon and white cheddar unremarkable. Overall, it was a decent sandwich, but I would probably order something different next time. My wife’s salad was excellent, and very refreshing with a light lemon poppy seed dressing, but it probably could have used some more walnuts, and I felt like it should have been a dollar or two cheaper. It came with a sweet roll that tasted just fine but seemed doughy and undercooked.
I’ve said this many times before, but I wish there were more places like this throughout the Triangle, and in Raleigh in particular. But for now, Hope Valley Square is shaping up as a pretty decent foodie destination, so you can bet I’ll be back for more.