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West End Wine Bar

Posted by MEZ 16 Oct 2009 13 Comments

West End Wine Bar opened up a Durham location a few months ago. Being a fan of the Chapel Hill flagship bar, I was excited to check it out. This one is around the corner from the Amtrak station and, unfortunately, in the middle of the Main Street construction for the present. But you can still make your way into their plentiful parking lot and join the other West End Wine bar goers who have done the same. There were a healthy number of patrons for early on a Thursday night.


Durham’s WEWB has a similar setup to its Chapel Hill counterpart, though the lighting is somewhat lighter. There is a long, welcoming, wood-topped bar on the mezzanine floor with new black couches in the back of the room and plenty of small tables and chairs of the ubiquitous sparkling silver variety scattered around.

There is also a charming loft area with plenty more couches and a stairwell that is much less narrow and steep than the original location’s, which makes it both more accessible and less fun at the same time. Yes, I get excited by dark, narrow stairwells.


Patio seating is also available. The walls, of course, are brick, as are those of many places located in renovated downtown properties, though there are also some dijon-mustard colored splashes. Geometric artwork is hung here and there as well.

The vibe, when I arrived around 8 PM, was relaxed and largely consisted of patrons in their early 40s to mid-50s. By an hour later, most of them had left and the crowd thinned and grew younger.

Featured glasses of wine and truffle flavors are written on the chalkboard behind the bar but make sure to grab the wine list from the bartender. It is divided mostly by wine regions and has entertaining captions like “Of Spanish Descent” for those wines of Spain and her former colonies. There are affordable flights available in each wine category, which is fantastic, or you could opt for a sip, glass, or bottle portion instead. The sample size is almost that of a normal pour and a glass is a generous one.

The aforementioned truffles ($2) are a good, if teeny, choice. I had a dark chocolate and honey truffle and my god, that was good honey. Very creamy and bright in flavor. It might have gone better with milk chocolate than the dark but it was 30 seconds of bliss regardless.

If you are interested in food to go with your wine, there is a menu of charcuterie, cheese, bread, and small plates, including pizzas from Pop’s Trattoria down the road ($5-12).

I think I might be partial to Chapel Hill’s location as I like my bars somewhat dimmer and livelier but depending on my mood, both of those qualities can sometimes be a bad thing. Durham’s West End Wine Bar will do well for me if I want a quieter glass of wine or just plain don’t feel like driving to Franklin Street.

I haven’t tried the Cellar, West End Wine Bar’s liquor and music club, at either location, so sorry, can’t fill you in on those yet!

Reviewed 10.9.09.

West End Wine Bar
601 Main Street
Warehouse District, Durham


  • Chris said:

    Been here a couple of times. Its a very nice space, the wine selections are varied, well-priced (the “tastes” are a fun way to explore a lot of choices among one or two people), and the service is generally good.

    The complaints: The “tapas” (really just charcuterie, cheese, snacks, and slices of Pop’s pizza) are extraordinarily overpriced for what they are — charging for bread to go with the charcuterie or cheese is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

    On my last weekend night visit since schools have been back in session, the crowd indeed shifted from a 30s-50s crowd to a 20s crowd as the night wore on. It also shifted from a crowd that is interested in a laid back lounge feel with good wine, to a more typical college-town crowd, with ladies ordering merlots and men sticking to Heinekens and the ever-present PBR. Kind of a shame that the wine bar vibe can’t be kept later in the evening — maybe limiting the selection of beer would help, although its hard to fault the owners for trying to make more money.

    I actually wonder if swapping the spaces would have made more sense — the larger space for the full-bar “cellar”, the smaller, more intimate space for a true “wine bar”. Or is there truly a cellar below the space?

    Also, they used to have a coffee bar during the day — it was a nice spot but underutilized, in part because of the Main St. construction. They say they’ll try the coffee bar again when the construction is complete — seems like it would be a hit with West Village, although they may soon be competing with BeYu in Five Points.


    MEZ replies on October 22nd, 2009 at 1:54 pm:

    Their Franklin Street outpost also did daytime coffee for awhile, which was the perfect spot for my writing group to meet in the mornings, but they also stopped that, due to bad parking in the area. I look forward to daytime hours returning at both spots sometime soon–they make great coffee houses!


  • mh said:

    I go to the WEWB fairly often. I really like the wine, especially the flights, and I haven’t been disappointed by a special wine I have tried.

    However, the food leaves a lot to be desired. The hummus was good, but the “flat bread” that came with it was just some crackers. The cheese selection is pretty good, but it is overpriced and paying for bread is ridiculous. Six Plates offers a much more exciting menu for about the same price.

    Still, I like the space, the outdoor area, and the wine selection, so I continue to go. I just leave when I get hungry.


  • hh876 said:

    I find the the WEWB is lacking the character and charm of the original in Chapel Hill. It’s a little bit too sterile, in my opinion. The wine is wonderful which is why I kept going back. Then, some friends and I attempted to go there for my birthday celebration on a Friday night at the end of August and we were appalled when we were told at the door that it was closed for a Duke party. As a Durhamite, I was insulted. We are the ones that help keep businesses running in the off-season! I was happy to take my business elsewhere and got a good laugh at the Duke undergrads scaling the wall to get in by the end of the evening. Guess I should consider myself lucky…

    Haven’t been back since.


    MEZ replies on October 22nd, 2009 at 1:57 pm:

    Excellent description of the differences in feel between the two spots! I’m intrigued, though, do you think establishments shouldn’t close for private parties?


  • Sant said:

    Just a heads up, Bull City Rising and Durham magazine reports that the closed George’s Garage on Ninth St. will be reopening under the name George in a space neat WEWB.


    MEZ replies on October 22nd, 2009 at 1:58 pm:

    Thanks Sant, I had read that at BCR, too. I wasn’t a big fan of the space at George’s Garage but did like the food. We’ll see if the new digs will be an improvement or not.


    fooddude replies on January 24th, 2010 at 10:37 am:

    Aw, crap, really? Batakias is like some nine-headed overpriced mediocre food hydra. Somebody please find the central one and cut that off.


  • Chris said:

    A quick update — back to the West End Wine Bar last night — a more sedate crowd again, at least until 10:30 when we moved on.

    More importantly, it seems like they have received good feedback on the pricing of the “tapas” — they now offer platters of 2 or 3 meat & cheese choices plus bread and an extra for $10 or $14. Seems much more reasonable — we’ll give it a shot on our return visit!


    MEZ replies on October 24th, 2009 at 1:41 pm:

    Thanks for the update, Chris. That must be a fairly recent change–I don’t think I noticed platter options when I was there but I could be wrong. Definitely makes an evening of wine more appetizing…


  • Gary Brandenberg said:

    Wish we had something like that in Naples, Florida. Our only wine bar closed because the coffee part of it (PJ’s Coffee) was outsold by the Sbux across the street. Gary


  • Dave said:

    My wife and I stumbled into WEWB on New Year’s Day (as well as several trips since) and enjoyed the wine and lite fare options available. Since we are the 40′s crowd the early hours group fits our lifestyle but we also are young at heart. People watching as the crowd transitioned as the evening progressed was enjoyable. If you are looking for dinner, go to a restaurant. If you are looking for a nice wine haunt, WEWB is worth a go. We’ll be back.


  • Outdoor Dining Spots | Carpe Durham said:

    [...] West End Wine Bar, 601 Main Street, Carpe Durham Review. [...]

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