Home » Restaurants

Nasher Museum Cafe

Posted by MEZ 12 Nov 2009 9 Comments

The Nasher Museum Cafe is not your average museum restaurant. First off, it’s a sit down and be served restaurant, rather than a cafeteria where you must hope to god that the carrot cake more closely resembles baked good than a brick. Secondly, both the indoor and outdoor seating areas offer great views.


Seated inside, I loved the shadow pattern on the wall that came from the Nasher’s glass roof and beams. Around the corner from the large, open foyer, the cafe’s design minimized its vastness. The ubiquitous silver chairs and tables so common in eateries lately are used here, but I appreciated the contrasting touch of the blue bread plates. Right from the start, I was set up for a fantastic lunch as my iced tea was strong and bitter, just how like it.

I had a difficult choice to make for my lunch with their fall menu. Both the hamburger with goat cheese and balsamic onion jam and the panini with tomatoes, mozzarella, and pesto caught my eye right away but against my better judgment, I chose the “Overnight” Smoky Barbecue Pork with blue cheese slaw on a toasted brioche roll.


It was the novelty of blue cheese slaw that sold me on the sandwich, as I am not a big fan of Carolina’s vinegar-based barbecue (Please don’t shoot me!). I usually find it too tart and the pork too dry but this barbecue, well, it made me a convert. It was spicy, it was moist, and it was soaked in brown sugar that paired very well with the blue cheese slaw. The slaw needed more actual slaw ingredients mixed in with the cheese, but it was so good with the pork, I didn’t really mind. I was worried the brioche roll would be too soggy, and it was a little, but the fluffy top portion made up for it. I was also pleasantly surprised that it was served with a roasted jalapeno and pickled okra spear. The jalapeno was really good and I actually liked the okra, which is definitely a first. Okra, to me, normally means a slimy seed-filled tube with no flavor other than yuck. The inner workings of this spear were crisp! I didn’t know that was possible.

All of their sandwiches come with either quinoa or potato salad. I opted for the quinoa and enjoyed all the color that came from diced scallion, tomato, chives, cucumber, and possibly mint. It was seasoned well and had a light vinegar binding.

With fresh ingredients, fabulous dishes, and a nice view, what’s not to love about lunch at the Nasher Museum Cafe?

Reviewed 11.3.09.

Nasher Museum Cafe
2001 Campus Drive
Duke University Campus, Durham
Sandwiches and Salads: $9-13
Open for lunch Tues-Sun and early dinners on Thursday


  • Tooth said:

    Cheese and brown sugar is involved in this sandwhich?! The BBQ jew is going to riot when he finds out about this!




    MEZ replies on November 15th, 2009 at 2:03 pm:

    Thanks for pointing me to the BBQ Jew’s highly entertaining site! As a Californian transplant (by way of Boston) I’ve yet to be converted to the NC view that NC style BBQ is the holy grail of all BBQ. I even call it a BBQ still, when I invite friends over for burgers and not a cook out. So let my NC BBQ knowledge (or lack thereof) affect your view of my review as it may. ,)


  • Pat Turlington said:

    I am often in Durham to visit family. This looks like a neat place to visit. And I am Carolina barbecue deprived living in the DC area. I am always on hunt for a new place to get a fix.


  • pogo said:

    The Nasher review here is strange, sort of like the Durham Herald Sun representing the Durham Chamber of Commerce has told Mez to write about this place but to make sure the review has a gee whiz isn’t everything scrumptious and oh so pretty quality. Where has Carpe Durham’s edge gone? Is the fact that eating inside the Nasher makes conversation difficult because the well-know problems with the Nasher’s acoustics are too awkward to mention? Is the fact that this is now a Bakastias operation since Amy Tornquist moved to Watts somehow irrelevant to the review, and so it is not mentioned? Isn’t NC BBQ with brown sugar and blue cheese slaw on a brioche somewhat “ladies who lunch”? Nothing to see here, just move along.


    MEZ replies on November 15th, 2009 at 1:57 pm:

    That’s a surprisingly accurate description of my review — not the part about the Durham Chamber of Commerce instructing the Herald to do it (I’ve never read more than an article or two of the Herald, so any similarity in style is happenstance) but the part about the ladies who lunch, as I was, in fact, a lady lunching. By myself, though, so if there are acoustic issues, then I didn’t have the opportunity to observe them. But, in all honesty, I thought the cafe was fantastic and much preferred this take on BBQ than sandwiches I’ve had elsewhere; it’s a personal preference! I can’t verify that there was brown sugar, however, but I think I tasted some in the marinade. All the better as far as I’m concerned! As for it being managed now by Bakastias, this was my first time trying the Nasher, so I would not be able to compare it with how it was under Tornquist. Watts Grocery is absolutely also one of my favorite restaurants in the area, though, and I have liked most of Bakastias’ establishments that I tried, though the atmosphere at George’s Diner was not very exciting.


    MEZ replies on November 15th, 2009 at 7:44 pm:

    And by George’s Diner, I meant George’s Garage, of course. I still have not undertaken the George’s Diner adventure. =)


  • sef said:

    the food at the cafe is amazing! you should try the potato salad. it’s absolutely the best i’ve ever tasted. my friends & i have always been able to converse over lunch


  • burgeoningfoodie said:

    I’ve eaten at the Nasher Cafe and didn’t think much of it. I thought it was comfort food put into an aristocratic setting (I mean the plating and pricing not the museum). Also didn’t think it would be cafeteria styled serving though I guess having been to DC I could see how that would be conceived. I could get the same thing for the same price (or even a little less) at Parker and Otis or Toast and with probably more inventiveness.


  • Outdoor Dining Spots | Carpe Durham said:

    [...] Museum Café, 2001 Campus Drive, Carpe Durham Review. Really nice space overlooking a large lawn and a [...]

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.