Home » Bars, Beer, Restaurants

City Beverage

Posted by DID 16 Dec 2009 16 Comments


Near the 54/Hope Valley Rd. amid the ever growing strip malls, grocery stores and fast food joints, lies a not-so-hidden treasure, City Beverage.


I used to think of City Beverage as a small bar with a funky vibe and fun cocktails, but recently rediscovered it thanks to a friend’s recommendation that we meet there for dinner.

First off, the newish (I think the Lava Lounge/City Beverage expansion was over two years ago) expanded room is bright and welcoming with a kitschy lounge atmosphere. Second off, the menu was a surprisingly, eclectic mix. In addition to the classic burgers and nachos, we ordered orange habanero salmon tacos and an antipasto plate that had roasted fingerling potatoes, goat cheese balls, beets, prosciutto and a salad. Everything was excellent.


City Beverage isn’t really off the beaten path or a hidden gem, but it certainly is a welcome oasis in the part of Durham where Southpoint and its sprawl reign supreme.


Bonus: On Tuesdays and Thursdays, all of the 32 draft beers are $3/pint (except Triangle Golden and one or two other high alcohol beers).

4810 Hope Valley Rd.
Durham, NC 27704


  • Marty said:

    Really? It has gone downhill fast. Did you have horrible service? Was the food under or over seasoned? I stopped going because they just don’t seem to care and they’re still slow in getting you food/drink.


  • DID (author) said:

    No, the service was fine and the food was tasty. Now that you mention it, it did take us forever to get our check, but we were talking and didn’t really mind.


  • aburtch said:

    City Beverage is an excellent place to have a drink AND a welcome oasis from the chain sprawl, but there are two things that keep me from being a regular. One, while the food is OK, I always feel like it’s overpriced. And secondly the service is always slow. There have even been times when our party has been given major attitude. That’s probably an exception rather than the norm, but it’s enough to make you not want to spend your money there.


    Marty replies on December 18th, 2009 at 11:15 am:

    No, I’ve had the same experience. Especially when you ask for something different or tell them you miss part of the old menu with the burgers. They act like you’re insane.


  • Ralph Haygood said:

    I love City Beverage. I speak with some authority, having eaten there 39 times beginning January 15, 2005. If you go anywhere that many times, you’re bound to see ups and downs. At City Beverage, I’ve seen a few downs, but I’ve seen far more ups – that’s why I keep going back, of course. Highlights include some of the best gumbo, beer-brat-and-cheese soup, BBQ spareribs, and red velvet cake I’ve ever eaten, to name just a few. Incidentally, all of the aforementioned were specials. The regular menu is great too, but I recommend close attention to the specials, which change continually. Indeed, my only regret about City Beverage is that there are certain specials I’ll probably never taste again.

    Thanks for reviewing and appreciating yet another terrific restaurant in Durham.


  • MEZ said:

    City Beverage has been a love it or hate it among many of our friends in the area. I fall in the love it category, though I agree that its prices are too high usually and I also personally believe they need to stop using goat cheese in nearly every recipe. But as with Ralph, I’ve been at CB a million times since we moved here and I love it. I’ve heard the complaint about service a lot too, and I think it’s fair–service can be slow. But since I’m usually headed there to while away an evening, it’s not a problem for me. I love the quirky atmosphere, especially in the purple polka-dotted lounge and really, really love the cocktail list. My faves are the key lime pie martini and the pink pussycat. The spiced chicken used in the nachos is also fantastic.


  • LC said:

    I have had mediocre service and food each and every time I have been to City Bev. I have never understood the hype.


  • Tim said:

    City Beverage could be the Federal if its prices were 30% lower. The atmosphere isn’t any better and the service is way worse, although it was better when they have the Lavaburger Lounge side of the house open. Unlike the Federal, their garlic fries are made from frozen. I’ve eaten there maybe half a dozen times and the tacos are very good, but at $10 with no sides, they should be. I want to like it, but I just can’t warm up to it.


  • Ben said:

    Ridiculous steak sandwich, excellent!
    Crab cakes, excellent!
    Ability to walk over to the lava lounge and order burgers, satisfactory.
    Beer selection and plenty of outdoor seating, excellent!
    My only problem with City Beverage is the parking spaces, small and eneven.


  • enwiebe said:

    I first started going there when it first opened. We loved the crabcakes and fish tacos that first time out and still enjoy them. The original space was too tight on the weekends so I was happy to see the expansion. We really enjoy sitting outside in the nice weather. The service is certainly up and down, but never terrible. I don’t think bad service is ‘institutionalized’ as it is some places. We’re back about once every six months. It’s not a ‘must go to’ destination, but definitely high on the list when we’re on that side of town.


  • Suzann said:

    I agree with most of the other reviews – service is just okay and the prices are too high. However, in this area of Durham, there isn’t much competition if you’re trying to stay out of corporate food world. They have a huge selection of beers, a pool table, and a huge outdoor patio when the weather is nice. Sometimes that’s all you want on a Friday night.


  • Sus said:

    Mmm, yeah – if the prices were like 10% lower it would probably be a bit fairer. They do use good ingredients, especially in their specials. Since I’m in the neighborhood I’ve gone a bunch over the years. It’s got a fun vibe, the service is okay – not great, but it’s never been mind-blowingly bad. Honestly, it’s a bit like in Europe, which just doesn’t bother me that much as long as I get something to drink in the soon-ish time frame. I agree, the steak sandwich is ridiculous and the Cuban, while not on authentic bread is way yummy. I’d rather get tacos at Chubby’s, to be honest. Their salads are excellent. It’s not quite the Federal – wish it were because it’s so much closer to my house, but it’s good. Not everything has to be love it or hate it – I like it a lot every now and then. I would say that if you go, chill about the service. That hyper-efficient yes ma’am yes sir service gets on my nerves anyway.


  • Melissa said:

    The atmosphere is the best aspect of the place. For the prices, I would expect better quality food. The cold brittle discs they use for tortillas (see the taco photo in the original article) are inexcusable in a city with so many great taquerias and sources for fresh tortillas. I emailed them this feedback and got no reply. I’m not eager to go back. Agree the Federal is better.


  • James said:

    I ate there for the first time the other day. My first impression was it reminded me of a bar I used to work at in Raleigh named The Stingray Room, so right away I was interested. It went downhill pretty quickly. The tomato soup I had was insanely rich, too rich to consume. My dates broccoli/cheese soup was mediocre, but with an added surprise of a long blonde hair…she’s a redhead. My italian sandwich was nothing more then some pepperoni and lettuce on bread, bread which was panini’ed to death, very, very toasted…almost burnt. She ordered a beer, a guinness, which arrived 10-15 minutes after ordering it, the restaurant only had about five tables filled at this point. I only had soda/water, and it was like pulling teeth to get refils. I noticed one bartender and four waitresses (along with a trainee) at this time, there was no reason for the lag in service, short of trying to maintain a “cool, hipster” vibe mixed with ennui. I’d be willing to try it again, but my normal attitude on a poor return visit is that I never come back, and I’m not willing to kill the joint just yet….


  • Outdoor Dining Spots | Carpe Durham said:

    [...] Beverage, 4810 Hope Valley Road, Carpe Durham Review. Note: Huge, huge patio with umbrella-topped [...]

  • Jennifer said:

    I had a nightmare experience at the Lava Lounge about a year ago. It took over 45 minutes to get my burger, and when it came, it was raw. Not rare, raw. I couldn’t eat it and sent it back. I got a lot of attitude for complaining about a dinner I couldn’t eat. We ended leaving and going to eat somewhere else. I’m never going back.


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