Home » Bars, Restaurants

The Blue Note Grill

Posted by NOK 11 Jun 2010 26 Comments

Open just two weeks, The Blue Note Grill on 15-501 is already doing most everything right. We were seated by the owner’s daughter, who proudly told us that “everything but the fries” are made in house, with the recipes that she had grown up with. Later, her mom came out to welcome us as well, saying they are still working to tweak the menu – 5 changes in the past two weeks, mostly based on customer feedback. This included the addition of several vegetarian items to round out an otherwise meat-heavy menu.

We tried the Boulevard Burger, lured by the promise of beef ground fresh daily (from brisket, no less), and the pork chop sandwich. The burger, cooked medium by request, looked to be 6-8 ounces and was hand-formed into a 3/4 inch thick patty wide enough to just overshoot the large, soft bun. It was topped with lettuce, american cheese, onion, tomato, and mayo. Overall, very good, though I might ask for a little less mayo (or on the side) next time. I substituted onion rings for fries (for $1.99) and was delighted by the substantial rings with a crisp shell, just a little bit of chewy breading beneath, then a thick piece of onion at the center.

My dining companion had the pork chop sandwich, breaded and fried, then served with slaw and tomato on the same big roll used for the burger. She declared it excellent, and I agreed that it was very good (though I’m a sucker for slaw on sandwich). The chop was boneless, not overly thick, and breaded enough to give it some bite without being overwhelming. Fries on the side were standard, admittedly not house-cut but a fine accompaniment to the meal.

Both sandwiches came on “butter-toasted” buns, but were also served wrapped in paper. I suspect that the hot sandwich in paper steams the bun a bit, so next time I might ask for it sans paper to get some of that good, toasty crunch that you should get out of a toasted bun.

The location, in the former Torero’s spot, adjacent to Spartacus on 15-501 by Target/Sam’s, could be better, but it works in a good-food-in-strip-malls-in-Durham kind of way. We sat in the covered outdoor seating area out front and the 15-501 traffic was barely noticeable.

Word is that they’ve got a wood fired smoker that they use for ‘que, and that they’re starting a Friday ribs tradition. There’s also promise of live music in the near future.

So, while much of the menu looks like standard bar fare, the solid execution and promise of continuous tweaking and experimentation, plus the warm, friendly service, make Blue Note a good option for lunch or dinner in the South Square area. If anyone has tried anything else, please share your experience in the comments below!

Blue Note Grill
4125 Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard map
Durham, NC 27707-2666
(919) 493-0491
http://www.thebluenotegrill.com, with menu.


  • Tooth said:

    Cool. Their website says they have “good selection of local and regional craft beers on tap.” What’s the story on that? Did you happen to notice what brews they have or how they’re priced?


  • RG said:

    We stopped by last friday..they had just opened. The owners seem to really care about the customers as both came by the table to check on our happiness. I had the smoked ribs…they were very good, only second to the original Qshack. The rest of the family really liked what they had selected. I only wish they would serve more fries to fill out the plates. I think as long as they keep up the quality and attention to the customers they will have a long run in Durham. Cant wait to go again and dig in to some of the bread puddin!


  • Sylvia Williams said:

    We were informed that 50% of the beers are from the local community. This is great because it helps out the other community businesses. I tried the Triangle White and loved it.


  • Megansjunk said:

    A great famiy run restaurant — absolutely loved the ribs and the pork chop sandwich (with slaw). Hope to try something different each time I go! It is nice to be greeted warmly by the owners and other family members who work there — thought the attention to detail was very good. I hope The Blue Note Grill has a long run!


  • NOK (author) said:

    I stopped looking at the beer list when informed of the $3.00 special for Sweetwater 420 (Atlanta). I did notice the aforementioned Triangle White, the stalwart PBR, and maybe(?) the Foothills Torch Pilsner. It looked like a total of 6-8 beers on tap, so I’m obviously missing a few. There are so many well-curated, local-leaning taps in Durham that BNG’s selection stood as neither especially strong nor weak.


  • Porky LeSwine said:

    NOK, I was there a few days ago to research a BBQ review for my website and happened to take a picture of the beer list. It included these suds on draft: Fat Tire, Stella, PBR, Triangle White, SWater 420, and 3 from Foothills (Hurricane Hefeweizen, Torch Pilsner and Hoppyum IPA). There were some other beers in bottles but only babies are meant to drink from bottles.

    Glad to hear the grill food was tasty, it looked good. The folks who run the place are definitely very nice and open to customer input.


  • Krista said:

    I met a girlfreind for supper at BNG 2 wks. after they opened. We split the sampler then I ordered the BBLT Quesadilla. The portions were plentiful, food tasty & fresh. Took leftover ques home to my vegetarian daughter who snarfed it for lunch the next day.

    Last Mon. I started working at BNG as a server. The owners, Bill & Andrea, and their daughter, Jenn, are soooo easy going, genuinely friendly and very positive w/toward staff. I go to bed at nite looking forward to going to work the next day (what a concept, huh?).
    Hey, having blues playing through the speakers the whole time I’m at work is icing on the cake. What a cool place to work (and if the employees are happy campers that’s saying a lot for the BNG).

    Y’all come on down!


  • Tracey said:

    BEST burger in durham ,the burgers are large and it comes with plenty of fries, you will get more than your moneys worth. I give it 4 stars ****


  • JC said:

    The Blue Note may have the best onion rings and the best sweet potato fries that I ever remember eating. Pork Chop sandwich was solid, and my wife enjoyed the sliders. Fried pickles were ok, but we’re fried pickle snobs. Look forward to going back soon.


    RG replies on June 23rd, 2010 at 7:34 pm:

    I also thought the fried pickels could have been better.


  • lakersfan said:

    I really liked it. Great food and atmosphere, and after a little while the owner came over and gave everyone in my party of 7 a free slice of chocolate cake! And then a live blues band came in, so it was awesome…


  • mmmyummay said:

    This place is seriously good eats with great service–can’t beat it. We went yesterday and will definitely be returning.

    The fresh-ground brisket made a truly fantastic burger, full of flavor and unbeatable beefiness. My Boulevard burger didn’t come with mayo, or any (unnecessary) condiments for that matter, just onion/tomato/lettuce. Like Tracey said, it was one of the best burgers in Durham– more flavorful than Dain’s and Only Burger, bigger than The Fed’s. Onion rings had a super crunchy coating, with a thin ring of onion inside. Tasty.
    -The Nibbler Sampler: Fried flattened plantains were good, though made with riper/sweeter plantains than your typical Latin tostones. Fried banana peppers were just that, but pleasingly crunchier than I expected them to be. Hot wings had a classically buffalo sauce, tangy and buttery, but weren’t otherwise particularly notable.
    -Ribs: Maybe it was just last night, but the ribs seem to go pretty fast. We ordered by 7pm, and the waitress came back to inform us that we just got the last of the ribs…and the dinner rush hadn’t even started yet. Ribs come either dry-rub or wet, with squeeze bottles of two house sauces. (I ended up using the the thicker one as a dipping sauce for everything. mmm) Our ribs were a bit dry/crusty in some parts, perhaps from being the last of the day, but the flavor was by no means compromised. The wet came coated in a thick sauce– sweet and smoky with a spicy kick too. The meat itself, pink from the smoking, was thoroughly penetrated by flavor.
    -Bread pudding: Not the biggest serving for $5 and crazy sweet, but man oh man…seriously good stuff. Very tender, verging on custard-y, and topped with a generous serving of freshly whipped cream. The whipped cream hides a crusted topping of brown-sugar(?) and candied walnuts, so each mouthful was a great textural contrast of crunchy nuts/custardy bread + warm bread/cold cream. I just wish they gave more…

    Of course, it doesn’t hurt that our desserts were complimentary from Bill for being “first time customers,” but their food and service have turned me into a repeat customer. Also, our waitress was very attentive with refilling drinks. I hope they eventually add some of the lunch specials to the dinner menu, cuz I’d love to try some of their other offerings. After 8pm on Fri/Sat, there’s a $5 cover for the band (good blues as we were heading out), so the place looks like a great place to kick back on a weekend night with some live music, local brews, and tasty grubs. All in all, I’d have to say that BNG is a pretty satisfying addition to the Durham food scene.


  • Kim said:

    I strongly advise going to this restaurant unless you enjoy wasting your money. This weekend we tried this place for dinner and it was awful and overpriced. We paid $25 for two hot dogs, frozen fries and onion rings, and soda. A meal like that (especially at such low quality) should not cost $25. First, we ordered the onion rings appetizer. The menu makes them seem so appealing adding that they come with a “tangy ranch sauce.” Our server brought them to us with ketchup and when I asked for the ranch sauce, she brought a ranch dressing that tasted like the kind you get from the dollar store. The onion rings themselves were terrible. There were about 8 of them for $6.99, which is just outrageous. I would have rather spent that $6.99 on dog biscuits for my dog because he would have gotten more enjoyment out of them than we did out of those onion rings. The breading was way too thick and it was quite obvious that they were frozen. Even our server told us that “they are going to start breading their own onion rings soon”. I don’t even trust that they will do that well. Next, we each ordered the Blue Note Dog, which is a hot dog wrapped in bacon. They were $5.99 each and served with the worst selection of frozen French fries. The bacon was so thin that we couldn’t even tell it was there. The so-called “homemade chili” tasted like Texas Pete chili from the can with canned beans added into it. There was nothing special about the hot dog or the bun at all. I’ve had better hot dogs at the Raleigh flea market. Their beer specials were Bud and Bud Light bottles for $2.75, which is also ridiculous and hardly a “special”. We will definitely never visit this place again.


    Kim replies on June 27th, 2010 at 10:23 am:

    Note: I strongly advise AGAINST* going to this restaurant.


  • RLP said:

    Been there half a dozen times and just about everything we had was really tasty.

    The wife ordered a chicken Quesadilla and it was huge! After the meal she asked if there were other types available and they said that was the only kind they served. I then asked if they could make a BBQ Quesadilla and they said that it sounded like a good idea.

    Try the Q-Zilla next time you go!

    Last Friday they had a band who were really good. it was The Dirty D’s Blues Band. Sorta loud if you sat close, but the patrons really liked them. Many standing ovations. It didn’t hurt to have my son in the band either.

    I got hungry and asked if they had chili cheese fries and they answered, “No”.

    I then asked if they had fries.


    Do you serve chili?


    Do you have some cheese?


    OK, then. Put them together and bring it out.

    That’ll probably be on the menu next week.

    I like it and will be returning soon.


  • Alan said:

    Ate there last night with the family and thoroughly enjoyed it. Can echo some of the good things noted by other comments:

    – Food was not fancy but really good. Most everything exceeded expectations. Burger as good as any I’ve had in Durham. Pork chop sandwich was unique and really tasty. Fried banana betters were excellent; liked them better than the version at Rick’s Diner. Fries and o-rings were fine but pretty much the same you’d get anywhere. Biggest surprise was the bread pudding. I usually hate bread pudding and would never order it on my own. But, the owners gave all of us a complimentary sample and I have got to say it truly rocked.

    – Very friendly and engaging owners. They clearly care a lot about the restaurant and seem to have poured their heart and soul into it.

    Couple of things I haven’t seen mentioned:

    – The location is a little weird, in sort of a nondescript strip mall of 15-501 near Target, but they’ve done a good job in creating a nice sheltered space, especially with a cool covered, porch-type area in front for outdoor eating.

    – According to the owners, they plan to start having bands and music soon.

    All in all, a very promising start. Wish them the best.


  • Alan said:

    Oops, just noticed some of my “Things I have seen mentioned” actually are mentioned in the initial review so I guess I can’t claim points for originality. So instead of my sort of long-winded comment, I could probably have just written “What NOK said.” His/her review is pretty spot-on.


    Alan replies on July 3rd, 2010 at 4:46 pm:

    “Things I HAVEN”T seen mentioned”


  • Erica said:

    I have been there twice and had really good service. They were sensitive to the fact that I have issues with dairy, so they went over everything, making sure I got what I needed.

    The first time, I had the vegetarian burrito, which was quite good, even without the cheese. A little extra sauce and I was good to go.

    The 2nd time I had an AMAZING lunch. Homemade meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and two other veggies, plus a roll, with a drink for $6.99! It was a delicious meal and HUGE.

    I will definitely be going back again.


  • stephen said:


    I’ve been trying to figure out where BNG was, ever since I started seeing that they were open and had good music. Now I know.

    I don’t see any mention of the nature of their beef and pork. I like many meat dishes (including burgers and ribs)…but knowing how terrible the practices of the factury meat industry are completely takes the pleasure out of the meal.

    I’d love to eat here, any many other eateries in the area…if there food was made with, especially local, meat that has been raised “in the field” and not gone to a feedlot for fattening prior to butchering.

    There are alot of us out here willing to pay the extra bucks.



  • ernesto said:

    We went to the Blue Note for the first time tonight. We had fried banana peppers, bacon wrapped hot dog, pork chop sandwich and chili with a bone (rib). Everything was delicious and the service was excellent. I can’t wait to go back for a slab of ribs.


  • colleen said:

    Hi Owners and All..

    My first time in on a Monday night.. Celebrated my B-Day with some girls..

    Food “Great”..

    Music “Awsome”.. (I’ll be back for my CD..!)

    Service “Remarkable”

    “Every Whim Met” (and believe me I can be a real pain in the arss on my B-Day)..

    I felt pampered and owners made us feel very welcomed.. We’ll be back very soon for more grub and to catch some of the live music (and no doubt.. dancin..)..!!

    Thank guys for takin the leap for all to venture and enjoy..



  • Jason said:

    Went today for the first time and had the burger. Meat was pretty good, the bun (toasted with butter) was excellent and the fries were typical, yet tasty. They let me know they use ground brisket for the patties and it definitely pays off. I really enjoyed the laid back atmosphere, good beer choices, and the chance to catch up on Sportscenter during lunch while nestled up to the bar.

    I will be going back soon to try to the BBQ as it looked delicious. All in all though, it was nice choice for a quick lunch in a pleasant atmosphere.


  • ktday5 said:

    This has become a favorite place for me!! I especially enjoy Tuesday night “Blues Jam”. The clientele runs the gamut from young to 60′s, totally laid back vibe with everyone invested in the music! There are always dancers. The food is wonderful. The pulled pork and ribs are smoked in house and I’ve never had better. They have been out of the brisket every time I’ve been so it must be of the same quality. I had a patty melt the other night and it was great. The sweet potato fries are so good…..not at all greasy. The beer selection is quite large too. I just love it. My fav waiter, Kit, is always smiling and bends over backwards to make sure you are happy. Also, the owners (who have been there EVERY time I’ve been) Bill and Andrea, are sweet, welcoming people who seem to enjoy their place and all the people. Check it out!


  • Leepin said:

    Went last night, had the fried pork chop sandwhich and my mother had the ribs. We split an order of fried banana peppers. The place filled up fast as there was a blue grass band coming in to play that night. All the servers were friendly, our food came out fast. The owner opened the door for us, asked about our meals and then waved goodbye when we left. The food was good, but the people is probably what makes this place so popular, I can easily see it being a weekly hang out.


  • Harriet said:

    I really miss the old location. The new one still has delicious food but the atmosphere doesn’t compare at all with the one on ChapelHill Blvd. l think it’s more of a hipster place now ☹️


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