Home » Bakeries, Restaurants

Scratch

Posted by DID 1 Sep 2010 32 Comments

If you’ve spent anytime at the Durham Farmer’s Market, you’ve probably seen the long lines that form at Phoebe Lawless’ Scratch stand (CD wrote about her Pie CSA almost a year ago).

And more than likely, you’ve probably fallen victim to the temptation of one of her doughnut muffins. Something about that big bowl of sugar-coated muffins amid rows and rows of fresh veggies is really hard to resist on a Saturday morning.

And, as probably most of you already know, that same big bowl of doughnut muffins has found a permanent home in downtown Durham. On one of the more charming and hidden streets of downtown, Scratch sits next to Sew Crafty on Orange St., a pedestrian crossway right in the middle of Rue Cler, Dos Perros and Revolution.

Scratch is a counter breakfast and lunch spot with an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients. The coffee is Counter Culture and some of the best in Durham. A glass case displays the day’s eats and a chalkboard lists any sandwiches and the source for most ingredients. Local bacon, peaches and pears were for sale on one of the days we visited.

I’ve been a handful of times since Scratch opened this past June. My first visit was opening week for a chocolate doughnut muffin – dark, rich, slightly salty, studded with chocolate and totally addictive. I’ve also been lured by the biscuits – three, small light and fluffy biscuits served with your choice of Maple View butter or a really great peach butter spread. (I usually opt for both, but the extra 50 cents for a pat of butter hurts a bit.) I’ve also tried the sausage biscuit (amazing), the tomato pie (rich and indulgent), an eggplant open-faced sandwich (the best), an empanada (kind of dry but still tasty) and a few of the daily salads (all excellent). And of course the pie, oh the pie.

Warning, the prices at Scratch reflect the local sourcing and the care for ingredients. In other words, they can be a bit steep.

Scratch is a welcome addition to Durham and a great spot for a morning coffee, a casual lunch or a mid-afternoon pie and lemonade fix.

But more importantly, we doughnut muffin addicts now have a regular supplier six days a week.
(Scratch is closed on Sundays).

http://www.piefantasy.com/

111 Orange Street
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 956-5200

32 Comments »

  • Matt said:

    This is a great review, but I wonder if you really thought about what you were writing when you said “Warning, the prices at Scratch reflect the local sourcing and the care for ingredients. In other words, they can be a bit steep.”

    I would hope that one day we can talk about the true cost of food and the care that people like Phoebe put into their art (for that is what good cooking really is, art) without in the same breath lamenting the high cost. As a society we need to get past the whole idea that the most important thing about our food is the cost, and I would encourage Carpe Durham to participate in that change.

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    DID replies on September 1st, 2010 at 9:40 pm:

    sorry that’s how you read it – but i was actually saying the opposite – agreeing with your exact sentiment – that Scratch costs more than your average sandwich shop but that because of the local sourcing and artistry that is it worth every penny. the price is justified. just wanted give folks a heads up.

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    Matt replies on September 1st, 2010 at 9:56 pm:

    I understand, and I really did appreciate your review. I just hate that we’re still in a place where we even feel the need to give people a heads up on cost. I wish it was the opposite – that people would see how cheap McDonald’s Dollar Menu is and get suspicious.

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    Res replies on September 2nd, 2010 at 12:02 am:

    Though I agree that the general public’s perception of food costs is quite skewed, it is one thing to want people to do something (even if it’s for their own good), but quite another to persuade them to do it. Those such as Matt who are familiar with and understanding of the higher costs of locally-sourced/artisan goods have no problem with the (justifiably) higher prices of such goods. But when you’re a public forum such as Carpe Durham whose goal is to introduce that same familiarity and understanding to new audiences, you have to ease them in and let people know that Scratch’s prices, though high, are not an unjustified aberration; rather, higher-quality food deserves its higher price.

    I’ve always skipped by the Scratch stand at the Farmer’s Market because it was simply too expensive for my comfort. Yes, I knew it was local and quality, but a $4 breakfast muffin just didn’t sit well with me — even if I’m not the type to opt for an Egg McMuffin instead. And were it not for this review, if I walked into Scratch-the-restaurant, I might’ve walked out after one look at the prices. Instead, thanks to DID’s honesty, I’m reminded that food-lovers such as Carpe Durham’s bloggers are not food snobs, blind to trivial and plebeian worries such as money. No, food lovers are cognizant of prices and they feel the pinch too, but they remain steadfastly dedicated to supporting their local community and the ideal of what Food (capital F) should be, even if it means they spend more. And now, I’m more inclined to do so as well.

    I plan on stopping by Scratch, knowing that it’ll cost me more, but that it’ll be more than worth it.

    Thanks, DID.

    [Reply]

    linda replies on September 2nd, 2010 at 8:38 am:

    “But when you’re a public forum such as Carpe Durham whose goal is to introduce that same familiarity and understanding to new audiences, you have to ease them in and let people know that Scratch’s prices, though high, are not an unjustified aberration; rather, higher-quality food deserves its higher price. ”

    well put, Res!

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    TSQ75 replies on September 2nd, 2010 at 9:13 am:

    excellent points, well put.

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    KS replies on September 2nd, 2010 at 10:57 am:

    I’d like to point out that for many people, the price of food isn’t an “important thing,” it’s simply an inescapable consideration. I’m fortunate enough to have a decent-paying job and few financial commitments, and even I couldn’t afford to eat at Scratch every day. Rather than getting past the idea that the most important thing about food is the cost, our society needs to get past the idea that is acceptable for some people to be multi-billionaires, while others can’t even afford to feed their family nutritious food. People who eat at McDonald’s regularly don’t do so out of personal choice, they do so because McDonald’s has a carefully orchestrated business plan that makes their crappy food the only dining option available to millions of poor Americans.

    Obviously, this isn’t Scratch’s fault. And I’ve certainly never felt gouged when I’ve gone there. But it’s a plain fact that not everyone can afford $6 for an empanada, regardless of the quality of the ingredients.

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  • Tooth said:

    The tomato pie at Scratch is one of the single best things I’ve eaten all summer. I ordered a slice a few weeks ago and after I put it in my mouth, I was moved to purchase a whole pie to take home. Simple and utterly delicious.

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  • Sant said:

    I would like feedback on an experience I had at Scratch. I ordered a calzone-like item that supposedly had a goat cheese filling. Upon breaking it open it was practically hollow, the goat cheese filling was barely descernable. Also, the crust was very hard. I took the item back to the counter, pointed out its deficiencies, and requested that they exchange it for a mufuletta wedge instead. They responded that they could not do that. I just left the item with them and didn’t bother trying to eat it. Note: I didn’t eat any of it or ask for a refund but rather a credit towards another purchase. The wheart berry salad I got as a side was tasty as was my lunch partner’s sandwich so I think their food is fine. But this incident has so turned me off that I have been reluctant to give them a second try, especially with so many other great lunch options in downtown Durham.

    Did I make an unreasonable request? What would you have done in my situation?

    I have lived and/or worked in downtown Durham since 1997, long before it was chic to do so, so I want all of these new businesses to succeed and make downtown Durham even better.

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    judas_escargot replies on September 2nd, 2010 at 1:51 pm:

    And that thing was probably like 10 bucks too!

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    Caroc replies on September 28th, 2010 at 3:24 pm:

    I unfortunately also got one of the empty calzones, but as I had taken mine back to work to eat, I didn’t bring it to their attention. I did eat the pastry which was fairly good, but extremely dissapointed about the missing filling.

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    CAD replies on October 21st, 2010 at 6:03 pm:

    I love downtown Durham and am always glad to see any new business thrive. I was planning to visit Scratch. But, after reading that they refused to take back a disappointing item – - I will not go there. I don’t mind paying much higher prices for good quality, and I don’t expect things to be perfect every time. But, the service has to be great. Unlike ovens, humidity, or evaporating fillings – - you can ALWAYS provide good customer service.

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  • Dave said:

    I think Sant points out the problem with Scratch–when prices are as high as they are at Scratch, expectations are high. One of my issues with the place is that half of the stuff I’ve had (I’ve been maybe 6 times now) was wonderful and worth every penny, while the other half was merely passable, and you can’t charge $5 for a small slice of “OK” pie or dry pound cake. Well, I guess you can, but you should try not to.

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    linda replies on September 30th, 2010 at 7:33 am:

    scratch customers are ‘price sensitive’.

    from the Bull City Vegan Challenge FB page:

    Went into Scratch Bakery the other day to see if they would feature any vegan breakfast items… I was told that their customers are too “price sensitive” to purchase vegan baked goods. I think they need some friendly educating. Any breakfast/brunch joints joining in on the Challenge?

    [Reply]

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  • Fuzzy said:

    Pointing out the cost of the food was properly done, and well-executed by the comments of the OP.

    I will try to add to what Matt said, in a different way:

    The real problem is not the cost of the food at Scratch, the real problem is the cost of the food at the fast food chains, the real problem is the cost of the food at supermarket.

    Because of the industrial farming methodologies we have going, we have situations where it is *possible* for a half a Billion eggs to be contaminated in the name of the all-mighty dollar. When our corporations are not allowed to suck at the teat of Mammon at the cost of the health and welfare of the people of this nation we will have made a giant step forward.

    Only in the USA do we pay so little a percentage of our income for our food, and you get what you pay for.

    Unfortunately, Dave is right. Expectations for a place that charges like Scratch *are* high because of the money situation, and an “average” place that serves local sanely produced food isn’t likely to do well in a market where you can get SyscoSwill at another restaurant for less.

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    Sant replies on September 3rd, 2010 at 9:47 am:

    Let’s not bend over backwards to make excuses for Scratch. Just down the street is Toast. For $6 you can get a great panini, and they make some of the best soup in the Triangle– which you can get a cup of for another $2! I don’t know about their other ingredients but they source their bread from Rue Cler’s bakery. Local sourcing when possible is great but at the end of the day, your products better taste good and they better be consistent or else you won’t get repeat business. There is a reason Toast is a mad house every day at lunch and at Scratch it’s not.

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    TSQ75 replies on September 3rd, 2010 at 10:16 am:

    toast does tend to buy seasonally, and source their meats, and i’ve even seen them source their seafood to the NC coast.

    of couse, it cant always be seasonal, else we woulfnt be able to get the sausage and rapini panini in february, but they make enough of an effort to be commendable and keep their costs down.

    they are a great example of my new favorite model for eateries, “pick one thing, do it well”

    having said that, Scratch does a beutiful thing and has a great following and reputation for love of the craft and use of Local. So the higher price i believe is expected. I will say, i dont think they need to branch out and try too many things, too many meals.

    every town begs for a great indulgent bakery that has over the top sweets, cakes pies, and savory treats, and coffee. a place where you can order a special dessert for an occasion, get a white box filled with goodies, or pick up a quick muffin or savory pastry for a snack. i think they’ll do just fine sticking to that.

    come winter time, a hot coffee or chocolate and a warm baked thing will be like heaven.

    I do with they would open earlier on weekday though…by 730am, i’m def on the road to work already…

    [Reply]

    Marion replies on September 4th, 2010 at 6:08 pm:

    I think it is somewhat unfair to compare Scratch to Toast.

    Toast specializes in lunch, and Scratch, while they do offer lunch items, is at its heart a bakery.

    I second TSQ75′s comment that every town needs a bakery that reminds us what it is like to be a kid, to be dazzled by the dreamy smells of fresh baked cakes and mounds of glittering, sugary doughnut muffins. I’m glad Scratch has obliged!

    Sant replies on October 6th, 2010 at 4:46 pm:

    If they offer lunch items it’s not unfair to compare their lunch items to others. If they don’t want such comparisons then they shouldn’t offer those items and stick to pastry/baked goods.

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  • Laura said:

    Unfortunately the three times I’ve been to Scratch I’ve been disappointed each time. The savory items I’ve had had too much seasoning or sauce and not enough of “the good stuff” – tomatoes, meat fillings, other veggies, etc. And I know I will get flogged for saying this, but I wasn’t impressed by the doughnut muffin. It was too sugary, messy, and heavy to enjoy. I really, really want to like Scratch, but I haven’t been able to stomach going back and spending a lot of money for something I might not like, yet again.

    [Reply]

    Eric replies on October 6th, 2010 at 3:22 pm:

    I have to agree with you. My wife and I were really excited to try scratch because we had heard so many good things about it. Unfortunately it was a huge letdown. So much so, in fact, that it inspired her to post about it to let others know what to expect. myrtplife.blogspot.com/2010/10/scratch.html. We really wanted to like this place, but for those prices I would expect a 9 or a 10 on every item, and unfortunately the coffee was the only star.

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    linda replies on October 21st, 2010 at 7:13 pm:

    i went earlier this week and got a chorizo/sweet potato empanada and a honeyed turnip crostada. the empanada did not skimp on the filling, which was a pleasant surprise. the crostada was tasty, but halfway through, i bit into two small twigs – perhaps someone was removing the rosemary leaves too quickly, and those fell in the mix.

    i called later to give them a heads up to check the other crostadas, and the person who answered the phone cheerily thanked me for letting them know.

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  • CV said:

    Sant, your request wasn’t unreasonable and I’m really surprised that they refused to exchange it. My favorite places to eat (and the ones that I return to over and over) ALWAYS want the customer to be happy!

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  • Faux Paws said:

    …Just would like to mention that the baristas at Scratch pull some pretty good espresso shots to go with those doughnut muffins.

    A delightful surprise was that they know how to make one of my favorite espresso drinks, the cortado.

    To my knowledge, none of the coffee shops in Durham offer them…reason enough to stop by when you feel like a delicious pick-me-up.

    Faux Paws

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  • TSQ75 said:

    they make cortaditos?! real ones?!

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  • Faux Paws said:

    Yeah, the real deal. Not a macchiato.

    …Right ratio of espresso/milk, served in a large heavy “shot” glass.

    I’m a huge Joe Van Gogh fan, but the Counter Culture espresso, expertly prepared, was sublime.

    Bottoms up!

    Faux Paws

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  • anne said:

    I think Scratch is perfect. It knows what it is — a bakery! And it has fabulous coffee. It is not cheap. Good never is. So, can anyone afford perfection every day? Not I. But I love stopping in there once or twice a week, walking down that cute street, going into that tastefully done out front entrance and ordering a perfect latte and an addictive butternut squash crostada (?) to enjoy at a table outside. Perfection in small things once in a while is all I desire.

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  • Dale Cooper said:

    no mention of the pigs-in-a-blanket? unbelievable sausage in a crispy piece of dough. the best i have ever eaten.

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  • alma apton said:

    Saw the Scratch Bakery shown on Cooking channel, Waited for tuesday to them to open so I could order those yummy looking chocolate torts w/sea salt & the Muffin Donuts, & I must have called too early & told the young man that I would like to order ,but never said what items yet, just that I live in San Diego & he told me to to ship here it would cost &100.00 or 75,00 What???? needless to say I don’t think the Dz, Donut muffins that they say cost $20.00 a Dz,is Worth $100.00in shipping ?? I told him I’m not in Europe !! GOODBYE Scratch!!

    [Reply]

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