Home » Bars, Restaurants

Tobacco Road Sports Cafe

Posted by TIF 15 Apr 2011 12 Comments

written in collaboration with MEZ

In general, I prefer smaller bars to larger, more mainstream establishments. So when a friend suggested we watch the Final Four at Tobacco Road Sports Cafe, I wasn’t psyched. Not one to rock the boat, I went along for the ride and ended up being pleasantly surprised. Tobacco Road Sports Cafe is adjacent to the Durham Bulls Baseball Field and is walking distance from DPAC. This makes it a conveniently located downtown bar for folks wanting to grab a snack or watch a game. There’s a huge wall with over 12 TVs, allowing you to see the games being broadcast from pretty much anywhere in the cafe. The interior is gigantic and there’s also outdoor seating, making it a great place to hang when the weather’s nice. The food was your typical bar fare–nachos, sandwiches/burgers, soups, salads, desserts, and more than a few entrees.

What makes this sports cafe, not to be confused with a sports bar, (a distinction they make on their website), stand out though, is it’s happy hour special. With the purchase of a $2.50 drink, you can get a select menu item for $3. The special runs Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 5:30.

On a separate occasion, MEZ went to their happy hour and had the BBQ pork sandwich. This is what she had to say, “I thought the sandwich straddled the line between sugary and vinegary quite nicely, and the coleslaw—often an afterthought for BBQ sandwiches—gave a nice contrast to the sauce. The heaping mound of onion strings had a flaky batter and were delicious.”

When I went the night of the Final Four, the sports cafe was jammed packed, which made it a pretty fun place to watch basketball. We ordered the nachos, sweet potato fries, wings, cheese grits, chocolate cake, pecan pie, and apple pie. The fries and nachos were pretty standard, but tasty. The cheese grits could have used more seasoning (not super surprising, I know, but I’m just putting it out there). My friends said the wings’ buffalo sauce, which is made in-house, “had the perfect heat level.”

The desserts were good too, but oddly, they all came with chocolate sauce drizzled on them. Chocolate sauce drizzled on chocolate cake totally makes sense. I can even get down with chocolate sauce on pecan pie, but the chocolate sauce on the caramel apple pie was just a bit strange. Of the three desserts, the pecan pie was my personal favorite.

All in all, I would suggest Tobacco Road Sports Cafe if you have a large group of folks getting together and/or if you want to watch a major sporting event in a setting with a lot of energy.

Tobacco Road Sports Cafe

280 S. Mangum Street

Durham, NC 27701



  • max said:

    its “psyched” not “siked” as in im psyched up to go go-go dancing tonight.


    SK replies on April 15th, 2011 at 12:15 pm:

    Hey that’s what I was coming here to say. Not the go-go dancing part.


    bj replies on April 15th, 2011 at 1:46 pm:

    It’s “it’s” and “I’m”. :)


    TIF replies on April 17th, 2011 at 9:17 am:

    Thanks for the correction!


  • Heather said:

    Tobacco Road has, hands down, the best hummus ever! It is so delicious – I always order the hummus and pimiento cheese platter and substitute out the pimiento for MORE hummus! (Never learned to appreciate pimiento cheese.)

    I highly recommend that you try it during your next trip!


  • SHU said:

    i have been to tobacco road and ordered less traditional bar fare — i think i got the cobb salad. i was really impressed with the freshness, quality, and attention to detail towards the food! so, just wanted to put that out there for those who are not typically into wings + nachos (but maybe their significant other or friends are) that tobacco road can be a great choice to serve different tastes.

    [the other bar-type establishment i can think of where this is true is the federal.]


  • JBlink said:

    I have never been here, but I now have a reason to stay away… The owner (along with other owners — such as a McDonalds franchisee) is trying to keep food trucks blocked from large parts of Raleigh.

    Food trucks should stick to festivals and construction sites, said Alex Amra, owner of Tobacco Road Sports Café and Amra’s bar.

    He also said “it was unfair for food trucks to come in and ‘feed off of the business we’ve brought to these streets.’”


    I’m not suggesting that food trucks should be able to pull-up wherever they want, block traffic, etc (and my experience is that they don’t!) but trying to keep them down this way does not sit well with me. If these restaurants are so threatened by food trucks, perhaps they are doing something wrong (McDonalds in Durham notes 10% decrease in sales, blamed somehow on Food Trucks). Nobody deserves to stay in business just because they exist!


    RPP replies on April 21st, 2011 at 6:46 pm:

    That article has some incredible stuff in it. This is also a great quote: “The city needs to understand that we rely on you guys to take care of us,” Hanley said.


  • DGM said:

    We’ve been twice, and it seems to be a solid place to hangout….but for some reason I always forget about it when we get a night out. The recliners in front of the TVs are a nice touch.


  • monte said:

    When the owner tells you a seating policy of 2/3 party present is more important than customers, stay away. We asked to sit so we could feed a 15 month old baby, only having 3 of 6 (50% instead of 67%) present and Mr. Arma, an owner said no, even though there were 14 tables open at the time…we were one head short, no exceptions and no table changes to a 4-top. I regret the thousands of dollars spent from personal and business outings I took to Mr. Arma’s restaurant the past 18 months…I once really liked the place. However choosing an obnoxious policy over doing the right thing is something I will unfortunately speak about every time dining in Durham comes up. There are too many great options rather than wasting money on pathetic service.


  • Andy said:

    Worst service in Durham, overpriced and mediocre food, and somehow always busy. It’s usually a hassle to be seated. Being a die-hard sports fan led me to give this place far too many chances. If you can live with watching three things at once instead of thirty, go to Tyler’s, Satisfaction, or even Devine’s.


    CDB replies on October 16th, 2013 at 1:44 pm:

    I’m no restauranteur but it seems like it would be pretty hard to screw up a that space with that location. So, in that sense, both the traffic they draw and the prices they offer are not a big surprise to me. But agree on the food–I’d really like to see them step up their game to better match the prices. Maybe they opened strong and started cutting corners? I’ve only been there more recently, so I don’t have the experience to judge.


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