Home » Bakeries, Coffee, Restaurants

Respite Cafe

Posted by DID 27 Feb 2012 21 Comments

Less than two weeks after their opening, Respite Cafe is already a popular place to hunker down over a laptop. When we stopped this past Saturday, it was packed and I’m guessing Respite will continue to be a choice work/study spot for the West Village crowd.

Respite is fairly small but a bright and welcoming coffee shop. There is a room off to one side filled with a couch and cushy chairs and another small private room with a door and conference table that would be great for off-site meetings or intense study sessions.

I personally am most excited about the fact that Respite is offering Just Crumb desserts and Café Prost pretzels on a regular basis. Just Crumb desserts can be hard to find in Durham. I’ve been lucky enough to sample their wares at various events and I maintain their chocolate stout cake featuring Fullsteam beer is one of the best desserts in the Triangle. My fingers are crossed that Respite will also eventually carry Just Crumb’s fresh-made bagels. I’ve already admitted my soft pretzel addiction and sung the praises of Café Prost here. Lucky for me, Respite will make for a more regular Café Prost supply than the sometimes elusive truck.

It being a nice day outside and pretty much every seat in the house taken – I ordered an iced almond latte and a cheddar pretzel to go. The drink and pretzel rang up just under $8. The baristas still seem to be a bit green as there was a mix-up with my latte and I watched one barista patiently explaining to another how to do a pour-over. But I’m guessing the coffee and the service will improve greatly as they have more experience.

Respite is serving Carrboro Coffee and has over 20 loose-leaf teas available. They also have a wide selection of jams on a back wall. In addition to Café Prost pretzels and Just Crumb desserts, Respite has Reliable Cheese plates for $8, soups of the day, Kismet crackers, Ninth Street Bakery goods and various other pastries.

Respite seems to still be experimenting with their hours, currently they are open Monday-Saturday 8am-8pm.

Respite Cafe
115 N Duke St
Ste 1A
Durham, NC 27701
More in the Durham News


  • Jen said:

    You folks don’t give bad reviews do you?

    I really feel for the owners, and I hope they will be able to improve their services, but my experience there was pretty bad.

    I had the chocolate croissant, which was completely stale, and didn’t seem as though it had the best ingredients even if fresh. I saw another half-eaten croissant that had been left behind and not cleaned up when I left, so I’m guessing I’m not the only one who got a stale one. My friends were equally unimpressed by their drinks, my latte was fine.

    I also got my order mixed up at first, which is odd since their menu is very small. Yes, they are just starting out – but I would think in this economy there would be plenty of folks with barista/waiter experience looking for work?

    The decor was outdated and somehow both homely and a little sterile at the same time, not that decor is the most important aspect by any means.

    I also read somewhere that the owners want to focus on tea. I think it’s very difficult to do this, but I would suggest that if one is going to take on this challenge, you have to offer a brand of tea that someone can’t just buy at the supermarket, so customers will keep coming back to you (this is why tea houses are a challenging venture!).

    I hope it works out, but it needs a lot of improvement.


    DID replies on February 29th, 2012 at 12:13 pm:

    yep – if we really hate a place we just don’t review – that’s why certain Durham long-time establishments are somewhat conspicuously missing.

    We aren’t experts and don’t claim to be – so we don’t want to hurt someone’s business just based on our experience.

    Respite has only been open just over a week – so doesn’t seem justified to judge them harshly – hence my focus on what they are offering verses their shortcomings.


    Jen replies on March 1st, 2012 at 12:59 pm:

    Writing a bad review isn’t bad for business and it doesn’t automatically run a business into the ground. It gives them concrete examples of where they can improve, which will help their business in the long run. If it stays as is, they won’t get any return customers, and their business will go under. When businesses have bad reviews to worry about, they try their best and Durham gets the best possible restaurants they can.

    But if you don’t review restaurants you don’t like, why did you review this one now instead of waiting until it improved?


    Rob replies on March 1st, 2012 at 5:03 pm:

    Re: Restaurants needing critiques and the like in order to adapt

    I occasionally send an email to a restaurant owner to let them know when things need some changing. For example, this December I tried a new place for breakfast and the service was very unorganized. We didn’t get toast that was advertised as a side, and then when we got it we didn’t get butter. Also, a fritatta was still cold in the middle when it should’ve been served hot. Some other problems too. So, I sent the owner an email and let them know point by point what they should have their front and back of house staff work on. And, three weeks later, I had a much better experience.

    So yeah, I recommend you take the same approach.

    (note: I’m not affiliated in any way with this blog)

    DID replies on March 2nd, 2012 at 10:58 am:

    Because I am pumped you can get Cafe Prost Pretzels & Just Crumb goods on the regular in Durham – and other folks should be too. Because I did not have a horrible experience – my latte was fine, the folks were nice, i like the bright blue walls.

  • jonn said:

    When I tried to write for Carpedurham about 2 years ago that was actually one of the requirements, no bad reviews. You can understand not wanting to use a popular website to ruin someone’s business but also it allowed no room for honest reviews of negative experiences.

    I think Respite is adequate, but nothing special. I’m sure people in West Village will love having it nearby. But so far..still no great coffee shop in Durham. My hope is pinned on the Cocoa Cinnamon/bikeCoffee people’s new venture at Foster & Geer.


    RPP replies on February 29th, 2012 at 11:54 am:

    Just a point of clarification: We have no policy against discussing negative aspects of an experience, so I am sorry if that was your impression. We are always honest in reviews, and we frequently point out areas that we think need improvement. But it is true that we tend not to post reviews that are purely negative. When there is nothing positive to say about a place (which happens fairly often), we just don’t post about it at all. We are not trying to be restaurants critics here, just to point people to experiences we think they might enjoy.


    DID replies on February 29th, 2012 at 12:23 pm:

    Yep – If there is nothing redeeming about a place I just don’t review – which happens more often than you’d think.

    Like I said in response to Jen – Respite has only been open just over a week. They are serving Carrboro Coffee beans which are right up there with Larry’s and Counter Culture- which gives me hope they will improve with experience.

    I also do think the Cocoa Cinnamon/bikeCoffee shop will take things to a new level. Their dedication to their craft is incredible.


    Mike Hill replies on March 1st, 2012 at 3:54 pm:

    I gotta say I was disappointed to hear of the way Mary Beth at gyrotonic Durham got evicted by Bob Chapman when she single handedly renovated that gas station on the corner of Geer and Foster. From what I hear it wasn’t about money it was just that Gyrotonic didn’t massage Bobs ego enough.

  • celeritas said:

    I was so happy to hear that a place had opened that offered real tea. I don’t understand why it has taken so long for a proper tea shop to open in this area. I had high hopes for my first visit this afternoon. Oh well. I can only hope that they are just experiencing opening pains, and perhaps their real staff are still in training somewhere and will soon appear, along with provisions. All the tables were occupied when I arrived, but some one offered to clear off a table in a side room where she had been eating lunch, very kind. I ordered a pot of Earl Grey, with milk, which was delivered, oddly, with the pot on the saucer and no saucer for that cup or the second one they brought for my friend, who had ordered a different drink (they brought that too, in a takeaway cup). No milk was provided, and I went looking, but none on the counter. Meanwhile half the people who had been lounging at the tables were now standing leaning up on the counter, and one asked me what I thought of the volume on the music. I realised that most of them were actually staff, not customers. But while I stood patiently at the counter trying to catch some one’s eye, they continued to chat among themselves– and I was still unsure enough about whether they were indeed staff that I was loathe to interrupt. Finally I grabbed the person who had initially filled the order and asked if I might have a bit of milk for the tea. Oh, sure, a glass of milk, says he, as if he had not heard me ask (twice before) for milk. He starts pouring and he looks puzzled when I tell him that’s plenty when there is just a bit in the glass (no pitchers?). Without a spout, I spill the milk when pouring it into my cup but can’t find any napkins. Then I pour the tea, which tastes strangely of vanilla, absolutely no bergamot. I open the lid and in fact there’s a big tea bag, now waterlogged and no way to remove gracefully from the pot, nor saucer large enough to contain.

    On the plus side: this side room was made available gratis for what turned out to be a lengthier meeting than we had anticipated.


  • celeritas said:

    oh, and for the record: I think music is for staff rather than customers. Joe van Gogh with your tiny speakers directed at customers who must raise their voices to place orders: please take note. ‘Respite’ would be silence.


  • Jen said:


    I think either approach is equally valid. I realize that response makes me sound like a raging capitalist, but in this case that’s just my opinion. This blog can run itself however it wants, but they do say they welcome differing opinions, and in this case I felt the need to speak up because the review seemed misleading and unhelpful to both the owners of Respite and to potential customers.


    judas_escargot replies on March 2nd, 2012 at 9:59 am:

    Well thank God for that, the editors now have permission from Jen to operate their blog the way they want.


    Jen replies on March 2nd, 2012 at 3:42 pm:



  • Paul said:

    I was really excited to see a new cafe downtown. I’ve been to Respite twice now. It’s a nice, albeit small, space. I found the staff quite friendly and attentive. However, I just paid $2.14 for a small drip coffee, which seems overpriced. Unless the price drops, I won’t be likely to go back.


    John replies on March 3rd, 2012 at 7:34 am:

    Paul are you really upset about paying $2.14 for a small coffee? Welcome to 2012. The price of coffee beans worldwide has skyrocketted over the past two years. That is how muchit costs for a cup of joe just about everywhere besides dirty gas stations serving folgers.


    Rebecca replies on March 4th, 2012 at 5:03 pm:

    I just paid $2 for a large coffee at Foster’s Market that comes with unlimited refills. And the coffee tasted better than the cup I had at Respite on Friday morning.

    I’m happy every time a new business opens in Durham. I wish them success. But I was really surprised by the size of the small $2 coffee–I think probably 8 oz. It did seem crazy, and I was kind of put off by it. I think other establishments in the area have managed to keep the price of a cup of coffee within bounds, and not skimp on the portions.

    The staff was friendly. Our pretzel was stale.

    It will be a while before I return.


    Paul replies on March 6th, 2012 at 12:02 pm:

    No, John, plenty of other places in Durham offer good cups of coffee for less than $2. Daisy Cakes even gives you a sugar cookie with it for $1.75.


    John replies on March 9th, 2012 at 5:42 pm:

    Wow, hard to beleive people are put off by paying $2 for a cup of coffee because they free refills at that price or want coffee for 25 cents less plus a cookie!

    Given that the two examples given (DaisyCakes and Fosters) aren’t true coffee shops and in fact earn the vast majority of their profits from food I am not surprised they offer coffee at a whopping 25 cents less. It’s marketing method called a “Loss Leader”. Google it. Not surprising that a coffee shop can’t afford to give their primary good (coffee) away at cost or at a loss. Gosh, people griping about 25 cents difference on luxury drinks. Maybe Cafe Respite should just give their coffee away for Free?

  • Coffee rounds said:

    I was so happy to see a new coffee shop open in Durham! Here’s my take after four visits:
    -Has wifi and is open on Mondays (when Hupf is not)
    -I’ve ordered straight forward espresso drinks and they were all excellent
    -Comfortable space with different zones (conference table, comfy upholstered furniture, and tables with chairs)

    -The owner, (manager ?) is very surly with her staff (I’ve witnessed her being snarky with them on both of my last two visits). I’m sitting in the furthest seat from the counter and can still overhear the tense interactions. She needs her staff to be happy and well trained (see other reviews) so I hope she eases up and focuses in a more productive way. It’s a turn-off for sure. That said, the staff is very friendly but definitely could benefit from further training.


  • Bob said:

    Triangle Arts and Entertainment is taking a poll on who is the Best Coffee Shop in the Triangle. Please vote or suggest someone we might have missed.

    Winner gets a plaque and caffeine kicking bragging rights plus web badges and the top 5 finalists get certificates plus web badges.



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