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Refectory Café

Posted by DID 12 Oct 2012 5 Comments

Refectory Café opened on Chapel Hill Blvd. just over a month ago with already somewhat of a following thanks to their former Duke campus location.

Open and airy with lots of bright green, the Refectory Café is cheerful and welcoming. Like the campus location, this new Refectory Café offers cafeteria style service. You walk in, pick up a tray and silver, then choose a drink (a variety of bottled beers, juices and sodas) and order at one end of a long bar. Your sandwich is assembled as you slide your tray down, selecting from  salad, fruit and dessert options before paying at the other end.

I’ve proclaimed my love for old-school K&W style cafeterias on Carpe Durham before, but I just don’t love this style of ordering when it comes to lunch. Despite a friendly and patient staff, I still felt the pressure to make an instant decision based on a relatively large and diverse menu. Fans of the Duke Campus location will recognize most of the menu, which includes Refectory’s well-known Indian dal and grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup.

From the menu of wraps, sandwiches, soups and hot dishes, I quickly went with the Student Special – half a sandwich/wrap, cup of soup and bite of dessert combo. I choose the half buffalo chicken wrap (I know, I know boring choice but I fell under the pressure to order quickly) and cup of tomato soup. It came with a quarter of one chocolate chip cookie/biscuit. The wrap wasn’t anything special. Filled with chicken that had just been rubbed with buffalo seasoning, lettuce and provolone with no sauce or dressing of any form, it was fresh but really dry. The soup was good – chunky with tomatoes and rich with cream. I couldn’t tell if the bite-size dessert was a cookie or scone, it was a dense shortbread with mini chocolate chips. It did the job of satisfying my sweet tooth. I was able to snag a few of their house-made chips from a friend’s plate. A mix of white and sweet potato, the chips were light, airy and really addictive. I look forward to giving Refectory Café another try, sampling some of their specials, the breakfast offerings and baked goods.

Refectory Café won’t replace my favorite sandwich at Guglhupf (the yellowfin tuna with tapenade) or Foster’s (grilled turkey with brie), but with its speedy service and reasonable prices – it should do well despite those neighboring Durham institutions.

The Refectory Cafe
2726 Chapel Hill Blvd. Durham, NC
Mon-Fri 7:30am – 7:30pm
Sat – Sun 9:00am – 3:00pm


  • Katy said:

    I don’t want to be a jerk, but lunch must be better than breakfast if you’re willing to go back. My breakfast a few weeks ago featured Mrs. Butterworths’ instead of the real maple syrup they advertised, and the worst coffee I’ve ever had in Durham. You can get better breakfast cheaper at Biscuitville, or MUCH better breakfast for the same price at Guglhupf.


    DID replies on October 12th, 2012 at 2:48 pm:

    it’s base on this



  • BobaTea said:

    What in the world? Have y’all been eating at the same place I have?

    Refectory brunch is completely delicious. The cheese grits are amazing. I had a tropical bread pudding that made me moan with delight. The coffee is a-ok. I was a little confused by the ordering system myself, but only because everything looks so good that I can’t decide.

    If anybody has ever eaten at SunnyPoint in Asheville, this is the same kind of thing — high quality, vegan/veg friendly, pleasant, kindhearted and wholesome.


  • dbird said:

    I haven’t tried breakfast which is not really my thing, but can report that the Refectory’s lunch menu is good food for a very reasonable price. I like being able to feel I can order anything without having to question whether the beef is grass fed or the chicken free-range or the vegetables organic/pesticide free/local. I’m not a fan of Foster’s for several reasons, one being the fact that their beef and chicken items cannot be so characterized. The Refectory contributes something new and valuable to the Chapel Hill Blvd strip from that perspective alone. The food is good, the prices are reasonable. The staff are plentiful and very nice BUT… they seem after a month or so not to have got the system down AT ALL. On one occasion there was a ‘greeter’ who wanted to talk to me about how to understand the menu (really? There is a chalk board and there are sandwiches. Do I look that fresh off the boat?) On other occasions I’ve ordered something simple (eg, a turkey wrap) off the menu, to have the person I was speaking with call in two other people to interpret the order, which they had to discuss among themselves and then ask me again to be sure when I went to pay. Most recently, I gave an order to a chef in a headset who asked me preferences (do you want lettuce? tomato? fries or side salad? which salad?) and then instructed me to take a token to the cash register 12 feet down where I presented it to the register operator who proceeded to ask me all the same questions again. I said that I thought they had already received the order and she said yes, they give one order to the kitchen and then you have to tell me again so I can ring you up. So I went through it again. She repeated it back to me and when she said the name of the salad I confirmed and said yes, but that is the substitute salad, not a separate item correct? Oh yes, I just wanted to be sure. Well of course when I got home and looked at the receipt I had been charged for an extra salad. Anyway, they always seem to have lots of employees standing around and consulting with one another but few who can get the job done first time around. As I say I like the food and prices and they are all very nice. I just hope they will be able to sort out service.


  • Emmy said:

    The Refectory Café had been a place on my to do list for a very long time. I am not usually out to purchase breakfast but I made an effort to make sure I stopped by. Myself and a friend went. The lady who greeted us was nice and offered us samples of the baked oatmeal and cheese grits. The oatmeal was pretty good, but the cheese grits were a bit salty. We ended up ordering the “big breakfast” and “lemon and ricotta cheese pancakes”. Both dishes were not good, especially the pancakes which did not have any distinctive flavor. Hence, Refectory Café gets a D on taste and B- in presentation. I have no interest in returning for lunch.


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