Home » Restaurants


Posted by DID 20 Aug 2014 6 Comments

The Triangle officially has its first restaurant with a completely gluten-free kitchen – it was only a matter of time. I personally (luckily) have no need for a gluten-free environment, but I do have enough friends who forego all things gluten to understand the appeal of being able to walk into a restaurant and order absolutely anything on the menu (other than the beer, of course).

Not surprising from the guy behind Blu Seafood downtown, but Primal is going well beyond just being the Triangle’s first gluten-free restaurant. It’s serving up locally-sourced ingredients that have been cooked in a wood-fired oven. It’s a menu that should appeal to just about everyone – those with dietary restrictions and those without. The menu will change seasonally every 3-4 months and there is a kids menu with gluten-free mac and cheese.

Primal has done an impressive job of turning what was once a Souper Salad into an open, modern atmosphere that manages – with lots of wood and exposed light bulbs – to be airy and warm at the same time.

We stopped in on a rainy Saturday night at 7 and had no problem walking in a grabbing a table. We started off with two cocktails, the CCR and the special fizz of the night. We tried a variety of the menu – bacon-wrapped dates, grilled octopus, grilled salad, short ribs and coconut ice cream with grilled pineapple. Primal is really into to taking full advantage of their wood-fired oven.

The dates, though not as good as those at Mateo, are still bacon-wraped dates – four served with an arugula/goat cheese salad. The grilled hearts of romaine delivers all the best of the classic wedge salad kicked up a notch with the grilled romaine. The octopus was a unique salad balanced with the preserved lemons. The short ribs were the only dish I didn’t love, they lacked the crazy punch of flavor that I expect from short ribs. We asked for a bit of salt, and that helped but they just didn’t sparkle with the rich, meaty umami that short ribs usually have.

For the four plates, two cocktails and a dessert, our bill came to a relatively reasonable $78. Again, for me as a non gluten-free eater who lives downtown, we probably won’t be venturing to this part of town just for Primal. But for all those many, many people for whom gluten is a concern, Primal is a very freeing and welcome site in Durham.

Primal Food & Spirits
202 West NC Hwy 54, (the shopping center across fem Shiki Sushi Рnext to the Kroger) 
Suite 107, Durham, North Carolina 27713
Dinner – Tues-Sun – 5pm-10pm
Sunday Brunch from 11 – 2


  • M said:

    I ate here and have not hated a dining experience as much as I did this one in a very long time.

    The only good thing about this place is the decor and the bar tender (he was quick, attentive, and does good cocktails). Otherwise, this place is predatory and just taking advantage of trendy buzzwords without delivering.

    Locally-sourced, huh? You mean the dates? Mango? Pineapple? Coconut? Almonds? Or how about all of the produce that is nowhere close to being in season? I challenge you to go find strawberries, cauliflower, fennel, cabbage–any of it–go to the farmer’s market this week and try to find any of those. Its an insult to the many restaurants in Durham that ACTUALLY use and honor local ingredients.

    Then there’s the gluten-free angle. Did you know a plain old steak is gluten-free? All of the main courses are no more prepared than meat thrown on a grill. And you know what someone who has to eat gluten-free wants from a gluten-free restaurant? The stuff they can’t normally have elsewhere…so if you have lasagna on the menu, there should be at least one noodle in the dish. An overly thick, raw hunk of eggplant drowning in sauce and cheese is not lasagna by any creative interpretation. Also, you should be able to name any of the gluten-free flours used in the pastries for dessert…given that nobody who was working when I went could answer, I question how much of it was bought in rather than prepared in house.

    And the a la carte side dishes…if I recall, it was something like $4-6 for a a grilled half an ear of corn. That’s reasonably priced? About as reasonably priced as the $6 (!!!!)”basket” of 4 small pieces of bread.

    Also, I had truly godawful service when I went. I could write a novel on that…everyone involved ranging from the hostess, our waitress, the manager, and the owner’s wife who even took the time to chide me personally over the internet.

    Primal is the complete package…bland, imported, significantly over-priced food, and bad service. I cannot fervently recommend people avoid it enough.


    Edna Nadine replies on September 3rd, 2014 at 1:45 pm:

    How truly unfortunate for you. I have only heard and experienced the opposite. Maybe after enough time passes you will give it another try. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!


  • Andrew Parrish said:

    Dos Perros is also gluten free in downtown Durham. Not sure if it was before Primal opened but if you want Mexican, it’s a fantastic option.


    MG replies on September 17th, 2014 at 3:32 pm:

    Dos Perros is not and never has been Gluten Free. The only thing I can comment on about Primal is that the price does not match the quantity.


    Ernesto replies on September 17th, 2014 at 8:15 pm:

    I recall seeing something from Dos Perros recently about most of their food being gluten free. I can’t find that recent item, but on their website I found:

    May 31, 2011 at 12:41 pm –
    Do you have gluten free options? Thank you.

    dosperros1234 | May 31, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Reply
    We have a ton of gluten free options. In fact, the vast majority of our menu and specials are gluten free.

    If you are looking for gluten free, I would give Dos Perros a call.


  • Tooth said:

    Dos Perros most definitely offer many gluten free options. They made an specific announcement a while back about their kitchen going gluten free.


Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.