Five-time Culinary Gold Award winner, Durham County Winners Circle Award winner and winner of the Peoples Choice Award for best food on campus every consecutive year since 2007, The Refectory Café at Duke Law School has been called the “beacon of goodness and happiness to people all over the university.”

And then, all of a sudden, it disappears and none of us know what to do  with our food points ever. So… Where did the Refectory go? You’ve probably heard by now that after Duke raised rent, the Refectory’s management was not willing to compromise food quality or their workers’ wages. (Find out more about the decision here.) That reasoning is fair, but it doesn’t keep us from wanting to shout: “we want our favorite restaurant back!”

We’re all hurting. And hungry. But with every loss is a new opportunity, and now, with all her attention focused on the off-campus site, the owner of the Refectory Café talks about it with such love and admiration that we can’t help but be excited about this branch at Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd. I went to visit this Refectory, and totally loved the communal, friendly atmosphere.

The café maintains its cafeteria-like feel, with back-to-basic fonts on the signs and chalk board menus – just like in the good ol´ Duke Law School days. The picnic tables uphold the neighborhood vibe that the restaurant has tried to cultivate ever since it made its home at the Divinity School, long before any of us were thinking about food points.

But this location holds some new surprises too! To your right you’ll find a sustainable raised-vegetable-garden, used as a conversation starter for educating interested patrons, and sparingly in some dishes as well. Immediately noticing that I was peering curiously at a strange, wild-grassy flowering plant (that I now know was fennel), the chef came outside to introduce himself. He even walked me through the garden, picking and tasting  different  parts of the fennel plant at various stages in its development, each with its own very distinct flavor.

This story ends with my coincidentally completely vegan breakfast. But have no fear, omnivores, as The Refectory Café also specializes in local, cage-free egg specials, a variety of sandwiches and paninis including NC shrimp po’ boys and handmade burgers and of course, the daily baked oatmeal special that we all miss so dearly. Since moving out of the Law School, the restaurant has also added a wide variety of pressed fruit and veggie juices, as well as healthy pick-me-up smoothies (try the cinnamon cacao!) to compensate you for making the trek all the way off campus. Though it may seem like a hassle to get to The Refectory,  Google Maps tells us that the café is only a 19 minute bike ride or a 7 minute drive away from the chapel – which seems like a short distance to go in order to satisfy my craving for the lemon ricotta pancakes from my neighbor’s table that I’ll be dreaming about until then!


Photo by Marina Poole

Keep it up, Refectory. Though we’d love to still have you around, you have too much going for you for us to break off from this beautiful long-distance relationship. See you at brunch on Sunday!

Visit The Refectory Café’s website here.


Location: 2726 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd, Durham, NC 27707
Hours of Operation: Monday-Friday 7:30 am – 8:00 pm, Weekends 9:00 am – 3:00 pm