In the middle of a busy week (because who isn't always busy at Duke), we’ve all felt the need to get a nice break and pop the campus bubble, traveling into the great wide open. 

That's exactly what we did when we ventured to Primal Food & Spirits last week. Located right across from Southpoint Mall, Primal has an elegant yet inviting atmosphere, and its food reflects this same notion.

What is Primal?

coffee, tea, beer, wine
Keni Lin

Primal is a 100% gluten-free restaurant, making it a super welcoming place for anyone with gluten sensitivities. Don’t let that keep you away if you love your bread as much as we do...the food has a lot more to it than simply being gluten-free. They call their method “Farm-to-Fire-to-Fork,” which means they are focused on unprocessed, home-grown foods and cook most of their foods over a wood fire. Each menu item we ordered was absolutely mouth-watering, and much-welcomed especially by us, freshmen, who desperately needed to escape the Marketplace eating routine.

What We Ordered

Crispy Brussel Sprouts with crispy pork shoulder, soft egg, parmesan balsamic vinegar ($10)

Keni Lin

What's that song Beyoncé wrote, "Egg on Top"? A soft boiled egg was a total game changer for this already delicious first course. The large portion of brussel sprouts with just the right amount of parmesan was the perfect start to our meal. We seemed to have a hot hand for brussels sprouts that day, too, because both of the entrees we ordered came with dozens as well! Variety was not in our favor...

Chopped Kale Salad with cranberries, sunflower seeds, butternut squash, goat cheese, and cider vinaigrette ($9)

salad, broccoli, vegetable, kale, cheese
Keni Lin

This kale salad was a light and fresh way to begin our meal. We all loved the goat cheese and thought it added just the right spark to the cider vinaigrette. Beware, foodies: the salads are small! NOT an entree for any hangry honeys out there.

Grilled Salmon with apple brown butter, roasted butternut squash, brussel sprouts, cauliflower ($22)

salmon, sauce, meat, pork, vegetable
Keni Lin

As typical foodies do, we made sure to browse the menu online before getting to the restaurant, and all sights were set on the salmon dinner. It most certainly did not disappoint, as it was the favorite of everything we tried! The apple brown butter sauce gave the dish a deliciously sweet taste and perfectly complemented the plate’s fall veggies. We were pretty lost in the sauce: all of our plates were licked clean!

North Carolina Duck Breast with sweet potato hash, kale, carrot-chile reduction ($23)

soup, parsley
Keni Lin

Our more adventurous dish to try was the duck, an unconventional meat that neither of us had tried in a long time. The meat was a little tender, but we absolutely loved the carrot-chile reduction that came with it. This plate was also filled with fall vegetables, so we put the savory sauce to good use and lathered it onto the vegetables and the small, delectable kale that we yearned for an entire plate of.

Overall Thoughts

It's Seasonal. 

The restaurant’s menus are seasonal, which is always a great thing, but we were also slightly confused as to the amount of fall and winter vibes we were getting in the middle of April. Almost everything we ordered had brussel sprouts or butternut squash, which even though they tasted amazing, we found ourselves craving some of the fresh flavors of spring.

beer, wine
Keni Lin

The Sauce 

Seasonalities aside, the sauces definitely took the (gluten-free) cake. We both came pretty close to drinking the sauces that both the duck and salmon came in, and we can certainly say that Primal knows how to highlight great flavor. One week later, we’re both still wishing we could bring these sauces to spice up our dining hall dishes.

shrimp, soup, chicken
Keni Lin

The Price

The restaurant is on the fancier side, so prices might be a little more than what we’d normally spend on dinner. Regardless, we think we got our money's worth, because the entree portions were huge, and the plates were filled with that savory, star-worthy sauce we loved and a bunch of veggies, making it the kind of meal where our stomachs sadly had to say no to dessert. 

Will we be back? 

Yes! We'll definitely be trying the spring/summer menu later this year! It's definitely making our list of restaurants we wish we had the food points for, or ones we want our parents to take us to.