Restaurant to open at Durham's Straw Valley on Wednesday

Mar. 10, 2014 @ 06:53 PM

Because of the beauty of the place, they had to pay attention to the aesthetics of the details of the restaurant, bar and café that they planned to open there, said Fred Dexheimer, one of operators behind Straw Valley Food & Drink.

So in their café, they’re serving juices in bold colors like ruby red or forest green. And in the dining areas of the restaurant that opens Wednesday, paintings with colorful, repeating geometric shapes adorn the walls.

“It’s a beautiful place,” Dexheimer said of the location. “It’s aesthetically so beautiful that everything we do has to have an aesthetic as well.”

Dexheimer is one of the partners behind the re-opening of parts of Straw Valley, a complex of modern-style buildings located between U.S. 15-501 and the New Hope Commons shopping center.

The complex includes a former private artists’ residence with an outdoor courtyard that’s hidden from the road.

Dexheimer has partnered with Adam Rose, a chef who previously worked at the Italian restaurant in Chapel Hill’s Siena Hotel, to re-launch an existing café in December. They’re now serving Carrboro Coffee Roasters coffee and wine at night. They installed a new espresso maker, they had a new bar built that’s covered in white tile and hung artwork including pieces by Robert Black, one of two artists who previously lived at Straw Valley.

“It was probably one of the most exciting days I’ve had,” Dexheimer said of hanging the artwork.

A wine and food consultant who has helped launch a number of restaurants and bars, Dexheimer wanted to treat the juices they serve at Straw Valley like cocktails. He said he paid attention to the flavor, ingredients and color of the juice options. The menu includes a ruby red juice called “SV-8,” which has tomato, celery, cucumber, spinach, kale beets and other items.

“Just in wine and in food and in anything else, color is very important,” he said. “It’s the first thing (you) see.”

The restaurant that’s opening Wednesday, called The Black House at Straw Valley, will serve new American cuisine with international flavors, Dexheimer said, with an emphasis on fresh, local and sustainable ingredients. Rose said, at minimum, he’s looking for the meat to be hormone-and-antibiotic-free.

The menu includes options such as fish stew, pasta, salads and appetizers, and meats such as duck breast, pork chop and steak. It’s like what you might find at a steakhouse, Dexheimer said, with options for choices of vegetable and starch sides.

They wanted customers to be able to mix and match foods to give it a family-style feel, Dexheimer said.

Black and Ormond Sanderson started Straw Valley in 1959, selling pottery and sculptures from a farm house and surrounding buildings that were on a farm owned by Sanderson’s uncle. They built new structures on the property by their own efforts and with help from contracted labor.

They used outbuildings as the footprint for their residence. More commercial buildings were added in 1968 and 1972 to house a gallery and other art-related offices for an architecture firm.

The property was purchased by developer Scott Bednaz in 2007. Dexheimer said the property was overgrown when he found it. Some renovations were required to allow for the opening of the café at the location in 2011, he said.

“We have done everything we can to keep the integrity of the property,” Dexheimer said. They tore down one wall to connect separate homes, and have remodeled what was a kiln into a kitchen. He pointed out art made by Black, as well as some etched glass made by Sanderson, inside the residence-turned-restaurant.

Eventually, they plan to open a beer garden in the courtyard and to serve food, including breakfast, lunch and raw bar options from the café.