GQ: Durham one of best college towns, sans students

Jun. 05, 2014 @ 04:13 PM

GQ Magazine loves Durham as a college town, especially when Duke University students are nowhere to be seen.

In an article titled “The Best College Towns in America (When the Students Are Gone),” readers are assured that “You Can Still Hate Duke and Love the Food.”
Journalist John Kessler writes: “The southern table shows its genius in the height of the summer growing season, and scrappy Durham has become an unlikely front-runner for the South’s most interesting dining town.”
He goes on to praise several downtown eateries and pubs, including Scratch, Rose’s Meat Market and Sweet Shop and Bar Lusconi.
“It’s a beautiful shout-out to Durham in general,” said Timothy Neill of Bar Lusconi. “It speaks to the fact that there’s a great food and restaurant thing coming up here and an excellent opportunity when it’s quieter.”
In particular, the GQ article mentions Neill’s use of a chemist’s Erlenmeyer flask for decanting wine as “perhaps an oblique reference to the institute of higher learning slumbering nearby.”
That’s really just coincidence, Neill said. He borrowed the trick years ago from a friend in New York.
“It’s a wonderful way to decant wine, very durable, easy to clean and pours wine perfectly,” he said. “So, when I moved south, I took that idea with me.”
Phoebe Lawless at Scratch bakery said she appreciated the publicity and was glad to see Durham recognized “as a strong leader in the Southern food revival that’s happened over the past few years.”
But she’d be happy to see national attention going beyond the downtown area.
“Because whether we like it or not, I think it’s going to become similar to Raleigh, where folks groan and say: ‘I don’t want to deal with the hassle of downtown, let’s eat/shop/whatever somewhere else.’”
Shelly Green, president and CEO of the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau, noted Thursday that a single-page advertisement in GQ would cost $175,000 – “a tariff too high to be approachable as a marketing option for DCVB.”
“With 6.6 million print readers and 6.7 million online readers creating a total of 2.25 billion impressions monthly, Durham just got shown off in a high-profile way to a lot of potential visitors,” Green said.
Such broad exposure certainly made Katie Meddis happy over at Rose’s Meat Market and Sweet Shop.
“We are really excited to be recognized and highlighted in such a huge magazine,” she said. “This area as a whole is getting a lot of attention and great press because there are so many interesting small businesses working hard to make Durham thrive.”
But she wasn’t keen on the implication that Durham improves in the absence of college students.
“We don’t agree that this town is better when the college kids are gone,” she said. “They support us and we feed them. There are a good number of students that were regulars that relied on us for their lunch, dinner and daily ice cream sandwich that we miss.”

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