Two Durham restaurants have completed their extreme makeovers

Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom has replaced Alivia’s Durham Bistro near Brightleaf Square.
Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom has replaced Alivia’s Durham Bistro near Brightleaf Square.

Two new Durham restaurants – a smokehouse and an ode to Southern fare – have opened in familiar locations on Main Street.

▪ Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom takes over the former Alivia’s Durham Bistro space near Brightleaf Square.

As renovations were underway, the restaurant owned by Fergus Bradley and Jason Sholtz tried out its new dishes in the kitchen of James Joyce Irish Pub, another spot owned by Bradley nearby.

Maverick’s has a menu without barbecue borders, bypassing allegiances to east or west, sauces thick or thin and concluding that both North Carolina styles and Texas and Memphis traditions have something to offer. Smoked pork, ribs and brisket are represented, plus sides of collards, mac and cheese and a new player in Durham’s deviled egg game.

There are sandwiches and plates and meals that can be served family-style for groups as big as 24 people.

Alivia’s closed in June after 10 years at 900 W. Main St. Owners said then they “felt the need to regroup and revamp our concept to fit in with the ever-growing downtown Durham core and bring a new look, design and menu.”


▪ It’s a Southern Thing opened less than two months after its predecessor, Motto, closed at 605 Main St. Owner Pete Susca and chef Matt Kulp set out to make a more casual restaurant than Motto but kept the wood-fired oven.

The West End Village restaurant has a lunch menu of sandwiches, salads and snacks and a broader dinner menu anchored by Southern staples like shrimp and grits, pulled pork and North Carolina trout.

A soft opening led to one menu change when It’s a Southern Thing opened to the public last week, Susca said. The “Moo-Snort” meatloaf, a blend of bacon and beef, is now the “Peteloaf.”

There are also steamed mussels with Bull Durham Kolsh, a wood-fired half chicken and a vegan barbecue. Susca, who was Motto’s bar manager, added a copper top to the bar and is serving all North Carolina breweries on tap.

Kevin Jennings of Urban Food Group, Motto’s owner, closed the restaurant after less than a year after Susca approached him about taking over the lease.

“The food was great, the service was great,” Jennings said in July. “It got a good amount of press. ... Another restaurant owner showed up out of the blue and said, ‘I love that space. If you want to sell, I’d be interested.’ Motto’s menu really pushed the envelope; it was aggressive and interesting, hip and super local. Still, a place where you’re having a good, solid, more straightforward menu is generally going to do you better.”


Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson