Durham Restaurants Launch a Thursday Small Plate Crawl

Say, "yes—and . . ."

Durham's new Small Plates Crawl gives local diners plenty of options
Durham's new Small Plates Crawl gives local diners plenty of options

By Matthew Lardie

A group of downtown Durham restaurants have banded together in an effort to boost business amidst a still-shaky financial recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. The result? A weekly Thursday small plates crawl, with patrons encouraged to hop from one spot to the next, sampling special dishes created by each restaurant just for the crawl.

The project is being spearheaded by COPA co-owner Elizabeth Turnbull and so far the roster of participating restaurants includes Mateo Bar de Tapas, Taberna Tapas, Viceroy, Luna Rotisserie and Empanadas, Pompieri Pizza, Bull City Burger and Brewery, Jack Tar, Dashi, Rue Cler, Alley Twenty Six, Queeny’s, M Pocha, Dos Perros, and Killer Queen.

According to a press release, each participating location will feature “something special around small plates every Thursday night, though the exact format will differ from place to place.” It might be a special small plate at some venue, while others could offer discounts or special pairings from the bar.

“Instead of having to choose among all the excellent options in the downtown loop,” Turnbull said the statement, people now have a perfect excuse to say, ‘Yes—And.’ They can visit their favorite spot and they can try somewhere new, all in the same night,”

At Alley Twenty Six, Chef Carrie Schleiffer says that they sold 35 small plates during the first night of the crawl. “We had people walking in and asking for it, we didn’t even have to sell customers on the plate.” Schleiffer added that coming up with a new plate every week was a fun exercise in experimentation for her and her team. “We’re just trying to be creative with it.”

Turnbull and other downtown restaurateurs have repeatedly sounded the alarm about the precarious position many of them find themselves in as the third year of the global pandemic begins. The group says that a number of local restaurants are in danger of having to close permanently, with a perfect storm of the Omicron wave and cold weather combining with a lack of further local, state, and federal financial support to make this winter season an incredibly difficult one.

There is hope, however, that with initiatives like the small plates crawl, restaurants can continue to bring in enough revenue to pay employees and keep the lights on.

Interested in learning more about the crawl and participating restaurants? Visit durhamsmallplatescrawl.com. The crawl will take place every Thursday evening with no announced end date.


About the Author

Matthew Lardie

Matt Lardie is a food, beverage, and lifestyle writer. Born and raised in New England, he has been exploring and eating his way through the Carolinas since 2008. He has been published in Our State Magazine, Wine Enthusiast, Apartment Therapy, Eater Carolinas, The Kitchn, Durham Magazine, and more. His first book, Unique Eats and Eateries: North Carolina, is due to be published in the fall of 2022. He lives in Durham, NC.