5.1 miles from “Major” – the heart of downtown Durham
3710 Shannon Rd, Durham 27707
Hours: Mon-Fri 8AM to 5PM, Sat-Sun 8AM to 3PM
The Vibe: Friendly, bright, neighborhood market and café
Friday, February 7, 2020 @ 12:55 PM
Lunch time, and it’s moderately crowded. A convivial environment. Plenty of chatter and clatter. A dinner feel, today. Except for families and take-out orders, it’s almost all students, having a study-lunch. Tables of college students. Some families eating lunch – public schools were closed today after the storms of yesterday (severe weather, tornado sightings, flooding, loss of power). Did I mention below that Bull and Bean serves Counter Culture Coffee from right here in Durham? They do.
Saturday, March 30, 2019 @ 11:40 AM
Saturday brunch time and Bull and Bean is full. It’s mostly Duke students, and today it’s predominantly sorority girls and their parents for “Camp Kappa” weekend. In addition to the sorority groups, there are several two-tops with local residents–two older gentlemen catching up over coffee, a couple having brunch–and other two-tops with more college students. Definitely a collegiate brunch vibe today. More about food and camaraderie, less about coffee. Still an energetic and vibrant place to be.
Friday, March 8, 2019 @ 1:30 PM
As I’m walking in several Duke coeds are walking out. The café is very busy – a hive of boisterous lunch-time activity and conversation – apparently an extended lunch hour because there are only a few seats left at 1:30. Even with a clear presence of students, there is a mix of people of all ages, pulling not only from the university but the adjacent historic Hope Valley neighborhood and businesses near Shannon Plaza. Created in 1925-26, Hope Valley is the first full-fledged country club community (the original “suburb” of Durham) situated between Durham and Chapel Hill and their university campuses.
But Bull and Bean is not collegiate. Rather, its theme is French country: distressed walls and mirrors, tall, French cafe-style bar chairs at a long high-top, floral wallpaper of different shades of blues and whites (apropos of its proximity to Duke, there is no Carolina blue). The affect is a friendly and bright.
Self-described as a locally owned “Durham Café & Gourmet Market”, Bull and Bean is a café that sells some wine (good place to pick up a decent bottle on your way home – as long as it is before six o’clock), and specialty-good purveyor (small selection of local items), that also serves salads, sandwiches & weekend brunch, as well as housemade frozen dinners to go. It definitely has a market feel with gift cards, fancy candy, mustards and hot sauces, mugs, and other specialty items.
Bull and Bean has a long high-top toward the back that seats eight. It has some great built-in seating at the front of the cafe’ for groups of two up to eight. Also three tables that can seat five+. And then many other tables for two that can be combined to seat four.
By 2:00 things have quieted down quite a bit. Miley Cyrus, Lorde, Harry Styles, and Lady Gaga are playing – moody pop music. There continues to be a steady stream, albeit slower now that its past lunch time, of mostly students and ladies who lunch coming and going. The thing about Duke students though, at least the ones that frequent Bull and Bean, is that they don’t look like students. They are more snappily dressed than what you’d expect from college kids. In fact, they look more like they are going to the country club, which is appropriate seeing as the café feels like an extension of Hope Valley.
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