6.7 miles from “Major” – the heart of downtown Durham
5420 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd, Durham 27707
Hours: Mon-Thur 7AM to 9PM, Fri-Sat 7AM to 10PM, Sun – Closed
The Vibe: Eclectic, convivial Korean studio gathering place
Monday, December 9, 2019 @ 3:09 PM
Patrons pack Namu today. Not a single table available. As a result, I am forced to search the spacious, three room coffee house that must seat at least 100. I have to ask a group of 3 if I can plop down at the end of their bench table. Most of the people here today are students, sporting UNC or Duke gear. There is an obvious absence of music during my entire 2+ hours here today. As it turns out, this is a good thing as I had a couple work calls to make.
Thursday, January 3, 2019 @ 2:23 PM
It’s 2:23 on a Thursday in early-January. Namu is bustling.
The first thing that strikes you about Namu is its physical space – a big, intriguing maze of rooms, corridors, and nooks, both inside and out. The entire place is unique and worth exploring.
Despite the many avenues for natural light, it is dim now, mostly because it’s overcast outside, but partly because the décor is muted – dark walls, earth tone concrete floors, greenery, and wooden tables and chairs. As you move into the interior, the space gets darker. The space features well balanced furnishings, and the plants and natural wood generate warmth.
The history of the building is unique. In 1959 two artists moved into what was at the time a dairy farm. They converted it and the surrounding outbuildings into their sculpture studio, gallery, store, and home, applying Scandinavian and Japanese design elements.
As much as Namu is a coffee shop, it’s also very well known for its food. Owner of two Korean food trucks, Namu serves classic and modern Korean fare at very affordable prices.
Today’s crowd is casual and mostly in their 20s. Since it’s the holiday break, there are probably a lot fewer students than usual. Namu’s ample space accommodates many long tables. However, plenty of two- and four-top tables dot the cafe. If you want privacy, you can find many of these tables are tucked away in the crannies. And all tables near windows allow you to work in a nice open area with natural light.
Sitting on the border of Chapel Hill and Durham, Namu attracts UNC and Duke students. Because they tend to study in groups, many students gravitate to the large tables for conversation (though, like today, when school is out Namu fills in with area residents of all ages). There is music playing, but it’s usually soft and melodic, and the chatter of people often overwhelms it.
Despite its location at the intersection of 15-501 and I-40, Namu is not easy to find, even when you are looking for it. It sits on a service road, fronting a plaza with Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, and the associated parking lots. But don’t let the commercial setting deter you. The building’s unique history and vibe, and drinking and eating options, make Namu’s current character. Its glass-enclosed interior courtyard and expansive outdoor Zen garden with hardwood trees and tall bamboo is an oasis. Namu is an inviting place for coffee, tasty food, and to hang out.
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