Last week, Michelle Vanderwalker, Sean Umstead, and King Kenney opened the doors of downtown Durham’s newest bar, Queeny’s, located above and complementing their award-winning cocktail bar, Kingfisher. Named one of the “Most Anticipated Openings of 2021” by Eater Carolinas, Queeny’s is a neighborhood bar serving nostalgic food designed to bring the Durham community together.“If there’s one thing we’re sure of after these past two years, it’s that restaurants are vital community spaces,” said Umstead. With a curated bookshop and reading nook featuring Vanderwalker and Kenney’s favorite titles, and a zero-fee sound-proofed podcast studio, the historic building built in 1914 has been transformed – in signature Vanderwalker style – into Durham’s newest “third place.”
Currently, Queeny’s is open serving the full menu from 4pm to 2am, Thursday to Monday. Soon, Queeny’s will open seven days a week – with a Christmas Eve cookie party benefitting Families Moving Forward planned for the holidays. In the new year, look for lunch service, special events, and more-
Fans of QueenBurger will recognize Chef Steph Bell leading the kitchen, turning out the dishes you crave every day – and serving them late night until 2am; Kingfisher fans will recognize the colorful hand-thrown ceramics they’re served in – all expertly made by Vanderwalker, exclusively for Queeny’s. Discover delicious interpretations of classic ‘bar and grill’ dishes for just $6-$13 – like Nachos, Fried Pickles and “Loaded Baked Potato” Croquettes to start. Or make a meal of it with hearty sandwiches and big seasonal salads. Queeny’s adaptation of Snappy Lunch’s famous Pork Chop Sandwich, a North Carolina classic, is an homage to Umstead’s Father’s hometown of Mount Airy, NC. The house-ground burger (not to be confused with QueenBurger’s smash burger) and Bell’s Birria Dip — beef braised in adobo with North-Central Mexican flavors on French baguette with melted chihuahua cheese and braising broth – are not to be missed. Or ask about the rotating Blue Plate Special. (Gluten-free and vegan substitutions available upon request.)
Queeny’s bar team will make your go-to cocktails and riff on old school classics – as in Umstead’s Tequila Sunrise with Campari, Dark & Stromy with ginger-infused Goslings and Frozen Irish Coffee which combines Little Waves cold brew and Vietnamese coffee ice cream from The Parlour. Or choose Queeny’s Kolsch brewed with grapefruit – a Durty Bull collaboration – from the approachable beer and wine list – all priced to appeal to regulars, or for buying friends a generous round of drinks.
First arriving in Durham in 1989, Kenney acknowledged that, “Durham’s changing landscape both peeves and amazes, depending on who you’re asking.” He adds, “creating a gathering space where all feel welcome as Durham’s transformation accelerates was the primary impetus for my joining forces with Michelle and Sean… two pivotal contributors to the scene that I revere as tastemakers.” After closing Kingfisher for nearly a year due to the pandemic and reinventing themselves with QueenBurger (set to open in American Tobacco Campus), Vanderwalker and Umstead were excited to add another innovative and inclusive concept tailored to Durham. “Restaurants and bars are more essential than ever, so when this space presented itself, we immediately embraced the opportunity to create a place not just for great food and drink, but with the intentional goal of bringing people together,” explains Vanderwalker.