Elmo’s Diner is located in the 9th Street Shopping District in Durham, N.C. and is open from 6:30 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. EVERY DAY. When you walk into a “diner,” you know upfront that the atmosphere will be chatty, casual and cozy. The staff serves breakfast anytime, and the food is homemade — nothing instant or with a mix. Perhaps that (and its proximity to the Duke campus) explains its popularity with Duke students. The food must remind them of what their Mommas would make if they were sitting at her table rather than slaving away in a lab or library. The pancakes are made from scratch and are very special.
Our group of 4 made some great choices on the morning we went for breakfast. One had a ham/bacon/Swiss quiche with home fries and blueberry crumbcake. Another had “the biscuit and gravy deal,” which included 2 eggs, bacon and a side. But the two pancake plates ordered were sweet potato pancakes with whipped cream, and Betty’s cranberry apple granola pancakes. Both were outstanding.
There is no one associated with the restaurant actually named Elmo. The owners just found the name to be friendly and unpretentious, and apparently their instincts were right. Elmo’s doesn’t take reservations, but if there’s a crowd, it’s worth waiting for a while. Even Rachel Ray has been to Elmo’s!!
When you first reach Saltbox Seafood Joint, you will be amazed that it is so highly successful. It is a small, walk-up place with very few parking places. Yet, there were 10 people ahead of us in line when we arrived at 2:15 in the afternoon. You may get your order to-go, or there are 5 picnic tables in the front and 1 in the back. Saltbox was established in 2012 by Ricky Moore who does all of the cooking personally. His able assistant James takes orders and the money.
It is definitely not a fast food joint, although it is a plastic forks and paper plates establishment. The sign says they are open from 11:00 a.m. till 7:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday “or until the fish runs out.” Their slogan is: Seasonal seafood, freshly cooked. Good fish, that’s the hook. When we first got in line, the menu listed catfish, shrimp and oysters. Five minutes later James came out and erased shrimp and added salmon and scallops. We were very interested in a Saltbox specialty known as “Hush-honeys.” Very different twist on the usual hushpuppies that accompany fish.
One of the drinks they serve is simply called Good Tea. It has a citrusy flavor.
It’s not exactly cheap. The oyster plate with a side order of Hush-honeys and Good Tea came to $24.00.
A Duke student who was in line with us called it “the best lunch in Durham,” and said this was his 6th trip since the semester started. For this meal, he had brought several friends with him.
Owner Ricky Moore is hoping to place some of his products in grocery stores in the near future, specifically Hush-honeys and slaw for the freezer section and a blend of spices for seafood. Keep an eye out for those items. Garden and Gun Magazine thinks highly of Moore’s cooking. Read the review here under fried oysters.
I admit I’m pretty spoiled to comfortable seating, air conditioning, and an available ladies’ room (noticeably lacking at Saltbox), but I can see why the younger set is drawn to Saltbox.