If Gray Brooks was a baseball pitcher, he surely would be a curveball specialist.
In 2012, he opened Pizzeria Toro, whose blistery-crusted pies — turned out from a massive beast of a wood-burning oven in the middle of the dining room — preceded by several years the recent wave of Neapolitan pizzerias.
Then, a couple of years ago, Brooks — who has worked in restaurants from the Triangle to Seattle (where he cooked for 12 years for 2012 James Beard Restaurateur of the Year Tom Douglas) — jolted jaded Durham palates with the likes of chicken fried duck tongues and beef heart tartare at Littler.
Last December, he came out of the bullpen again, teaming up with his wife, Cara Stacy, and business partner Jay Owens, to open Jack Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter. The very name leaves no doubt as to whether Gray intends to play by the usual rules.
Jack Tar, the restaurant, is named for the old Jack Tar Motor Lodge, erstwhile occupant of the building that is now home to the Unscripted Hotel, where the restaurant makes its home on the ground floor. The Colonel’s Daughter is the adjoining bar, a cozy, dimly lit space where libations span the timeline of cocktail history from the original Harry’s American Bar Bloody Mary to modern concoctions with names like Rosemary’s Bourbon and Kombucha Kooler.
The dining room, a cheery contemporary space with an open kitchen and mid-century modern accents that pay tribute to the building’s architecture, sets just the right mood for a menu billed as “a modern spin on classic diner fare.“
That includes breakfast, which is served all day and covers an eclectic spectrum from biscuits and gravy to Julia Child’s omelet. A turducken sausage sandwich on homemade English muffin (all breads here are baked in house) and a Spam bowl topped with a poached egg assure that Brooks’ reputation for tossing in temptations from out of left field remains intact.
Jack Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter
202 Corcoran St., Durham
Cuisine: American diner, updated
Rating: 3 ½ stars