While we appreciate the charm of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area, my friends and I frequently travel to Durham on Fridays and Saturdays to enjoy the perks of a bigger city. We especially love treating ourselves to a drink or two at one of Durham’s unique hotels. Unscripted Hotel recently opened its doors to the public, and I had the pleasure of attending an exclusive media event to sample small plates and drinks from their impressive menu.
Although Durham is home to other luxury hotels, Unscripted contributes an entirely new atmosphere to the downtown scene. Formerly the Jack Tar Motel, Unscripted boasts a mid-century modern environment that allows guests to feel as if they stepped onto the set of “Mad Men.” Sipping on a fresh watermelon cocktail, I began the event by mingling in the studio bar with fellow bloggers. Here, we enjoyed bites from several first course options on the menu: the Perfect Guac (a chip topped with fresh guacamole, corn, and salsa fresco, $7), Ahi Poke (a chip topped with ahi tuna and arugula, $13), and Carolina Popcorn (deep fried pork bites with a mustard dipping sauce, $10).
My favorite sample was the Ahi Poke, as the tuna was cooked perfectly in that it was hardly cooked at all. I did not care for the Carolina Popcorn, but my lack of enthusiasm stemmed from my dislike of pork more generally, not this specific dish. I know, I know; I lose major North Carolina points here.
After lounging in the studio, a friendly member of the hotel staff took groups of us on tours of the hotel. My group marveled at how the designers of Unscripted preserved the integrity of the original building, while updating the rooms to reflect Durham’s current culture. Following the room tour, we reunited with the other groups on the rooftop bar to sample more small plates and cocktails in the patio area. Additionally, we had the pleasure of meeting the charming owners of Unscripted, Jane and Greg Hills, who spoke of their hopes that the hotel serve as a top hangout spot for tourists and locals alike.
The last hour of the event was quite enjoyable and relaxing, as the sun set above the patio filled with foodies. During this time of year, the high temperatures can remove the appeal of outdoor dining, but the amazing servers kept us well hydrated with multiple cocktails and bottles of Fiji water. Charcoal drinks seem to be all the rage lately, and after enjoying the Modernist Margarita ($9), a charcoal twist on the standard beverage, I understand why this style is trending on social media. The Mystic Lemonade ($9) was too sweet for my taste, but my table mates loved it, so those with an affinity for sweeter drinks should try it.
We sampled another two appetizers, beginning with the Sushi Cones ($14), which was my favorite dish of the entire evening. Each of the three hand rolls was stuffed with a different variety of filling, ranging from salmon and avocado to mango and ahi tuna. We then sampled the Chunka Bun Buns ($12), which are adorable bao buns filled with either fried chicken or pork belly with pickles. I tried a piece of the chicken bun because, as I previously mentioned, I do not care for pork. The chicken was perfectly cooked and had a subtle spicy kick. The pork belly buns impressed my table mates as well.
We then enjoyed tastes from the main entrée part of the menu: the Patio Burger ($13) and the Lamb Pops ($18). The burger did not stand out among the other unique dishes, but the toppings nicely complemented the beef, so order this entrée if you want a classic favorite. The lamb pops wowed, though, as the pairing of the juicy meat with roasted red peppers and mango chili marmalade was nothing short of amazing.
I am already spreading the word of this new gem to my friends, and we have discussed adding Unscripted to our list of hotels to visit while in Durham. I predict that the multiple food and drink options within the hotel, along with the addition of the Pour Taproom downstairs, will make this destination a neighborhood favorite.
Note: From time to time we’re invited out to try a restaurant or to try certain products. This meal or items are usually comped, as these was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place. Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.
Amy Sentementes is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science at UNC Chapel Hill, where she studies political psychology and public opinion. She has managed to cope with the stress of graduate school by developing a love of cooking and “procrastibaking” for her friends and students. Additionally, Amy enjoys visiting local restaurants and breweries, and she hopes her research regarding group identities and stereotypes can help her evaluate cuisines from a unique perspective. A native Texan, she also loves visiting friends and family in the Lone Star State and cheering on her TCU Horned Frogs and Dallas Cowboys. You can follow her on Instagram @gradschoolfoodie.