The Northern Spy Bottle Shop and Restaurant, just minutes away from Duke University, opened in May 2019—one of the latest additions to Durham’s food and drink scene. With a spacious, open floor plan and the largest variety of cider offerings in the Southeast, Northern Spy is modern and inviting. Offering cider, beer, wine and cocktails, drinks are paired with a menu full of scratch-made American fare with a Southern twist, like tomato pie and fried chicken sandwiches.
Despite the Southern focus, Stem Ciders—the craft cidery that created the concept for and operates Northern Spy—is originally headquartered in Colorado. We talked to Courtney O’Rourke, the company’s director of marketing, to find out why the team decided on a new location in North Carolina.
As told to Sasha Schroeder
Why did you choose Durham as the next site for a Colorado-based company?
North Carolina is a great state for craft beer and cider, and a perfect extension of our company and brand. Cider aficionado and cicerone Mattie Beason (we like to call him “the unofficial mayor of Durham”) is a longtime friend and a great ambassador in the Durham community. Beason was looking to exit the restaurant industry and enter the cider space and now leads our North Carolina Sales division.
How do you see Northern Spy fitting into the Durham community?
It has an open floor plan that naturally lends itself as a place for working professionals, families and graduate students to convene over cocktails, cider, beer, wine and items from our seasonal menu designed by chef Eric Lee, the executive chef for Acreage in Colorado. As a bottle shop, we are a great place for people to stop in on their way home from work or school and pick up a few bottles of craft beer, cider, wine or even select liqueurs or bitters, such as Orleans by Eden, or Raleigh-based Crude Bitters.
How did you select the hundreds of different ciders featured at Northern Spy?
With over five hundred products in house, we take our sourcing very seriously and focus predominantly on high quality. We do take pride in featuring the best of local and regional selections as well—we love our relationship with Haw River Ales, Ponysaurus, Fullsteam and R&D, all local breweries that make incredible beers.
What can we expect in terms of menu items or drink specials?
We aim to bring an elevated beer garden experience to the Durham and Triangle community with our seasonal, regionally inspired menu offering items like a fried “bologna” sandwich (it’s a mortadella sandwich with two varieties of cheddar cheese, cider caramelized onions and French’s mustard), a fried chicken biscuit with fennel slaw and apple butter and cider floats with ice cream from The Parlour. Our craft cider cocktails put fun spins on traditional drinks, such as The Spritz, which features Aperol with L’Acier cider in place of traditional Prosecco. The bar program offers local craft beers, ciders, wine and draft cocktails.
Anything exciting we should look forward to?
We are in collaboration with some of our favorite local beer producers: Fullsteam Brewery and Botanist & Barrel. The Botanist & Barrel collaboration, The Banjo and the Bees, has just been released and we will be putting together events with both of those breweries, most likely in the early fall.