Husband-and-wife owners Bill and Andrea Whittington moved into their South Square home at 4125 Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard about two years ago. They brought tons of passion, upfitting everything except the plumbing and electrical themselves, but little experience in the restaurant game.
They both worked in retail management when Andrea lost her H.R. job about three years ago. She went to work for a friend's catering company and got the bug.
Bill had always wanted to open a place that could be a home for great live music, so they went for it.
Though Bill and Andrea had little professional cooking experience, they were passionate cooks in their home, and they bring that spirit to the fare offered - hearty, really tasty but not pretentious, served with a smile by the friendly staff. (Bartender Alex Coates is the man!)
I tried the quarter-rack and barbecue combo. The quarter-rack, with a house dry rub, smoked for four hours before it hit my plate, falling off the bone and perfect with their not-too-sweet homemade rib sauce. The best part for me was the chopped barbecue that came from a pork shoulder smoked and cooked in a convection oven for a total of about 14 hours. Bill pointed out that Andrea, who had the night off, takes pains to remove as much of the fat as possible before she chops, resulting in a very lean but still moist and smoky pile of delicious. (Be sure to click on the slideshow to get a peek at the food and the music scene.)
I can also recommend the dirty rice, flavored with crumbly bits of brisket and sausage.
Brisket's a big thing at The Blue Note, a nod to Andrea's South Texas roots. All their burgers are made from ground brisket, resulting in, Bill says, a unique flavor. (I'll have to give that a try next time.) There's even a Tex-Mex section of the menu, burritos and the like. Quite the variety.
I enjoyed all this while some excellent jazz musicians jammed in the front corner of the restaurant. The jazz band from Jordan High School was impressive and was joined by a few local pros, like trumpeter Al Strong, during their set. The Monday Jazz Jam happens weekly from 7pm-10pm and draws jazz amateurs and veterans alike from all over the Triangle.
Tuesday is open-mic blues night, which I'm told almost always draws a standing-room only crowd, and there's a live act - mostly local, though a few touring national - perfoming every night of the week. "A lot of musicians tell me this is their favorite place to play," Bill says.
Going back to that homey vibe, Bill does the thing that all gracious Southern hosts feel compelled to do: foist dessert on already-stuffed guests.
I was glad he did, as Andrea's secret-recipe bread pudding with her frozen whipped topping was amazing.
A regular was chatting with Bill as I ate. "Andrea's just a great cook," Bill says.
"She's the brains of the outfit," the regular chimes in with a grin.
"She's the looks and the brains," Bill replies.
The Blue Note is open for lunch and dinner, til 10pm on weekdays and til midnight on weekends, closed on Sundays. If you go check it out, tell us what you think.