Not long ago, many of us stood in line for fresh donuts and bagels at the tiny downtown Durham spot where the original Monuts used to be (110 E. Parrish St.). When Monuts moved to Ninth Street, the old space sat vacant, waiting for its new persona to be revealed.
The owners of Downtown Durham’s popular gourmet pizza restaurant, Pizzeria Toro, were quick to jump when they heard the space was for sale, and this past weekend they very quietly opened the doors to their newest venture: Littler.The space is so compact they couldn’t even have a soft opening because it would have had to occur on multiple nights to accommodate everyone. Instead, this past Saturday night, they unlocked the doors and just let their location and word-of-mouth do the magic. “We served maybe three dozen people each night – it felt very civilized and ‘unrestaurantly,'” Gray Brooks, owner, admits.
Why did he take on this little space with lofty restaurant dreams? “We always liked that space; we really love small restaurants,” he says. (Toro itself is a small bustling space.) “When we heard the space was available, we got in touch with the building owner right away.”
Littler is dark and intimate with large curtains on the windows and flickering candlelight. It has a small bar and about a dozen tables. “We [the owners] are big fans of the sort of neighborhood restaurants you used to find on almost every corner in Greenwich Village back in the 90s; they were never famous, but it was always such a blast to eat at them,” Brooks shares. “Always delicious, intimate and friendly.” You find them more often in Brooklyn now, but Litter is hoping to recreate a bit of that vibe right here in The Bull City.The menu, which ranges in price from $12-$28, includes a few permanent items, like oysters and a lamb burger, but the rest will change pretty frequently. Soft shell crab is on the menu now, but won’t last long. It’s still to be determined what the “signature dishes” will be…that’s up to what people decide to order. As for any kind of “Pizzeria Toro crossover,” there might be very subtle details, like Toro pepperoni on the soft shell crab, but it’s a stretch. The restaurants are very different.
In case you don’t already know, Gray also has plans to open a restaurant in the Jack Tar Hotel once it’s renovated (in 2017). This will be a third, very different concept: an updated take on a diner with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a bar, from 7:00 in the morning until midnight, seven days a week. Breakfast will be served all day open to close; sandwiches and plates for lunch and dinner; and nightly dinner specials., with brunch specials on the weekends.
Now that the cat’s out of the bag, you can go check out Littler for yourself. It’s open for dinner only, six nights a week (closed Tuesdays). During the day, the kitchen is utilized for the pastry team to make desserts for both Toro and Littler, as well as the bread for Littler (brioche for the lamb burger as well as pullman loafs and rye bread for a couple of the smaller plates).
Photos courtesy of Littler