Pulled pork plate with skillet greens, hushpuppies and macaroni and cheese at Durham's new barbecue restaurant, Picnic.

A visit to Picnic, Durham’s newest barbecue restaurant, on opening day

I rarely will visit a restaurant on its opening day, but when I heard about Picnic, the new whole-hog barbecue restaurant in Durham, I couldn’t resist. I had the craving for the ‘cue and knew that there was only one way to quell it.

I never write any reviews or critiques based on an opening day visit since restaurants are usually scrambling to work out kinks, so the following are merely observations from my visit.

Upon arrival, it was clear that the good word about the new place had spread near and far about the roadside barbecue restaurant. The small parking lot was completely packed and parking largely spilled over to the church lot across the street from Cole Mill Road.

The first thing that you’ll notice about Picnic is the funky layout of the restaurant. Once you enter through the front doors, you immediately face the open kitchen and, if the restaurant is particularly busy, a swarm of people waiting for tables in the same cramped confines around the kitchen staring at the chalkboard waiting list and lingering around the nearby bar. That night, I saw a few guests run into servers, food runners, and other members of the Picnic staff while marching back and forth from the kitchen to guest tables. On one occasion, a guest leaving the restaurant ran into a server near the kitchen, causing the unfortunate breakage of a glass.

Layout aside, by the time my party was seated that evening, the kitchen was already out of fried chicken– disappointing– but the outage further cemented my decision to opt for the pulled pork plate. Servers were hustling that night to take orders at breakneck speed and to run food out as soon as possible, all while hostesses and managers were swirling around keeping a watchful eye to turn over tables as soon as guests left.

Once we ordered, the food didn’t take long to arrive. A deviled egg starter exuded a nice, smoky flavor. The generous mound of tender pulled pork, once it got to the table, was hardly warm but became much improved with a healthy dousing of Picnic’s tangy Pig Whistle barbecue sauce. I alternated inhaling the chunks of pork barbecue with bites of the creamy macaroni and cheese and the leafy skillet greens along with the occasional housemade hushpuppy.

Truthfully though, and this may be sacrilegious to disclose, I’d return to Picnic solely for another slice of the Ginger-Lime layer cake that the barbecue restaurant listed as one of its dessert specials that night. The ever-so-light and sumptuously moist cake, with its tangy citrus curd in between the delicately ginger-spiced layers, left an indelible impression on me–so much so that I desperately scoured the Internet for a recipe after I left.

I may have come seeking barbecue, but I’ll be back for more of that cake.

PICNIC DURHAM | 1647 Cole Mill Road Durham NC 27705 | 919.908.9128

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