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Craft Beer and Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp: The Tavern Food & Spirits

By Pamela Sosnowski

Located near Duke University in the heart of Old West Durham, The Tavern Food & Spirits has been inviting its patrons to "eat, drink, and play" in a relaxing environment since 1999. Through the years, the restaurant has been evolving its menu, beer selection, and entertainment offerings to keep Durham-area residents happy.

For example, recently The Tavern tapped into the growing trend of craft beers and began offering a wide selection of local craft brews. Says co-owner Lindsay Oholendt, "We want to support our local breweries and supply what the crowd wants. North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in craft breweries. Craft beer is becoming a lot like wine; you can find thousands of flavors at any given time."

Oholendt says that The Tavern's most popular beers are by Foothills Brewery in Salem, NC, but the selection comprises many more, including Aviator, Lone Rider, Big Boss, Mystic, and Deep River.

You'll find traditional pub food on the menu - such as sliders, burgers, chicken wings, and nachos - but many items feature an ingredient twist. "Some of our most popular offerings are recognizable on the menu, but taste like nothing you have had before," says Oholendt. "Whether you try one of our fifteen different wing sauces or our bacon wrapped shrimp, what you get will surprise you." The restaurant also prides itself on using local, fresh ingredients, as well as on serving natural sugar sodas.

The Tavern holds the honor of having the longest bar in Durham, thanks to a location move across town in 2009. The restaurant's owners moved the business into the old Music Loft building and gutted it, enabling them to custom-build the interior to their specifications. They have continued to add new features in recent years, including custom church pew seating, a patio with a pergola, and new bathrooms. As a result, the Tavern has become a popular entertainment venue. Live blues and jazz music, karaoke, and trivia nights are featured throughout the week, and diners are invited to shoot pool, play darts, and relax on the outdoor patio.

The Tavern is available to book for special events, and in the past has hosted events for Duke University, local hospitals, businesses, and high schools. "The Tavern is a place for everyone," says Oholendt. "You can always find a friendly face and a good drink with excellent food any time at The Tavern."

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