This website is no longer being maintained - please see the entry (with any new comments) at this website's successor, Open Durham:
Bullock's (on Open Durham)
No, Bullock's isn't in a particularly old building, or an otherwise striking piece of Durham architecture, but, as far as I can tell, it is the oldest continually-operated restaurant in Durham, and a core element of what makes Durham Durham.
Bullock's started around 1943 when Glen Bullock, who cut grass for the City of Durham, started cooking pigs on the weekend in a cooker behind his home at 611 South Alston Avenue. Glen would take the barbeque around to neighbors, giving them a free sample, and inviting them to order more from him for 35 cents a pound.
The former site of 611 South Alston Avenue, birthplace of Bullock's - now a parking lot., 04.08.09.
And order they did. Glen started by cooking one pig a week, and was soon up to two. The Bullocks had no refrigeration that could handle the increasing number of pigs, so Glen would take the 'dressed' pigs he would purchase from the butcher to City Cold Storage on Blackwell St., and remove them as he needed them to cook on the weekends. Glen's wife and son Tommy were soon helping, going door to door, taking orders and delivering barbeque; people would also come to their house to get barbeque.
By the late 1940s, the Bullocks had gotten permission to build a stand beside their house on South Alston Avenue; Tommy Bullock remembers building the stand with his father.
In 1952, they rented a building out on Highway 70 (Hillsborough Road) near Cole Mill Road, which became the first Bullock's Restaurant. Mrs. Bullock ran the restaurant, getting up at 4am to arrive at the restaurant at 5am. The Bullocks moved from South Alston to East Main St., then Rogers St. near Driver. By 1954, Glen Alston had joined his wife at the restaurant, and they cooked pigs at that location. By the 1960s, the Bullocks had moved their home out to Lasalle St. near Hillsborough.
Site of the 1950s-1960s era Bullock's, now Morgan Mitsubishi, 04.08.09.
Tommy began running the restaurant around 1965. He says that the location near Cole Mill Road was in need of repairs, which the landlord would perform. "The electric system couldn't handle the load," he says. "The lights would go out in the middle of dinner."
The Bullocks purchased land near their house at auction in 1968, and built a new Bullock's Restaurant there in 1970.
Bullock's remains a pillar of Durham today - per Tommy, the food hasn't changed much since the 1950s, and he prides himself on using fresh ingredients and making things the old-fashioned way - where a Brunswick Stew takes hours to cook. Food is served family-style, and the entryway is lined with photographs of the many interesting people that have passed through.
There are few places in Durham that can be enjoyed and experienced by multiple generations; places that provide some continuity between the Durham of the mid-20th century and the Durham of today, despite the myriad changes - good and bad - that have occurred in-between. Bullock's is one of those very few places.
Find this spot on a Google Map.
Friday, April 10, 2009