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The Federal

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(15 Reviews)

914 W Main St, Durham, NC 27701

(919) 680-8611

Today: 11:30 am - 2:00 am
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Regular Hours

Payment method
amex, discover
Price Range
Brightleaf, Downtown Durham

Federal Lounge

Taverns, Bars, Night Clubs, Brew Pubs, American Restaurants, Restaurants
Other Information

Parking: Street

Wi-Fi: Free

Bike Parking: Yes

Attire: Casual

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

Take Out: Yes

Alcohol: Full Bar

Cuisines: Brew Pubs, American

Takes Reservations: No

Outdoor Seating: Yes

Price Range : Average

Good For Groups: Yes

Good for Kids: No


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Relevant Eats


Provided by Citysearch - 
The Fed

I was in the Durham area this weekend and mosied into The Federal solely based on the Yelp attention this joint has received. The reviews were dead on – delicious, beautiful food disguised within a dark, vintage dive bar. In retrospect, neither I nor my lunch mate had any complaints about our lunch – everything was perfect. As directed, we started lunch with an order of “Fed fries” – cut potatoes tossed in an oil/garlic/parsley mixture – good balance, the herbs were not overpowering and we easily polished off the entire basket.

My lunch mate and I split the chicken sandwich & grilled cheese sandwich. The chicken was so tasty! – The Federal can really work with herbs. They don’t monopolize the entree, but subtly highlight flavors in the food. I didn’t ask for any accessory sauce – which is usually the cause w/chicken, so truly tasty marinade. The grilled cheese was introduced as the menu favorite by the waitress – if I was still vegetarian I would have been turning cartwheels, but the chicken sandwich was undeniably superior. Both sandwiches were grilled like paninis (my fav) and were generously garnished with tomatoes, avocado and spring greens. The side mixed green salad was selected as our sides, since we carbed up earlier. Beautiful greens – there’s always something elegant about mixed baby greens with balsamic dressing – a bit out of place considering The Fed’s motif, but delicious none the less.

The Fed featured several beers on its chalkboard, and by the traffic in&out to its barstools — its a decent little bar for a drink(s).

Overall: Raleigh > Durham… but The Federal definitely has it going on… stop in.



Provided by Citysearch - 
just right

What's not to like....well I suppose everyone has their ""thing"", but this place is nice and low key. You can wear just about anything in there and not feel out of place. The best part, is the food is ALWAYS bangin'

Good stuff, great place, and if you haven't checked it out it should be top of your list.



Provided by Citysearch - 
Poor Customer Service

I was a fan and a promoter of this local restaurant and bar, until I experienced one of the most disrespectful customer service exchanges with one of the waiters/hosts.

I immediately left the restaurant b/c I didn't want to make a scene. I actually had a co-worker with me, who was excited about eating here for the first time. I raved about their delicious entrees and hamburgers. I telephoned the restaurant when I returned to work to attempt to make sense about what just happened and the waiter continued to reinforce her negative disposition. She would not even provide me with the owner's contact information, so that I could make a formal complaint. When asked to speak to another employee, they just co-signed her unacceptable behavior.

Needless to say, I haven't been back to the Federal since this incident. In fact, I share my unfortunate experience every chance I get.



Provided by Citysearch - 
Overall, best value in the Triangle

I've eaten at the Fed, well, probably more than 100 times. I keep trying elsewhere, but nowhere matches the combination of outstanding food, great service, and reasonable (okay -- more than reasonable) prices. The Fed is the only place in the Triangle where you can get oxtail barbecue, rabbit stew, frogs legs, venison -- no telling what's going to be on the specials menu -- and never pay more than $15 for an entree. And the beer . . . . just think Foothills on draft, plus beers from Triangle, Highlands, Terrapin, Brooklyn, etc. etc. Get there early, or be ready to wait to sit in the main dining/bar area.



Provided by Citysearch - 
some problems

The food was good. I had a some kind of delicious beefy wrap with a side salad. The side salad is one of the best I've ever had at a cheap restaurant. Lightly dressed. no disgusting tomatoes. Both times I've been the salad has been good.

My companions had a burger (good) and carnitas (good). The beer selection was good and the waitress was good about bringing refills of water/soda. She did, however, disappear when it was time to get the bill.

We first got seated in the back room where it was so loud that we couldn't hear our server. She also only had one menu to give us. We then indicated that we would like to wait for a seat up front or on the porch, but they had a weird system where you wrote your name down on a waiting list that no one looked at.

we eventually got a table on the porch, which even though it was a very humid evening was lovely and fun. Definitely go if you get to sit on the porch!



Provided by Citysearch - 
Great Place to eat late

They have a great special menu and serve food very late on the weekends. Not at all what you would expect by peeking in the door. Duck confit with grilled asparagus or risotto at 12am in a smoky bar? I was pleasantly suprised by the food. It can be crowded and smokey but at least it's not Honeys. ow almost forgot good service too most of the time



Provided by Citysearch - 
Our Favorite Place

I'm not sure where the complaints about the service come from. The third time we went there, we were greeted by name even though our visits were weeks apart. It's true that Ben and the other bartenders look a bit intimidating because of their size and tatoos, but they've always been approachable and friendly to us. And the food--wow. Throw down some white tablecloths, dress the staff in black and white, and you'd think you were in a high-end joint.

The specials are always worth trying. My favorite from the past was one with scallops, lime, bok choy, ginger, garlic, and spices. Unbelievably, the scallops were cooked perfectly--not a hint of rubberiness, and even the best restaurants fail in that respect. Recently I had mussels in a chipotle cream sauce that was a perfect complement to the seafood. As for the regular dishes, we love the carnitas and the pork sandwich, both of which feature meat that is tender, moist, and perfectly spiced. And if you can find a seat on the outdoor patio you can have the perfect evening. Go early, though, to get a table on the weekend.



Provided by Citysearch - 
good food, good beer, TERRIBLE staff

The Federal has gone downhill in the last few years - I've been going there with varying regularity since its inception - much much less frequently these days. The food is still excellent, the beer selection is solid, the atmosphere and music are fine, if a little loud..

However, good food and good beer isn't that rare in Durham these days, so The Federal isn't that special in those respects anymore.

What The Federal lacks hugely is any sort of quality staff. The bartenders are either rude or unapproachable, while the wait staff is flat-out terrible - rude, slow, mendacious, you name it. They look like they would prefer you dead.

Not worth going there.



Provided by Citysearch - 
More Wait staff Please

Let me start by saying that I really like the food and the atmosphere at Federal. It is a great place with so much potential. Where they seriously fall short is the lack of waiters / waitresses. The ones they have have to run around constantly to keep up with the lunch crowd (and it can definitely get crowded for lunch). Often times there are only 2 of them vs. close to 20 tables if it is nice enough to eat in their outdoor area. Those are terrible odds. We often decide not to go there because we know that it will take longer than the typical ""lunch hour.""



Provided by Citysearch - 
Very nice lunch

Great sandwiches and soup. 1/2 soup + 1/2 sandwich for $5.00.
We had the spinach and potato soup, which was great. The penne chix panini also very good.



Provided by Citysearch - 
Best bar food in the triangle.

Federal consistently provides some of the best meals you can get, for a very reasonable price.

Their constantly changing specials are always extremely good. Definitely for under $15 and usually for under $10, you can get a great meal - something out of the ordinary (Duck, A great chicken pesto sandwich, etc). I live in constant fear that the chef will realize he should open an expensive restaurant.

Only drawbacks are not enough outside seating, and the inside smells like your grandfather's smoking room. Service is occasionally slow, but probably due to the popularity of the place and not enough physical room for wait staff.

Selection of beer is great, and so are the prices on them.

Check this place out!



Provided by Citysearch - 
Get the grilled cheese sandwich!!!!

Seriously, I love it. And I know, like, 10 people who love it. LOVE it. We go there specifically for it. Okay, we also go there to drink because the Federal is one of approximately 4 tolerable bars in Durham. But GET THE GRILLED CHEESE!!!! Mmm, sharp cheddar, fresh focaccia, mmmm, baby greens, avocado, roasted tomatos. I'm telling you. Go there. Get one. Mmmm.



Provided by Citysearch - 
Bar with Better-than-average bar food

I had read a lot of reviews about the Federal so I decided to give it a try. Went with 2 other girls for drinks and dinner on a weeknight. The place was crowded, so we sat at the bar. Nice selection of beers. Food was very good. The carnitas were a hit! The bartender (not service-oriented or customer-friendly) was a disappointment. Many of the reviews I'd read seemed to disagree on whether to call the Federal a ""bar"" or a ""restaurant"" or something in between. I call it a ""bar."" A average bar with better than average ""bar food.""



Provided by Citysearch - 
solid bar with great food

No doubt, Federal is a charming night spot with a surprisingly inventive menu in a casual yet stylish setting. The intimate seating, coupled with not-too-over-the-top wall mounted nostalgia makes for a very enjoyable late dinner date. Take your time enjoying a cocktail before digging into the unique menu of Euro inspired standards and wide selection of daily specials as DJs run subtle, decorative beats. Fine dining - not exactly... but the prices, food quality, and overall atmosphere are well worth it... hopefully more of the same will come to downtown Durham.



Provided by Citysearch - 
A big surprise

It takes a lot for me to get excited over a bar. I've been to plenty, and while there's usually something to like about any of them, occassionally one really stands out.
Federal is that place. The atmosphere is nice, the seating's comfortable, the music is *unbelievably* great. Carolyn the server is the perfect combination of sweet/sarcastic/attentive/friendly. I wish the service was this good everywhere. The food is really good too.
The closest comparision is Tyler's in Carrboro, other than the fact that Tyler's staff has quite a lot to learn about customer loyalty, save one or two servers.
Support this place. They deserve to make it.

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