402 West Geer Street, Durham
Durham’s West Geer Street is known for successful building conversions, especially when it comes to dining and drinking establishments. The Pit’s whole-hog barbecue is cooked in a former 7UP bottling plant, Geer Street Garden and Cocoa Cinnamon transformed old gas stations into reliable neighborhood standbys for comfort food and caffeinated beverages, respectively, and Motorco’s Parts & Labor honors its earlier incarnation as a car dealership with its name while slinging globally inspired street food from poutine to tacos. The latest addition to the neighborhood is Hutchins Garage, which the Bull McCabe’s Irish Pub team opened earlier this month, naming it after the previous tenant, an automotive-supply shop and showroom that was a decades-long neighborhood fixture.
The block’s lunch and dinner options have long offered variety, and while it wasn’t without late-night food options, per seFullsteam Brewery started serving small plates last year, and late-night revelers can always get a chili dog or Frito pie at Accordion Clubthe line-up was clearly missing another staple: pizza. Hutchins Garage, helmed by Pizzeria Toro alum and chef Michael Morrone, answers the call with New York-style pies until midnight on weeknights, 2:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10:00 p.m. Sunday.
Vibe: As you’d expect from a garage-turned-restaurant, the design is straight-up hipster industrial, from the exposed brick walls and vintage submarine phone to the cheeky Instagram-ready neon “Pizza Made Me Do It” sign and ironic Schwinn exercise bike by the door. Some of the original garage elements remain, such as automotive signage and a mechanic’s tool chest, but the elegant lighting and European tiles keep it from looking like a theme restaurant. When the weather cooperates, the large bay doors can be opened to create patio seating and an airy vibe. Service is a bit confusing, as it is neither fast food nor sit-down: Order at the large counter under the HOT sign or at the bar, and pies will be delivered to your table.
Menu: Crisp, thin-crust pizzas anchor the menu; the Margherita is topped with a San Marzano tomato-based sauce and fresh and aged cheeses, but can be customized with toppings such as pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, roasted garlic, or extra cheese. Specialty pies include Eggplant alla Norma layered with fried eggplant, or a broccoli rabe and fennel sausage pie scattered with Gaeta olives (cured Italian black olives). Sandwiches focus on classics such as eggplant or chicken Parmesan. There are salads too, but you’re better off skipping standard romaine in favor of farmers market-inspired takes, such as a recent special crafted with peaches and golden beets. Wash it all down with on-tap offerings including craft suds from Asheville’s Burial Beer Co., pineapple cider from Austin Eastsiders, or Prosecco.
What to order: You can’t go wrong with the thin-crust pies, but if you prefer crust with a little more heft, opt for the Grandma’s Pizza. It’s similar to traditional square Sicilian slices, and at Hutchins Garage, the kitchen nails the ratio of chewy crust to bubbly cheese. Keep an eye out for specials such as fried arancini stuffed with spinach and cauliflower.
Price range: The Margherita is $12 and the Grandma’s Pizza is $17; additional toppings are $2–$3 each. Pints are $4.50–$7.50 and wines by the glass are $6–$10.
Perfect for: Pre- or post-Motorco show nosh; Sunday fun-day with kids; late-afternoon lunch with beer.