Sean Umstead and Michelle Vanderwalker have had a busy two years: first came downtown Durham cocktail bar Kingfisher in mid-2019 followed, mid-pandemic, by backyard burger pop-up concept QueenBurger, then, finally, by Queeny’s, a neighborhood bar and restaurant, which will open in the space above Kingfisher “sometime in the next three to five weeks,” according to Umstead. 

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Now the business partners have announced that QueenBurger will have a permanent home at 359 Blackwell Street, directly adjacent to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park at the American Tobacco Campus. They say they expect it to open in early 2022. 

The restaurant will expand on the QueenBurger menu, offering the popular “smash burger” alongside more burger variety at a similar, possibly lower, price point, with a selection of cocktails and a signature french fry. 

“We’re gonna put our own signature stamp on French Fries,” Umstead told the INDY. “We’re gonna do thin shoestring fries—super crunchy and crave-able. There’s also going to be a version where you can toss it with a dry hot seasoning to resemble those hot fries you might have gotten out of the vending machine in middle school.”

Artificial turf will be installed outside the restaurant to convey the “backyard burger vibe” with picnic tables. 

“Queenburger’s arrival represents a continued commitment at American Tobacco to focus on thoughtful, local brands and operators,” Adam Klein, director at American Tobacco Campus, said in a press release. “Sean, Michelle and fans of their visionary brand will find they are part of a welcoming and thriving ecosystem of dedicated entrepreneurs who call our historic and growing campus home.”

The quiet American Tobacco Campus has seen somewhat of a gradual revitalization over the past couple of years—Boricua Soul opened on the campus in 2019, and Parker & Otis moved into the former Tyler’s Taproom space at the end of 2020. In July 2020, Capital Broadcasting Co. announced plans for a 700,000 square-foot mixed-use project on the 11-acre tract that runs alongside the American Tobacco Campus. 

“[The American Tobacco Campus ] is really striving to bring in local people,” Umstead told the INDY.  “I think a lot of people are doing exciting things there and you’re going to hear more and more interesting stuff coming out of there.” 

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