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A selection of items offered on at Saint James
A selection of items offered on Jimmy’s Dockside to-go at Saint James menu
Forrest Mason Media

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Working Through an Explosion and a Pandemic, Durham’s Saint James Continues to Be Resilient

The restaurant switches it up to a more casual approach

Chef Matt Kelly’s hyped seafood joint, Saint James Seafood, is temporarily pivoting to Jimmy’s Dockside — a casual dockside menu offering lunch (for the first time ever) and dinner items for takeout only. In January 2020, Durham eagerly awaited the reopening of Saint James, previously shut down for 10 months due to a gas explosion in the Brightleaf Square area. This marks the third time the team has opened the kitchen since late 2017.

Executive Chef Matt Kelly, standing outside of Saint James.
Executive chef Matt Kelly, standing outside of Saint James.
Forrest Mason Media

Kelly chose to rebrand as Jimmy’s Dockside to offer a chiller version of the restaurant to consumers, given the takeout model isn’t fully suited for his normal menu of seafood towers, an extensive raw bar, and party bowls. The dockside vibe paints a more casual, just-off-the-boat vibe with customer favorites and a few new to-go friendly bites. “When you hear Jimmy, you see James,” he adds. “Already there’s going to be a little bit of difference — it’s not going to be as large and elaborate of a place as Saint James.

“I think the more we goof off when we’re together we’re just able to work really well together,” he says of the Saint James team. “We know each other really well and we appreciate the same things — and we also appreciate all the things that we’re always searching for that we don’t know exist in the world.”

Chilled crab dip with horseradish, pickles and fried saltines.
Chilled crab dip with horseradish, pickles and fried saltines
Forrest Mason Media

Vibrant fish and crab dips with fried saltines, perfectly battered Calabash-style seafood platters, local North Carolina barbecue shrimp, a double cheeseburger on a Ninth Street Bakery bun, clam chowder, peel-and-eat shrimp with Old Bay seasoning and accoutrement, a Maine lobster roll with lobster bisque as a dip, and even the not-to-be-overlooked Caesar salad (add fried oysters for the most pleasurable eating experience) are back to give diners a true Saint James experience at home.

“Not everyone eats seafood,” says Kelly. “At a time like this we need to diversify as much as we can,” in terms of adding a few easy-to-eat, pandemic-approved staples like fried chicken beach buckets, a fried chicken sandwich, barbecue ribs, and three different po’ boy options (oyster, catfish and shrimp, sandwiched between Guglhupf bread). Kelly and his team have been busy in the kitchen testing out recipes and dialing in takeout service as the restaurant didn’t really do takeout before the pandemic. “We’re not going to put the lobster roll together for you but we’ll have everything toasted and ready to go so it won’t be soggy when you get home,” says Kelly. “It’s an extension of hospitality,” he adds, noting that food service during a pandemic is simply different.

Fried catfish po’ boy.
Fried catfish po’ boy.
Forrest Mason Media

For those who miss the raw bar, “ready to slurp” cryovaced oysters are on the menu by the half dozen. Currently, Stones Bay from Hold Fast Oyster Co., in Sneads Ferry, North Carolina, are available. After being shucked at the restaurant, oyster shells are placed back on top and vacuum-sealed in a plastic bag to keep in place — and then added to a second vacuum-sealed bag with crushed ice to keep them cold and fresh one the drive home. The idea is for people to re-create the raw bar at home with crushed ice, oysters, lemons, and sauces at their fingertips.

A Calabash seafood platter and shucked oysters
A Calabash seafood platter and shucked oysters
Forrest Mason Media

Jeff Bramwell, the restaurant’s wine director, pulled together a list of wines, many around the $20 mark, that pair effortlessly with the menu. Champagne, he notes, works with the entire menu from start to finish. Local beers from Fullsteam Brewery and Ponysaurus Brewing and to-go Polynesian Paralysis party bowl mix are also available.

Jimmy’s Dockside to-go at Saint James is open for takeout Tuesday through Saturday, lunch (11 to 3 p.m.) and dinner (4 to 8 p.m.). To place orders, call 984-219-7900 or order online via Toast.

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