When I started this series creating recipes that represented each of North Carolina’s 100 counties, I always knew that Durham would be the most difficult.

As a Durham native who has been living outside of the 919 for almost 10 years, I didn’t know where to start. Do I make a burrito in honor of the many afternoons and late nights spent at Cosmic Cantina? Do I honor the fried chicken sandwich at Shrimp Boat, a sandwich I regularly have dreams about? Is it even a post about Durham without a nod to the late great Magnolia Grill? Or should I write about the new restaurants and eateries popping up on the Durham food scene, like Scratch or Mateo? The directions feel endless.

Thankfully, my friends at the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau were there to help me see my home county through objective eyes. They suggested I stop into Parker and Otis.

As an alum of Durham School of the Arts, I spent a lot of time frequenting the restaurants in the Brightleaf Square area. Parker and Otis is a stone’s throw away from the school and has been a favorite hangout since it opened many years ago. It’s a favorite place to meet friends and family for coffee, meals, shopping; and it’s a place where I always run into someone that I love. Their food is incredible: Southern, quirky, homemade, and delicious – perfect to represent Durham.

Since Dan and I both love the grilled pimento cheese with bacon, so it immediately came to mind when I started noodling on what to cook for the blog. I adapted their recipe slightly, adding fresh tomatoes and basil. It turned out to be out of this world. The cheese melts and binds together all the flavors and textures, creating a sandwich that hits it out of the Durham Bulls Park.

Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich

  • 8 slices sourdough bread
  • 1 1lb thick cut bacon
  • Bunch fresh basil
  • Red tomatoes

Pimento cheese:

  • 3/4 lb cheddar cheese
  • 2 red pimentos (or 1/4 cup jarred pimentos)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Salt & pepper

Dice the pimentos and toss in olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes or until tender at 425 degrees.

In a food processor combine cheese, mayo, red peppers, and spices. Pulse until combined, adding more mayo as necessary until pimento cheese is smooth.

Cook bacon and set aside. Drain off most of the drippings, leaving some in the pan.

Smear each piece of bread with cheese and layer bacon, sliced tomatoes, and basil on each sandwich. Assemble sandwiches and cook in bacon drippings for 2-3 minutes per side. Serve hot.

Read more from Elena Brent Rosemond-Hoerr on her blog, Biscuits and Such, a Southern food blog based out of her historic home in Wilmington.

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Rosemond-Hoerr is a food blogger and photographer who draws on her grandmother's traditional Southern cooking for inspiration.

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