Worth the Drive: Press Coffee + Crepes in Graham

Just 45 minutes west of Cary, in a small, historic downtown, sits a delightful European-style cafe practically beckoning you to visit.

The moment you enter Press Coffee + Crepes in Graham, in Alamance County, your senses will be drawn by inviting sights, sounds and scents. At any given time of day, a barista concocts a coffee drink. Another smiling staffer pours a seasonal tea. Near the back of the dining room, a line cook ladles batter onto a trusty cast-iron crepe maker.

Housed in a restored 1850s building in Graham, N.C., Press Coffee + Crepes reflects a European sensibility blended with Southern charm.

It’s all in a day’s work at Press, a lively yet casual spot where locals come to enjoy some of the most inventive beverages and cuisine available in a town that continues to bolster its culinary scene. Housed in an 1850s era former newspaper operation, the restaurant features exposed brick walls, Edison-style lights, ornate crown molding and eye-catching chalkboard menus. Rotating local artwork provides an extra touch of charm.

“I’ve told people before that we’re a downtown revitalization project disguised as a business,” said co-proprietor Jason Cox, a serial entrepreneur and real-estate developer who partnered with longtime restaurateur Brett DeVries to open Press in 2016.

The Phoenix Club is a crepe stuffed with turkey, ham, bacon, hoop cheese, tomatoes and spinach. It arrives topped with chipotle aioli and avocado.

Before debuting the cafe, the two men agreed that downtown Graham needed more than a typical coffeehouse or sandwich shop. Both had previously traveled to Europe and were intrigued by crepes.

As it turns out, folks in Graham also have been captivated by Press’ concept, which takes European-inspired food and gives it a decidedly Southern twist. Let’s face it: There aren’t many eateries where you’ll find crepes like the Down Home with Carolina country ham and Ashe County hoop cheese — or the Country Hash topped with sausage gravy.

A line cook expertly rolls a hearty Country Hash crepe, which is served with sausage gravy and two over-easy eggs.

An impressive selection of savory and sweet crepes are infused with fresh, local ingredients.

“Our Phoenix club is a crepe we gussied up with hoop cheese, bacon, ham, turkey, spinach, blistered tomatoes, avocado and chipotle aioli,” said DeVries, a high-energy gastronome passionate about creating distinctive menu offerings.

A cook spreads batter on a cast-iron crepe maker.

The Veggie Medley arrives at the table filled with sweet potatoes, baked pears, arugula, red onions, roasted red peppers, goat cheese and spicy maple mustard. Get your sweet on with any of the half-dozen sugary crepes. For an over-the-top culinary experience, get the stuffed French toast crepe with cream-cheese filling, cinnamon, maple syrup and scratch-made whipped cream. Spring for the small upcharge, and add fresh berries.

If you’re not in the mood for crepes, consider the black bean hummus toast with heirloom tomatoes, arugula, over-easy eggs and lemon aioli.

The cafe sources its coffee from Counter Culture Coffee in Durham, and a wide variety of specialty brews are available.

“This is a great offset dish to avocado toast,” DeVries said.

Or maybe you want to nosh on some hash brown waffles, which Cox dubbed as “carb heaven.”

Chalkboard specials are served seven days a week and include intriguing items like The Elvis, which “rocks the house” with peanut butter, banana, bacon, crumbled pretzels and honey, or the Caprese, featuring mozzarella cheese, pesto and blistered cherry tomatoes, drizzled with balsamic glaze and basil.

Seasonal hot beverages like the Citrus Cider Chai augment the lattes and cappuccinos on the drink menu.

It’s worth noting that Cox and DeVries have worked hard to create what they call a distinctive “third place”, where people can go besides home and work and can find a safe, welcoming space.

“From the beginning, we wanted to create a place where anyone can gather and experience a sense of community and serendipity,” said Cox. “We see everyone from moms with kids in strollers and Elon (University) students to blue- and white-collar workers and elderly folks. It’s a diverse and loyal customer base.”

The Farmer’s Market crepe is packed with vegetables and hoop cheese from Ashe County.

Those who come for their daily dose of caffeine can choose from cappuccino, latte, macchiato, cold brew, French press, pour over and more — all sourced from Counter Culture Coffee. Prefer an offbeat seasonal offering? Order a peppered pumpkin latte prepared with house spice mix and cayenne pepper.

Organic, free-trade tea comes in black, white, herbal and green varieties. For something extraordinary, try a citrus cider chai kissed with house made orange ginger syrup. Let’s just say it’s definitely worth sharing on Instagram.

Of the sweet crepes on the Press menu, the Berries and Cream is a popular choice — especially when blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are in season.

“We do some wonderful things with coffee and tea that are high quality and well balanced,” said general manager Ashley Aguirre.

Friendly and knowledgeable staff are committed to guiding each guest toward making solid choices and ensuring everyone enjoys a satisfying outing. Space in the dining room is limited due to pandemic-related precautions, but outdoor seating also is available.

The cafe’s owners fell in love with crepes and brought the concept to Graham, N.C., where patrons also embraced the idea.

And here’s some additional good news for no extra charge: Cox and DeVries plan to open a second Press location at the American Tobacco campus in Durham by early 2021.

“The space will be bigger with a courtyard, and we’ll also have a proper full kitchen,” Cox said. “We look forward to creating another vibrant gathering spot for people in Durham to enjoy.”

Inside seating is limited due to pandemic restrictions, but guests can also enjoy their meals on the patio.

Press Coffee + Crepes is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. A weekend brunch menu features food specials plus beer, wine and cocktails.

133 North Main St., Graham
(336) 395-3645

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