Sean Umstead and Michelle Vanderwalker – owners of Durham’s wildly successful Kingfisher Cocktail Bar – are flipping the concept inside out – literally – and introducing QueenBurger in Kingfisher’s backyard. “Since Kingfisher is not an ideal setting right now given how intimate and hands-on the experience was designed to be, we’ve envisioned a new way to connect with our community and bring something fresh, fun and delicious to Durham in the safest way possible,” explained Umstead, who has worked with their landlord to transform the parking lot behind Kingfisher and their adjacent upper deck into a pop-up burger bar. QueenBurger will serve “smash burgers” two ways – double stacked beef patties and house-made veggie (vegan) burgers with griddled onions, hoop cheese, Duke’s mayo and pickles – seared to perfection on an outdoor flattop alongside Umstead’s award-winning cocktails – pre-bottled, plus wine and beer. Like Kingfisher, “QueenBurger’s mission is as much about delicious food and drink as it about creating community and a safe and inspiring place where all are welcome,” said Vanderwalker. 15% of profits from QueenBurger will support we are, (working to extend anti-racist education), an anti-racist education organization based in Durham, NC. QueenBurger will open in mid-August for dinner. Follow @KingfisherDurham for updates and tag #QueenBurgerDurham. 

Kingfisher closed temporarily March 15th, but Umstead and Vanderwalker kept fans engaged as hosts of their popular daily Virtual Happy Hour – which welcomed guests from across the country including writers Julia Bainbridge (author of the forthcoming “Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Drinks For When You are Not Drinking for Whatever Reason”) and Brad Thomas Parsons (author of “Bitters” and “Amaro”) and cocktail industry colleagues Joe Stinchcomb (beverage director of Saint Leo in Oxford, MS) and Dave Arnold (co-owner of Existing Conditions in NYC, author and host of “Cooking Issues” on Heritage Radio). Virtual Happy Hour now continues every Monday at 4:30pm on Instagram. Virtual tips have supported furloughed staff, and their famous “Bee Durham” cocktail kit was made available for curbside pickup, complete with the wax-washed jar using local bee’s wax and honey syrup made from honey from nearby bees. Vanderwalker’s ceramics and Kingfisher hats are also available for sale. Kingfisher continues to remain temporarily closed without the opportunity to sell its primary product – cocktails – in a to-go format. Shop here:

When Kingfisher opened one year ago in August 2019, Garden & Gun heralded it as your “Next Favorite Bar,” and more praise followed for the ground-to-glass cocktail program celebrating North Carolina’s fruits and vegetables, Vanderwalker’s handmade ceramics and the couple’s honed sensibility for Durham’s newest cocktail den. EATER Carolinas, PUNCH, The Wall Street Journal and Wine Enthusiast spotlighted it, Vine Pair named it among the “10 Best New Cocktail Bars of 2019” and Kingfisher was nominated as a “Regional Top 10 Honoree” for Tales of the Cocktail’s 2020 Spirited Awards.

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Katelyn Belch
Author: Katelyn Belch

Founder of Best of the Bull and Shop Durham. It’s my chief goal to keep you in the know about all things Durham.