Durham will get a new smashburger restaurant from adored ‘crunchwrap’ masters

In the culinary equation of smashburgers, the limit does not exist.

One of the most popular vendors at the Durham Food Hall is doubling down with a second concept, building on the beloved combination of burger and tot.

The folks behind Ex-Voto, the maker of fancy crunchwraps and burritos, will launch a new burger joint named Patty Boy this summer in the food hall. Patty Boy plans a menu around thin and crispy griddled patties, tater tots and chicken sandwiches.

Patty Boy is planning a summer opening with a target date of June 1.

Ex-Voto was created by Marshall Davis and Centro owner Angela Salamanca and initially planned to serve specialty tacos made from nixtamalized corn and hand-formed tortillas. The pandemic pushed the concept toward burritos, because tacos struggled to hold up in takeout boxes, and then to crunchwraps, the hexagonal delicacy made famous by Taco Bell.

Davis credits longtime Ex-Voto cook Dallas Howard for developing Patty Boy and even penning the name as an ode to his mother Patricia. With the second concept, Howard will be promoted and run the food hall operations for Ex-Voto and Patty Boy, Davis said.

“We want to eat fried chicken and burgers,” Davis said. “When Old North (Meats & Provisions) left — that was our lunch once a week — we were lacking that food in the food hall. It was a no-brainer for someone to do that. And we have half a brain so we figured we’d do it.”

The Durham Food Hall opened during the pandemic, first as takeout-only and then in full force while many diners were still learning to navigate the new normal of visiting restaurants. The food hall has seen five vendors close and leave in the time it’s been open. Davis said Ex-Voto has found ways to be successful in the food hall and is confident Patty Boy can find a similar footing.

“We never thought, after the struggles we’ve had there, that we’d double down,” Davis said. “But we know how this machine works now. It’s the devil you know.”

Patty Boy is expected to keep longer hours, Davis said, catering to Geer Street’s drinking scene and service industry workers craving a burger after a shift.

“Instead of trying to take a concept and fit it into the food hall, we decided to kind of reverse engineer this and create what the food hall needs,” Davis said. “These are the highway-side smashburgers we all grew up eating on the way to the beach, plus a few special things.”

Those special things include a version of North Carolina-dipped fried chicken sandwiches, a regular patty melt, weekly featured burgers made from ground steak trimmings from The Peddler and tater tots.

“It’s exactly what you expect, we’re not going to get too fancy,” Davis said.

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