Collard Fritters with Gruyere Fondue from Littler in Durham

A tiny hot spot in Durham just reopened for the first time in two years with a new chef and reimagined menu

Photo: Forrest Mason

For Elizabeth Murray, leading the kitchen at Sierra Mar, a restaurant inside a five-star hotel hanging on a cliff over the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur, California, was a major career milestone. So is moving back to her native North Carolina to take the reins at Littler, a cozy bistro in Durham.

“I was gone for over twenty years, chomping at the bit of life,” says Murray, who grew up in Blowing Rock. “It’s really good to be back, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like coming home. Being here is just another part of the adventure.”

Littler opened in 2017 to rave reviews, but like just about every other restaurant, it shut down due to COVID in the spring of 2020. After a two-year hiatus, it reopened in March, booking up weeks in advance almost immediately as locals flock to taste the seasonal dishes created by Murray and her team, which includes executive pastry chef Tanya Matta, previously of the Grey in Savannah. “We have something to say culinarily that’s different,” Murray says.

photo: Forrest Mason
Chef Elizabeth Murray.

That includes combining what she’s learned from cooking in kitchens in California, New York, Italy, Denmark, and England, with ingredients sourced from North Carolina. “Before we opened, I had a purveyor come in who showed me bacon, pork jus, and pork skins that just blew my face off,” she says. “We’re in pork country here, so we want to celebrate the area.”

That pork comes in all forms, including Murray’s collard green and bacon fritters, which she plates over a pool of gruyere fondue beside a pickled fennel salad. “Fritters and hushpuppies seem so simple, but they’re such a nuanced thing,” she says. For Murray, it always comes back to the ingredients. “An aggressively-smoked, thick piece of bacon really makes it.”


  • Collard Green and Bacon Fritter with Gruyere Fondue and Dill (Yield: 4 servings)

  • For the fritters

    • 1 tbsp. olive oil

    • 2 shallots, sliced

    • 3 cups collard greens, washed, ribs removed, and sliced thinly

    • ⅓ cup sugar

    • ¾ cup apple cider vinegar

    • ¼ cup water

    • 1 tsp. salt

    • 1 cup all-purpose flour

    • 1 tsp. baking powder

    • 3 tsp. salt

    • ½ tsp. paprika

    • 1 tsp. black pepper

    • 1 egg

    • 4 tbsp. butter, melted

    • ½ cup milk

    • 1 cup bacon, diced (Allen Benton’s Bacon, or a thick, aged, highly smoked local bacon)

  • For the fondue

    • 1 ½ cup Gruyere, grated

    • ⅔ cup all-purpose flour

    • 1 ½ cup dry white wine

    • 1 ½ cup vegetable stock

    • Nutmeg


  1. Over medium high heat, gently sauté olive oil, shallots, and collards, adding in sugar, apple cider vinegar, water, and salt to taste. Braise until tender, about 10 minutes. It should cook down to about 1 cup. Remove from heat and cool before chopping finely. Set aside.

  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, paprika, and black pepper. Stir to blend. Mix in egg and melted butter. Then add milk, bacon, and cooked collards. Mix well. Let stand at least 30 minutes.

  3. Roll batter into balls (Murray makes each fritter with about ¼ cup of batter, which yields about 8 fritters). Heat oil on the stove to 325°. Carefully drop the batter into the oil and deep fry for 2–3 minutes per side, or until fritter is deep golden brown on all sides. It is ideal to fully submerge the fritters as they are frying in oil.

  4. For the fondue: In a small bowl, mix together Gruyere and flour and set aside. In a pot over medium high heat, combine wine and stock and reduce by half. In small increments, whisk flour coated Gruyere into the simmering stock/wine reduction. Don’t stop whisking until the sauce is completely homogeneous. The flour should be fully cooked and the cheese completely melted. Once smooth and consistent, stir in a pinch of ground nutmeg and salt to taste.

  5. Plate the fondue beneath the fritters or serve on the side as a dipping sauce.