Today’s Hidden Gems travel guide to Durham, N.C. comes from Amber of Bites of Bull City!
When my husband and I vacationed in Durham, N.C. six years ago, people thought it was funny… Durham wasn’t exactly known as a “tourist destination” at the time. The city was, however, already beginning to transform due to the revitalization of a large portion of downtown. We enjoyed the vibe and culture of the city so much that when presented with the opportunity to relocate to Durham a few years later (from Boston), we jumped at the chance. Even we couldn’t have predicted how quickly and how much Durham would grow in just a few short years. Now, Durham is a hidden gem that’s not so hidden anymore.
Home to Duke University, Durham was recently dubbed the “South’s Tastiest Town” bySouthern Living and one of seven up-and-coming foodie destinations by CNN. The Durham Performing Arts Center consistently ranks among the most attended theaters in the U.S. by Pollstar. It’s no surprise that within the next year, downtown Durham will welcome several new hotels within walking distance to all the action.
I’ve become a very proud Durhamite over the past few years and I love sharing all the exciting aspects of our city with locals and visitors. This Durham travel guide includes just some of my favorites.
Click below to see Amber’s guide to Bull City!
EAT + DRINK
- Dame’s Chicken & Waffles cooks some of the tastiest Southern comfort food in downtown Durham; we always go here with visitors. At first, many are skeptical about mixing chicken and waffles into a coherent meal, but after a few bites of moist fried chicken on top of a fluffy sweet waffle, they get it. In the words of my sister, “It’s life-changing.”
- Across the street is another popular eatery: Pizzeria Toro, which offers elevated wood-fired pizza topped with fresh seasonal ingredients. You know a place is good when everyone raves about the kale salad.
- Rue Cler is another downtown restaurant worth a trip because of its perfectly prepared French dishes and fabulous beignets, which people claim rival those of New Orleans.
- Authentic and flavorful Cuban food can be found at Old Havana Sandwich Shop and Gregoria’s Cuban Steakhouse on opposite ends of downtown. Both are fantastic options for Sunday brunch as well.
- If you have a hankering for BBQ, head over to The Pit, which gives you the option to try Eastern North Carolina and or Lexington-style BBQ. (Yes, there are different styles of BBQ and people take it pretty seriously.) Don’t forget the fried okra!
- For high-quality modern Japanese cuisine and sushi, check out Basan, which is a brand new restaurant next to the Durham Bull’s stadium. Everything from the miso soup to sashimi to a side of Brussels sprouts will wow your taste buds.
- I also love Sake Bomb. Located about 10 minutes from downtown Durham, this truly is a hidden gem in an unassuming spot in a strip mall. Don’t be fooled, Sake Bomb has delicious and generous portions of everything from sushi and pho to curry.
- Over on Ninth Street, Monuts bakery and donut shop recently reopened in an expanded space. The popular eatery now has an even bigger and better selection of donuts, breakfast sandwiches, and lunch specials. Everything is made in-house. It’s the perfect place to grab breakfast before exploring.
- Also on Ninth Street is a new-to-North Carolina burger and seafood joint called Burger Bach, with grass-fed New Zealand beef, free-range chicken and fresh seafood. It’s a great spot to hang out and watch a game.
- One of my favorite Mexican spots is NanaTaco on University Avenue. It’s a lively hangout for families, students and couples looking for a flavorful, filling and fast meal. Be sure to go beyond the confines of chicken tacos — this place shines with its spice-rubbed and “dirty” meats.
- Further down the road, you’ll find a German restaurant, café and bakery called Guglhupf. With a funky interior and large outdoor patio, this is a great place to unwind. The bakery next door offers fresh breads, German pretzels, and sweets for purchase.
- Another café where the locals go to hang out is Cocoa Cinnamon. It’s the perfect place to warm up in the evening or take a break during the day with coffee, tea or sipping chocolate in hand.
- Ready for a drink? Fullsteam Brewery brews traditional and experimental beers and is always a lively downtown hangout.
- Nearby, Bar Virgile is getting rave reviews as a new bar offering tasty creative bites for lunch and dinner.
- If you’re in the mood for something different, Dashi ramen shop has an upstairs izakaya (Japanese pub). Enjoy sake and shochu paired with drool-worthy plates.
- Those with a sweet tooth will definitely want to head over to The Parlour. Offering an ever-changing menu of creative flavors, this ice cream shop is a huge hit with people of all ages.
I’m Susannah Brinkley, a freelance graphic designer in Charlotte, N.C. Feast + West is my blog about three of my favorite things: food, design, and travel. My style is bold and contemporary with a nod to vintage design. On this blog, I share recipes for food and drink, travel guides and the best of design. I like to think of Feast + West as a road trip — a casual drive through the backroads with lots of on-a-whim stops to take photos, peruse cute shops and eat amazing new foods.