Where Should Our Editor Go in Durham, North Carolina?

March 15, 2016

We’ve been telling you our favorite spots, but now it's your turn to play tour guide. Where should Caroline go when she heads to Durham next week?

Photo by Chris Ubik via Flickr

Our Assistant Editor Caroline is heading to Durham next week—and she needs your help! Never having spent much time in the South (let alone Durham), she's looking for your recommendations and guidance: Where should she go? And what should she eat? (Psst—she's a vegetarian! And she's set on walking almost everywhere she goes.)

The Genius pimento cheese hails from Durham's Parker & Otis restaurant. Photo by James Ransom

Here's a few things she's especially interested in checking out:

  • Farmers markets, farm stands, and the like
  • Breweries
  • Public gardens
  • Local history and local personalities—anyone she should seek out?
  • Bakeries of all sorts
  • Very good coffee
  • Weavers, potters, and other makers
  • Live music
  • Hole-in-the-wall spots

Share any suggestions, recommendations, tourist traps to steer clear of, and anything else that comes to mind in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • lsapp
  • Anne Olsen
    Anne Olsen
  • clh
  • dihacken
  • lizb
Food52 (we cook 52 weeks a year, get it?) is a food and home brand, here to help you eat thoughtfully and live joyfully.


lsapp March 21, 2016
I wish I'd seen this earlier. This place is not in Durham but definitely a "must go to". It's LaFarm Bakery in Cary, not too far away. The owner, Lionel Vatinet is European and this is definitely a European cafe/bakery. In fact, he was nominated for the James Beard award. You simply must try a slice of the LaFarm Bread. It tastes just like the "schwartzbrot" I remember as a child growing up in Europe. Here's his site and a photo of the shop:
Anne O. March 16, 2016
Monuts Donuts! Totally made from scratch and way delicious
clh March 16, 2016
All have already been mentioned but throwing in my votes for: Monuts, pizzeria toro, Parker & Otis, cocoa cinnamon, scratch, Piedmont, fearrington house (bit of a trek but beautiful if you've got good weather)!
dihacken March 15, 2016
Rise for donuts.
Beantraders for coffee.
Vegan flava cafe or scratch bakery for lunch.
Bar virgile for drinks.
Pompieri pizza for dinner.
Drinks at the Durham hotel rooftop.
The parlour for ice cream.
Brunch at old Havana sandwich shop.
lizb March 15, 2016
I second (or third) the recommendation for the braised jackfruit at Luna - I suggest it in the patacon pisao. It is one of my favorite vegetarian meals in Durham. If you happen to see the Kokyu food truck (usually parked near Motorco) try their buffalo mock-chicken sliders. Ponysaurus is a great brewery with a wonderful outdoor space, and all the pints are $5. There's usually a food truck out front. If you head over to Raleigh, check out Remedy Diner. They have a nice back garden if the weather is still amazing, and a great vegetarian take on classics.
Food I. March 15, 2016
There are so many great restaurants in walking distance of downtown! My favorites include Toast (Italian-style sandwiches, soups, and salad), Dashi (Ramen downstairs, Izakaya upstairs), Scratch bakery for breakfast, lunch or snacks. If you come in tomato season, I highly recommend the tomato pie at scratch at the cold tomato soup at Toast. Just last weekend, I had a terrific brunch at The Durham hotel. Also check out the roof at The Durham for morning yoga or late night drinks. If you're willing to venture beyond walking distance, Gocciolina is worth checking out for fresh, local Italian. The Farmers' market is also a must do!
Forrest G. March 15, 2016
Gonza Tacos Y Tequila, their Veggie Tacos are amazing and the Talega de Plantano dessert is absolutely brilliant!
dazzlingdelta March 15, 2016
Pizzeria Toro has amazing pizza and my favorite kale salad. Fullsteam has great beer and fun activities on the weekend, plus is conviniently located across the street from Motorco, which also serves food and beer (try the artichoke beignets). Agree with everyone else and will add that (even though I am a Carolina Fan) Duke has a nice campus for a stroll.
Hannah March 15, 2016
the farmer's market is very fun and on Saturdays local food trucks are there, too; la vaquita is a great hole in the wall taco stand; luna's for south/central american food including peruvian chicken; mami nora's for less fancy and more delicious peruvian chicken; nana steak for fancy dinner; nana taco for cheap and interesting tacos and burritos; Sam's bottle shop -- a must see if you like beer -- they sell all kinds of beer (including local beer) and they serve beer on tap; for live music sneak over to cat's cradle in Chapel Hill & make another trip for sunrise biscuit kitchen.
Megan March 15, 2016
Oh yay! Durham is the best!

I agree with the Cocoa Cinnamon love, but if you venture out to south Durham, Beantraders is my favorite coffee spot. As for sweet things, I'm biased toward my former place of employment, The Cupcake Bar. They've got the best cream cheese frosting I've ever had! As well as local Maple View Farms ice cream and milkshakes. It wouldn't hurt to drive out to the farm if you have the chance. Beautiful AND delicious. Motorco has live music, as well as a small plates restaurant, and it's right across the road from Fullsteam Brewery. My hole in the wall go to is Bahn's on 9th St. Chinese/Vietnamese with delicious vegetarian specials on Wednesday and Saturday. Cash only! And I have to mention Toast. I could live off the 3 cheese panini with a salad or just the goat cheese and honey crostini. We love our food trucks in Durham, so eat from one of those if you can. At The food court at Southpoint mall, 2 well known trucks opened up shop there - American Meltdown and Porchetta. I love that local promotion amid all the chains! And of course, I agree with what everyone else has said.

Have a great time in our fair "Durm" and eat well :)
Mary A. March 15, 2016
Morning: grab a coffee at Cocoa Cinnamon, then stop by the Makery to check out some locally made goods on your way to the Farmers Market. Get a biscuit sandwich next door at the newest location of Rise or head over to Parker and Otis for the number 19 (aka my last-meal-sandwich!).

Afternoon: take a walk around the Duke Gardens. Check out P&O's sister store Chet Miller for carefully curated gifts. Enjoy a beer from Ponysaurus on their outdoor picnic tables before heading around the corner to taste some cider from Bull City Ciderworks.

Evening: go to the rooftop bar at The Durham Hotel for a pre-dinner cocktail and a 360 view of the city. For dinner, go to Luna Rotisserie. They only opened recently, but are already my favorite place for a filling, tasty, and reasonably priced dinner (get the jackfruit and yucca fries!). If you have room for dessert, go to The Parlour for seasonal and creative ice cream flavors. While you're there, take a picture with the bull statue (the only local personality I can think of!).

Some other places worth checking out: Fullsteam for outdoor beer and games, Morgan Imports for interesting gifts, The Blue Note Grill for live jazz music, Sam's Quick Shop for an amazing beer selection, The Atomic Fern or The Green Room for hole-in-the-wall bars

Hope you enjoy your time in the Bull City!
Mary A. March 15, 2016
Oops - I meant the #14 sandwich at Parker and Otis!
NYNCtg March 15, 2016
Monuts Doughnuts!!!!!!!!!!
Gear Street Garage
Fullsteam Brewery
take a swing by the American Tobacco campus.
I love Backyard BBQ, but I don't think they have much for a vegetarian.
Holly March 15, 2016
Re great coffee & good people - Cocoa Cinnamon!
Def. The Parlour for salted caramel ice cream mmmmmmm
Saturday Farmer's Market
Plain slice from PiePushers pizza truck , sb parked by Fullsteam Wednesday, right around corner fron Cocoa Cinnamon - but do check schedule
Guanajuato Restaurant on Roxboro Rd (formerly Los Comales - same menu + staff) brilliant mushroom & cheese quesadilla along with great pickled veg bar (meat eating friends wb more than happy also with many great options -imho 100000 times better than previously mentioned Taqueria la Vaquita, no offense)
If pescetarian, yes Saltbox - note no indoor seating
Duke Gardens for sure
If beer lover def Sam's Quikstop - do not be alarmed by exterior (yes it's a gas station, but oh so much more), close to Duke Gardens
Roses's Meats & Sweets for the sweets :-) and if you're with a meat eater make sure to be in line NO LATER than noon (actually 11:30am safer) WEDNESDAYS only for best ramen in Durham (sorry Dashi)
robin.amato March 15, 2016
Guglhupf, Hog Heaven BBQ (a hole in the wall place out of the way), farmers markets Saturday mornings, Mama dips.
foofaraw March 15, 2016
Other than what everyone have mentioned:
- Caffé Driade (pretty whimsy setting with small chairs and tables around the woods there.) Great food by local pattiserie and amazing coffee too.
- Backyard BBQ Pit. Hole in the wall BBQ that tastes amazing. I like them more than The Pit at Raleigh
- Allen & Son Barbeque at Chapel Hill, NC (I heard that it is one of the best, but never tried myself)
Sara March 15, 2016
I live in Durham and there are so many great things to do / see here!
- The Durham Farmers Market runs on Saturdays from 10 am to noon so you might be out of luck (they also have longer hours and Wednesday hours starting in April so you'll just miss that). There are great local farms plus makers booths. If you can't make that time, my husband has taken students on tours of nearby farms and you could try contacting them: Fickle Creek and Wild Scallion.
- Some local breweries in Durham: Fullsteam (there is usually a food truck outside and they carry other local brews besides their own), Ponysaurus (haven't been but have heard good things), Bull City Burger and Brewery (They have a veggie burger and a chili that I love! The owner is big on local, seasonal ingredients), and Bull City Ciderworks
- Sarah P. Duke Gardens on Duke's campus (free unless you are parking)
- The old Durham Bulls stadium (site of Bull Durham) is very close to the Market
- Bakeries: Rise (just opened a new location just down the street from the Farmers' market), Monuts (mostly delicious donuts but they also have biscuits), Guglhupf, Scratch, Loaf
- Coffee: Cocoa Cinnamon, Joe Van Gogh (Counter Culture coffee headquarters are in Durham but not near downtown; don't know much about it though)
- The Makery at Mercury Studio
- Other food places: Parker and Otis mentioned in the photo above (like a super classy Cracker Barrel), Pizzeria Toro, Chirba Chirba (a food truck), Cosmic Cantina (definitely a hole in the wall), Rose's Meat Market (if you have any non vegetarians with you), Gocciolina, Dashi (ramen)
I hope that the weather is great while you are here!
Nicholas March 15, 2016
Hi Caroline

We're excited to have you visit Durham next week! While a list would be too long to write here, I have made a map with locations that I consider part of the definitive Durham experience. Most of the locations are either situated in the central part of Durham, so walking is definitely a viable option. Some of the other locations are located on the historic 9th St. (near Duke's East Campus) or in South Durham (which would require some driving or bus taking) I have also tried to group the locations by color, assigning "themes" to the places recommended.

Here's the map.

If I had to pick 5 restaurants that I would definitely visit, I would choose:
1. Monuts
2. Dashi
3. Pizzeria Toro
4. Guglhupf
5. Dame's

A few more notes:
The Farmer's Market runs on Saturday and also on Wednesday on a limited basis.
Ponysaurus and Fullsteam are breweries that you should not skip!
There are also many other location that I have not visited yet, so I cannot claim to be comprehensive. However, I hope this map helps you figure out the town. Have fun!
Paige March 15, 2016
one word: MONUTS
Lisa D. March 15, 2016
1. Durham Farmer's Market at Durham Central Park on Saturday mornings
2. Fullsteam Brewery
3. Duke Gardens on Anderson St.
4. Rise Donuts (on Foster St.)
5. Counter Culture Coffee (free cuppings on Friday mornings)
6. The Makery for local artists' items
7. The Piedmont restaurant on Foster St. for farm-to-table food
8. The Parlour Ice Cream shop
chelsea A. March 15, 2016
Bull City Burger and Brewery - My favorite brewery in Durham. Best bar food. All sustainable.
Dain's Place - Awesome beer selection. Fun interior with vintage games.
The Federal - Again, awesome beer, awesome bar food. Awesome Cheese plate.

Tobacco Campus
Tylers Taproom - This is more of a "bro-esque" bar, but they still have awesome beer and bar food. The tobacco campus is a fun place to walk around.
Durham Bulls Park - Minor league baseball with local beer and food.

These three places are on the same block.
Fullsteam Brewery - Pingpong and arcade games!
Geer Street Garden - Awesome bar/bar food
MotorCo - Bar in a garage, lots of games, lots of shows.

Sam's Quick Shop - Just a beer store. Largest beer selection in all of NC.