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Durham, NC City Guide {UPDATE}

by Grace Bonney

american_tobacco_42 Photo by Jessie Gladin-Kramer

Today’s Durham City Guide Update comes from Django Haskins, a musician and author who has lived in Durham for over a decade. Django is the singer and songwriter of the Durham-based band The Old Ceremony, whose fifth album, Fairytales and Other Forms of Suicide, was released on Yep Roc Records in October 2012. Today, Django shares his deep love for his adopted hometown through this updated guide. Thanks, Django, for such a wonderful guide! — Stephanie

Read the full guide after the jump . . .

downtown_01 Photo by Jessie Gladin-Kramer

Durham is actually many cities at once: gracious southern city of stately residential architecture framed by old-growth oaks; post-industrial tobacco town whose brick warehouse district has sprung back to life, thanks to a ballooning creative class; gritty urban landscape that bears the marks of historic poverty even as it boasts a vibrant culture built around its African-American middle class; and cradle of the neo-gothic academic cloisters of Duke University. It all depends on what you bring to Durham.

Check out the Google Map with all of the below listings.

Downtown/Five Points

Toast: 345 W Main St, (919) 683-2183

A true mom-and-pop restaurant, Toast packs them in for the lunch hour with an assortment of incredible crostini, tramezzini, panini, and soups. My only complaint is that I love the five or six different crostini and soups I always order so much that I can’t bear to order anything else. Most of the year you can sit outside and people-watch. As the Five Points area continues to bloom, the people-watching gets better all the time.


If your idea of a bartender includes suspenders and a waxed mustache, you have come to the right place. Partying like it’s 1899, Whiskey ably takes up the mantle of the classic “man’s bar,” with dark wood paneling, hunting trophies, and cigars. This is the spot for specialty cocktails or a good single malt. You have to be 23 to get in, and they will make you remove your hat. If all that sounds too democratic, there’s a private club room upstairs that you can rent out to reenact the nomination of Warren G. Harding with your buddies.

Dame’s Chicken and Waffles: 317 West Main Street, (919) 682-9235

I know that Harlem and L.A. both had chicken and waffles before Durham. I’ve eaten at Roscoe’s, and I can tell you that Dame’s puts them all to shame. How? A light, crispy skin; juicy, tender meat; and shmears of Nutella-infused butter. The last time I was in there — a Sunday — the AC was busted on a 90-degree day, and the line still went out the door. It’s that good.

pinhook Photo by Jessie Gladin-Kramer

Pinhook: 117 W Main St, (919) 667-1100

Pinhook is a great neighborhood bar with live music. Everyone knows everyone, and the welcoming atmosphere makes you feel at home. It’s like Cheers, if Ani DiFranco starred instead of Ted Danson. Representing the best of Durham’s community-building, they often host fundraisers and themed dance parties.

Lilly’s Pizza: (919) 797-2554

Lilly’s Pizza started in Raleigh, but soon enough, like all good things, it came to Durham. Try any of the bewildering array of pies — you can hardly go wrong. The Sir Walter, with porcini mushroom oil, prosciutto, smoked gouda, roasted garlic, cremini mushrooms, mozzarella, parmesan, and oregano might be a good place to start on your exploration of the New World.

West End Wine Bar: 601 W Main St, (919) 381-4228

Another expansion, this time from Chapel Hill. If you prefer to woo your paramour with a well-selected grenache, this might be your scene. Comfortable couches upstairs and clean, sleek lines make this the spot of choice for the upwardly mobile. They also serve liquor next door in the Cellar.

Bull McCabe’s: 427 W Main St, (919) 682-3061

Trivia night is the best part of this neighborhood pub. Come in on a Wednesday and witness the dark wood-paneled booths come alive with founts of useless knowledge from ’80s movies to Olympic skiing records. And yes, you can get a good room-temperature pint of Guinness.

Old Havana Sandwich Shop: 310 East Main Street, (919) 667-9525

The recently opened brainchild of Roberto Copa Matos and Elizabeth Turnbull, Old Havana aims to bring authentic Cuban food to an area saturated in down-home Mexican cuisine. Most of the sandwiches offer variations of slow-roasted pork, ham, cheese, pickle, and mustard. Add a side of plantains, and you’re likely to want to start growing a beard.

Scratch: 111 West Orange Street, (919) 956-5200

Seasonal bakery, cafe, low-key hangout (if you can get there when they’re still open; our first two times they were closing when we got there at 3pm), Scratch is situated in a charming back alley of downtown. The fact that it thrives in this out-of-the-way location just underscores how much Durham loves its food.

Respite: 115 North Duke Street, (919) 294-9737

No-frills cafe with plenty of comfortable seating. It retains some of the former office space vibe that it inherited, but it’s a nice unpretentious hang.

Dos Perros: 200 North Mangum Street, (919) 956-2750

Durham is blessed with constellations of authentic Mexican food (thanks to a growing Latino population), but Dos Perros occupies its own space as an authentic Mexican restaurant that has internalized the ethos of the localvore artisanal food movements. It’s a rare spot where you can chomp on a burrito while simultaneously having a romantic night out.

Mateo: 109 West Chapel Hill Street, (919) 530-8700

A recent addition to the downtown food scene, Mateo Tapas is all the rage, and rightly so. They offer an array of carefully selected “Spanish small plates with a Southern inflection.” Hard to argue with that.

Revolution: 107 W Main St, (919) 956-9999

Do you like really fancy food served in what looks like an immaculate spaceship? Do you like your drinks to have fun names that sound like Sex and the City episodes? Welcome home, sir or madam. May I take your stole? This high-end futurama of a fine-dining restaurant — just down the block from Dame’s Chicken & Waffles and the Pinhook — shows the breadth of downtown Durham’s appeal: It provides Upper East Side glamor to contrast with the down-home eats.

Rue Cler: 401 E Chapel Hill St, (919) 682-6879

This Parisian-style bakery, cafe, and restaurant offers reliably delicious French fare, including beignets for brunch. This bright, sunny space opened in 2006, thereby counting among the early wave of Durham’s recent downtown renaissance.

Blue Coffee Cafe: 202 Corcoran St, (919) 682-7000

Located in a central square downtown, Blue Coffee Cafe keeps ’em percolating. Their biggest claim to fame is that President Obama once stopped here for a cup a joe.

Rock Paper Scissors

It’s a salon. It’s an art gallery. It’s an event space. It’s a source for homebrew. Actually, Rock Paper Scissors is all of the above: You can taste their homebrew while getting your locks sheared and admiring the rotating exhibits on the walls. Up there with Brooklyn Bowl (NY bowling/rock venue) and Sudsy Malone’s (OH laundromat/rock venue), this place brings multitasking to a (friendly, pleasantly hip) new level.

Carolina Theatre: 309 W Morgan St, (919) 560-3030

This art deco masterpiece houses both movie theaters and live performances from national touring acts. It also hosts the terrific annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

American Tobacco Campus District

A complex of old tobacco buildings converted to an urban campus, the ATC houses restaurants, bars, the local NPR station, and plenty of office space. Right across the street from the new Durham Ball Park, the ATC starts bumping in summers after ball games or during their “Music on the Lawn” concert series, where a thousand or two folks come out with their lawn chairs and coolers and turn this tobacco district into a sea of good vibes.

L’Uva Enoteca (American Tobacco Campus): 406 Blackwell Street, (919) 688-8181

This newly opened bistro offers excellent authentic Italian cuisine and a small, delicious menu. Located right in the middle of the ATC, it manages to maintain a semi-private patio where you can dine al fresco.

Durham Bulls Athletic Park: 409 Blackwell St, (919) 687-6500

When wooing visiting friends with the charms of Durham, a sure-fire bet is an afternoon at the minor league ballpark where the Durham Bulls ply their athletic wares. Tickets are cheap, games are fun, and they have fireworks on Friday nights.

Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC): 123 Vivian Street, (919) 688-3722

DPAC is the crown jewel of Durham’s cultural renaissance. From a distance at night, this world-class performing arts center looks like an enormous, elegant ant farm, where bescarfed and beshawled arts supporters scurry from floor to floor in search of their balcony seats. DPAC draws in some of the greatest performers alive, from Leonard Cohen to Paul Simon to Elvis Costello (we won’t talk about the recent Ted Nugent show), and gives them a suitably classy joint in which to hold forth. It also hosts touring Broadway shows, where the scarfs really start flying.

Brightleaf District (Main and Gregson Street)

Another example of thoughtfully repurposed tobacco buildings, Brightleaf connects the Duke-centered hub of Ninth Street and the blooming Five Points/Downtown area with plenty of shops and eateries.

Fishmongers: 806 West Main Street, (919) 682-0128

A downtown icon. Serving up the scaly stuff since 1983, this Durham institution is a great place for both super fresh seafood and tablecloths you can draw on.

Federal Lounge: 914 W Main St, (919) 680-8611

The Fed anchors the Brightleaf District with the always-crowded front patio seating and some of the greatest bar food in the South. The carnitas, veggie sliders, and mountainous nacho plates provide the culinary soundtrack to many a Durhamite’s after-work hang.

Parker and Otis: 112 S Duke Street, (919) 683-3200

If Cracker Barrel had a top-notch deli case along with its southern knickknacks, then P&O could have grounds for an infringement suit. As it is, P&O (or “Pando,” as some of my friends call it) offers yet another pleasant place for patio dining, this time with memorable chicken salads and heaping helpings of boutique old-time candies and sauces for Grandma’s stocking stuffers. And you don’t have to walk uphill both ways in the snow to find them.

Photo by Jessie Gladin-Kramer

James Joyce Irish Pub: 912 W Main St, (919) 683-3022

Another standby for a tipple of the old Irish ale. They host an excellent trivia night and occasionally have live music, as well.

Morgan Imports: 113 S Gregson St, (919) 688-1150

If Pier 1 mated with an old-time general store, they’d be the proud parents of a lovely place like this. Need a Chinese bicycle? Greeting cards? Candles? Kitchenware? Step right up. It’s located right in the Brightleaf area, so your one-stop quirky shopping just got simpler.

Casbah: 1007 West Main Street, (919) 687-6969

The smaller of Durham’s two recently added music venues, Casbah offers an intimate setting for rock bands or solo acoustic performers. Casbah’s Steve Gardner came to the club with plenty of experience, and it shows in the national acts he regularly ropes in.

Central Park District

Motorco Music Hall: 723 Rigsbee Avenue, (919) 901-0875

A renovated car repair shop in Durham’s booming Central Park District, Motorco Music Hall finally presents a proper space for mid-sized touring bands to play in Durham. An excellent sound system and classy layout reinforces Durham’s growing status as a rock-n-roll mecca apart from its nearby cousin, Chapel Hill.

Geer Street Garden: 644 Foster Street, (919) 688-2900

Another example of defunct car service centers making for great hangouts, Geer Street brings gastro-pub stylings to the classic beer garden. Try “The Pile,” which includes fried chicken, French fries, jalapenos, bacon, cheese, and gravy. Then plan on leaving your car to walk home.

Piedmont: 401 Foster St # B2, (919) 683-1213

Great place for brunch or a romantic evening of reliable upscale locally sourced southern fare.

Daisy Cakes: 401 Foster Street, (919) 389-4307

Like cupcakes? Sure you do. But you have no idea what kind of state you’re going to be in when you try Daisy Cakes’ cupcakes. They started out as a food truck, and now they’ve got a brick-and-mortar store with great coffee and brunch to boot.

Full Steam Brewery: 726 Rigsbee Avenue, (919) 682-2337

On sunny late afternoons, Durhamites spill out of this local brewery onto the street like beer-loving Jonahs to Full Steam’s well-stocked whale. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they offer Whale Ale. If they don’t, they should.

Durham Farmer’s Market: 501 Foster Street, (919) 667-3099

Every Saturday morning and Wednesday afternoon, this massive farmer’s market appears in the heart of Durham, just down the block from the old Durham Bulls stadium. It’s here that you start to sense just how many conscious, community-minded people there are in this town. Also, how many different types of tomatoes.

Manbites Dog Theater: 703 Foster St, (919) 682-4974

Home to experimental and edgy local theater and multimedia projects, MBD is a non-profit theater right around the corner from Motorco and Fullsteam Brewery.


Thai Cafe: 2501 University Drive, (919) 493-9794

Good Thai food is like a well-loved pair of jeans. It doesn’t work for every occasion, but more often than not, it’ll do the trick. Thai Cafe does this and then some.

La Vaquita: 2700 Chapel Hill Road, (919) 402-0209

This little-known taco stand attracted some big-name attention over the past five years or so (including the NY Times and Gourmet Magazine), and now it is a perpetually crowded and slightly less dirt-cheap taco stand with some of the best authentic Mexican fare around.

Local Yogurt: 2501 University Drive, (919) 489-5900

Remember TCBY? Well, if TCBY was run by local yogurt connoisseurs who stocked their toppings from area farms, it still wouldn’t be as delicious as LoYo’s creations. Also, you really wouldn’t want to call it TCBY (which, incidentally, I believe should be reserved for “Takin’ Care of Business . . . Yesterday!”). There are now two locations, including one on Erwin Road, so you can TCB on two sides of town.

Q Shack: 2510 University Dr, (919) 402-4227

Live Bluegrass, delicious beef brisket, and fried okra. There’s not much not to like about the Q Shack.

Guglhupf Bakery & Patisserie: 2706 Durham Chapel Hill Blvd, (919) 401-2600

Bratwurst and sauerkraut plates, fresh brot, guglhupf, and custard pastries. If this doesn’t appeal to you, Guglhupf may not be your jam. But if all that fails, try the chocolate double-fudge cookies, which will make you forget that you just ate six kinds of sausage for lunch.

Foster’s Market: 2694 Durham Chapel Hill Blvd, (919) 489-3944

Great place for classic Southern deli fare, brunch, shabby chic decor, and sunny patio down-home dining.

Nana Taco: 2514 University Drive, (919) 493-8545

A new addition to the Rockwood area, Nana provides big helpings of guac and tasty handmade corn tortillas along with their “dirty meats” or fish tacos.

Classic Treasures: 2659 Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard, (919) 401-5777

I hesitate to even include this furniture consignment shop because I don’t want to have to share it with anyone. A great place for funky, traditional, mod, antique, and virtually any other kind of furniture and framed art, I’d still be sitting on egg crates and moving boxes if I hadn’t found them.

Bull City Craft: 2501 University Drive, (919) 419-0800

A recent addition to the Lakewood/Rockwood district, the mom-and-pop-run Bull City Craft caters to the stroller-and-pantsuit set, offering quirky arts supplies and children’s gifts, as well as scheduled arts-and-crafts sessions.

Ninth Street Area

Ninth Street is home to both old Durham establishments and the kind of rotating knickknack/head shop fare you’d expect in a shopping district so close to Duke campus.

Chubby’s Taco’s: 748 9th St, (919) 286-4499

Chubby’s allows you to select from an impressive spread of different salsas, making their already tasty tacos that much better.

Bean Trader’s: 714 9th St, (919) 968-9292

You can commune here any time with the cream of the local laptop huggers while enjoying your jolt of fresh-brewed coffee.

Mad Hatter: 1802 West Main Street, (919) 286-1987

Next to Whole Foods, the Mad Hatter has plenty of electrical outlets, coffee, and fresh-baked goods, ensuring it’s always crowded.

Vin Rouge: 737 9th St, (919) 416-0406

Fine provincial French dining with an impressive wine list and warm atmosphere. Great for a date.

Regulator Bookshop: 720 9th St, (919) 286-2700

Among the last surviving members of a breed of endangered cultural meccas, the Regulator shows us what bookstores used to be: places to luxuriate in well-chosen real-life books with a staff of well-read enthusiasts to help guide you. A place for author readings and other things lit’rary. I don’t care what Apple tells you; there ain’t an app for that, people.

Photo by Jessie Gladin-Kramer

Ox & Rabbit Soda and Sundries: 732 9th St, (919) 286-7850

Great place to have an old fashioned fountain soda or milkshake while browsing their well-curated stock of quirky, hip gifts.

Zola Craft Gallery: 626 9th St # B, (919) 286-5112

Excellent crafts/gifts shop on Ninth Street.

Francesca’s: 706 9th St # B, (919) 286-4177

Francesca’s cafe is a great place to hunker down with a cappuccino and study — quiet, comfortable, and pleasantly dark.

Locopops Gourmet Popsicles: 117 Market Street, or 2600 Hillsborough Rd, (919) 286-3500

These frozen treats (“paletas” is the actual term) keep Durham smiling through the summer with flavors like Mexican Chocolate, Mojito, Mango Chile, and Raspberry Hibiscus.

Broad Street District

Watt’s Grocery: 1116 Broad St, (919) 416-5040

An old standby — loved both for their farm-fresh brunch (and Bloody Marys) and farmhouse-chic dining.

Green Room: 1108 Broad St, (919) 286-2359

The best place in town for billiards, the Green Room exists in a comforting time warp, evoking a simpler world of Bud Light, Mad Dog 20-20, and broken curfews. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way, this is a great spot to meet up with old buddies, partially because it’s been around — and cool — since before Durham really turned the corner.

Broad Street Cafe: 1116 Broad Street, (919) 416-9707

A warm, friendly place for local open mics and homemade pizza. Right next door to the local favorite Watt’s Grocery.

Food Trucks

There has been an explosion of food trucks in recent years, and it’s hard to keep up with them (literally!), but here are a few of the favorites: Chirba Chirba (savory Chinese dumplings), Pie Pushers (fresh homemade pizza pies), OnlyBurger (The Greatest Burgers Ever), Bulkogi Korean BBQ (check out the duck-fat tater tots), and The Parlour (artisanal ice cream — try the salted caramel).


Eno River State Park: 6101 Cole Mill Rd, (919) 383-1686

You don’t have to go far from downtown to get in touch with your primal side. The Eno State Park offers swimming, hiking, and tree climbing aplenty.

Golden Belt: 807 East Main Street, (919) 967-7700

This textile factory built in 1900 was converted in 2008 to mixed-use space consisting of affordable artist lofts, gallery space, retail, and artists’ workshops. Golden Belt brings new vibrancy to East Durham and hosts frequent events that draw in large crowds. A beautiful example of the successful reuse of old buildings.

The Scrap Exchange: 923 Franklin Street, Bay 1, (919) 688-6960

Home to barrels full of wine corks, massive piles of photo slides, reams of scrap wallpaper, and virtually anything else you can imagine. The Scrap Exchange is a wonderland for the imagination, complete with an arts-and-crafts area for kids and an artists’ gallery to demonstrate the unlimited potential of a warehouse full of cast-off oddities in the right hands.

Nasher Museum of Art: 2001 Campus Dr, (919) 684-5135

Duke’s contribution to local fine arts, the Nasher hosts small but impressive traveling exhibits from Picasso to Warhol.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens: 426 Anderson St, (919) 684-3698

A wonderland of a botanical garden. Great place for picnicking or just pensive leafy rambles.


Bull City Rising

Carpe Durham

Endangered Durham

Open Durham



American Dance Festival: June and July

World-class dance companies gracefully descend on Durham every summer in the ADF.

Festival on the Eno: Annually; July 3–5, 2009

Three-day music and arts fest that supports the protection of the lovely Eno River.

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival: April

Another annual cultural explosion in downtown Durham, this documentary festival affords first looks at an incredible range of new films, along with filmmakers’ discussions and events.

Suggested For You


  • There’s a glitch in the link to the full design guide. You need to take out an extra “durham-north-carolina-guide” in the link code.

    I LOVE Durham! So glad to see it here!!

  • This makes me homesick. I’m from Carrboro, NC but live in Haarlem, NL. Durham seems like right next door from here. I had to link to this immediately. Also super glad to see a note about Guglhupf. I worked there for many years and miss it still!

  • I have been on a campaign to convince my bf that we should move westward to Durham from Raleigh for quite some time now. Great job on the guide… makes me want to have a Durham date asap. Here’s another favorite: Horse and Buggy Press, which lives in the Bull City Arts Collaborative, right next to Piedmont. They’ve been letterpress-ing for over a decade (before it was all the rage), and host great exhibitions (and open studio) for Durham’s Third Friday gallery walk. Check them out here: http://horseandbuggypress.com/

  • We went back to Durham this summer and boy has it changed since we lived in Raleigh. It’s a college town that doesn’t feel like one and has a great balance of good ol’ southerners and, well, you know, folks from up North.
    We can highly recommend Vin Rouge. We had an amazing dinner there with Karen and Ben Barker of Magnolia Grill – which should be on the list. We used to drive 40 minutes from Raleigh for Francesca’s ice cream. It’s nice to see they are still on 9th.
    Oh, and locopops for popcicles at 2600 Hillsboro St. for all the interesting flavor combinations like avocado. Yum.

  • This makes me so happy! I lived in Durham from 2001-2002 and it’s nice to know that so many of my favorites are still there and so many new things have opened. Makes me want to plan a visit stat!

  • Oh, I KNEW I’d forget something great! I love Horse and Buggy Press. Thanks, Sarah!

    I also wanted to give the name of my fantastic neighborhood, Cleveland-Holloway, which is a 5-minute walk from downtown. It’s full of wonderful people and historic old homes just waiting to be shown some love. clevelandholloway.blogspot.com

  • Jim and I went to the School of Design at NCSU with Dave of Horse and Buggy Press in Sarah’s post above. They do really great work, indeed.

  • oh you have no idea how happy this makes me! durham/chapel hill is truly one of my favorite places in the world. I’ve lived in fayetteville since I was born, and that area has always been a hide-away that managed to thrive in an urban sense without having its soul taken away.

    my only suggestion is watch where you park! I’ve gotten towed and ticked in chapel hill more times than I care to remember.

  • Great list, and nice images to go with it. I would definitely add Magnolia Grill to the list, though. Can’t ignore it when talking about Durham & food…

  • Oh this makes me so homesick! My first twenty summers were spent at the Eno Festival! I’ve had great food at Federal, and Fosters, strong memories of Brightleaf, the Regulator…so many good childhood times at the Ninth Street Bakery! My mom’s from Durham, I’m going to send this to her, she will be so thrilled! Great job, Jessie!

  • Glad to see that somebody else loves the Federal as much as I do! We were in there on Saturday night when that terrible thunderstorm tore across Durham. The power went out for a moment, and I thought to myself, where else on earth would I rather be “stuck” for a few hours?

  • You guys are absolutely right about Magnolia Grill (http://www.magnoliagrill.net) – I haven’t eaten there in many years due to my photographer’s budget, but I still remember the rabbit I had there. I added it to the Google Map linked in the guide.

  • Yay! Yippee! What a fabulous list. As a recent transplant to Chapel Hill, I’m psyched that some of my favorites are here and can’t wait to explore more. I love Ox&Rabbit, it’s a great place for the little kiddos too.

    The other place I would add is the Museum of Life and Science. It is the best place for kids! Lunar modules, creative play spaces, farm animals, a butterfly/insect house and a working miniature train.

  • Fantastic! I’m a Raleigh-native who succumbed to the charms of Durham – a rare and evangelical breed. Grace, come on down, the weather’s fine!

    Do add Magnolia Grill, although I thought it didn’t live up to the hype. Also, Nana’s, which exceeds the hype!

    And don’t forget La Vaquita for the best tacos in town – on picnic tables under the gaze of the giant fiberglass cow. And for that matter, the many taco trucks that circulate after hours.

    • liz

      oh man do i want to come on down. fingers crossed we can find a way to move south and find jobs in the next year or so. and fingers crossed ac will be ok with that ;)


  • Thank you so much for this guide! I’ll be moving to the area at the end of the summer and Durham is one of the areas that the roomie and I are looking in for apartments. I can’t wait to get there and go to/try out all the things in this guide!

  • I grew up in Durham & most of these places have popped up since I left – but you did include a few old favorites… makes me want to go back now!

  • Excellent guide with great photography, Jessie. I especially love your capture of the Lucky Strike plant with their Water Tower looming in the foreground.
    I love the sounth, having been born in Columbia, South Carolina.
    Although I’ve lived in Brooklyn most of my life I still feel like a southern boy inside.
    Great work!

  • Hi Grace! I’m off to Copenhagen in early June and was wondering if you or any of your lovely readers had any tips about where to go/what to see/eat/swoon over? Thanks!

  • Durham born and raised as well! Very lovely list. We moved to Mebane, NC (http://www.cityofmebane.com/) a couple of miles west of Durham last year so that we could afford a 100-year old farm house in a tree-lined, sidewalk-neighborhood. We still travel to Durham quite a bit for a Parker and Otis or Watts Grocery fix. Jessie, we looked at a house in Cleveland-Holloway, but I just wasn’t sure about safety! We’re a year or so away from thinking about kids, and I didn’t know how I’d feel about being at home with a baby. Good luck to you–and excellent list!

  • love it! Thanks for keeping all things NC in the spotlight. Can’t wait for you to move here – remember you always have a place to stay when you visit and are job-hunting ;)

  • I live in Durham too and I have to say, what a great guide! It really brings out the best in a city I haven’t even fully discovered yet.

  • Thanks for this, I’m an NC native and I might end up in Durham in the next few years (NCCU offers a masters program I’m interested in). Durham has an -awful- reputation, so it’s good to see the good parts of it…even though Durham natives I’m friends with, even ones from really good neighborhoods, have informed me that the reputation is more or less deserved.

  • Great list! Only problem is the Q Shack entry. While dining on NC style BBQ is definitely a requirement for all non-vegetarian visitors, Q Shack does not make NC style Q. They’ll be the first to admit that they are a Texas style BBQ joint.

  • This is such good timing- I’m taking a trip down to the triangle and hope to do some camping around there. Can anyone suggest a beautiful spot?

  • Thanks for the feedback, everyone! JME – you are absolutely right about Q Shack. While I do like ’em in spite of the TX-style Q, I’m still looking for the best NC style. Your thoughts, locals?

    Regarding Durham’s reputation, it’s certainly based on fact, though violent crime in the “worst” areas of Durham has been hugely reduced thanks to Operation Bull’s Eye and the local police. Courtney: Cleveland-Holloway is changing fast and I feel very safe here. There’s still a big drug presence, but even that is starting to dry up as there starts to be more eyes on the street.

    Camping: The Eno State Park has lots of beautiful spots along their trails. Other suggestions?

  • I live in a Durham Neighborhood that when I say the name makes Durham natives get all nervous. But honestly, I just moved down from Cambridge, MA where homes cost between half a million and a million, and the crime was worse there.

    Durham is an absolutely terrific place, that has been rapidly rebuilding itself. There is a terrific energy here unlike any other place I’ve ever lived.

    Come to Durham and make your mark, it is a canvas that invites diverse voices.

  • I went to college at Duke about 15 years ago and came back to the area 4 years ago; the change has been wonderful.

    I would also add Elmo’s Diner to the list for the Downtown area. (Although I would note that one thing that Durham is lacking is all-night eateries, Waffle House notwithstanding.)

    But I would also like to tell people that on the south end of town, where I now live, there’s a lot of culture. We have two Korean restaurants and an Asian market on Rt 55. A block down, Papa Mojo’s is a good Cajun place and Blues club, in the same plaza as Tandoor Indian (with an Indian market next door) and Thai Lanna Thai food. One of the reasons we chose to return here is because of the great multiculturalism!

  • Wow, what a great list. These photos really capture the Edward Hopper-like magic hour glow we get here at dusk. I appreciate our funky theater’s inclusion in the list too. All visitors to Durham and longtime residents: Come see us at Manbites Dog Theater!

  • This is fantastic! Now I’m going to have to head to Rue Cler to try the beignets soon. For the locals who enjoy dancing, check out Ninth Street Dance for hip hop, ballroom, etc. classes.

  • I was so happy to see this. I have been missing my old north carolina home (where I went to college with Katja from Manbites Dog – hi stranger!) and if I can convince my boyfriend it is as cool as our New York scene maybe we can make the move. Thanks Grace!

  • Thanks so much for including a guide specific to Durham! We often get lumped in with the rest of the Triangle area, but there’s so much that makes our city distinct.

    Just today I stumbled across a (short) audio documentary produced by Sarah Ovenall called “Why Do I Like Living In Durham?” It explains why so many of us have fallen in love with this special place. Take a listen:


    Grace, we would be honored to have you!!

  • you are missing a review of Metro 8! Right on 9th across from Georges, this is hands down the best Argentinean Steakhouse in the dirty-d!

  • I am very disappointed that ZaZaZsu on 9th Street was not included on you shopping list. The owner Lynda is one of the best clothing buyers in the South and her style is not to be overlooked. Plus it is right across the street from Ox and Rabbit!

  • you’re making me miss it there so much! i only spent 4 years in college (duke duke), but i definitely fell in love and long to return often. the only places i would add to this guide (besides seconding magnolia grill and nana’s!) are elmo’s diner on 9th st., mad hatter bake shop on broad and west main, and fowler’s market by brightleaf. it’s surprising how many fabulous restaurants are in durham, but they are great! thanks so much for this guide and the memories it evokes.

  • great blog- I applaud your passion and dedication to Durham. I was sad that Danielle & Antonio Rios were not mentioned. They opened Blue Corn Cafe 13 years ago on Ninth Street when Danielle was only 21 years old with a dollar and a dream- Then they were invited to take part in the early revitalization in Downtown. When Brightleaf was dying they believed Downtown would still come back, but not without the solid support of Durham business owners… They then opened Tosca in Historic West Village- Phase 1- Nine years later it has made it’s mark showcasing the loveliest private patio and is one of the biggest secrets in Durham ! We know this is why Orlando Bloom dubbed Tosca as one of the best resaturants in Durham and kept coming back for more while filming in Durham recently. I love being a part of Tosca nad Blue Corn Cafe- It is rare to have owners of restaurants that still clean bathrooms, cook behind there lines and open restaurants soley based on their ethnic roots. Antonio just got his citizenship a few months ago and Danielle is first generation American- her father is from Rome. Come visit us we would love to have you!

  • I love this type of publicity about Durham. Next time though, can you come to Golden Belt and do a whole article on that? I live in a loft here and have a working artist studio. The description here doesn’t do the venue justice. There are 40 artists who have open studios every day and show/sell their work here and we need publicity! We’re open 6-9pm on Third Friday Artwalks! There’s so much to see, and more is coming!

  • At the risk of committing North Carolinian heresy, what are your thoughts on Charlotte versus Durham? We’re currently in SF and Charlotte seems to share more of the demographics of our lovely little city, but both Raleigh and Durham seem much more friendly to those who like design and good living. I’m from Richmond, VA and I miss the mid-atlantic something awful!

  • You made my day! My husband and I will be moving to Durham for me to start graduate school at Duke in August. We’ve never been there before, let alone the east coast! We are excited and this just made it even better! I am so happy to hear about the growing music and design scene, all the great food…you are making my little fears disappear. Thank you for this great guide!

  • Just yesterday, I was asked by someone: Now why would you CHOOSE to move to Durham? While I was able to rattle off a few of my favorites, this guide does far more justice to the unique culture, architecture, businesses and events that make this city a wonderful place to live.

    One mainstay that I haven’t seen anyone else cite is Cosmic Cantina. You can get Cosmic’s burritos in a couple of other places — Chapel Hill and NYC, if memory serves — but nothing beats their Durham location at 1920 1/2 Perry St, just off 9th St, across from Bruegger’s Bagels and Zola. A hole-in-the-wall joint with crumbling plaster, you’ll have to climb a steep set of rickety stairs to get there. But they whip up some of the best — and cheapest — burritos in town, with great chips and salsa. And they’re open til 3am for late-night fixes. We’re there at least once a week. Though not at 3am.

  • woop woop! get it, durham!!! I work in durham and while i hate commuting, i adore this city.

    tim, charlotte has some cool spots, but as a whole, it’s smaller version of Atlanta. suburb after suburb of shopping center after shopping center. they’re lacking that central hub of life that Raleigh (home) and Durham (work) both have. : )

    the scrap exchange is amazing!

  • I absolutely love Durham. My husband is a native and I’m from Roxboro, so I grew up coming here. We have lived here the past 8 years and it’s been great seeing all of the exciting new places pop up in Durham. I work in the park and I get so tired of defending Durham to the Cary and Raleigh people – I’m going to forward them this link just to prove how wonderful our town is. Thanks for such a fab post!

  • food co-op is OOB

    this is a decent guide, barely scratches the surface. if you folks read this and were intrigued, just consider this the tip of the iceberg.

  • I second the nomination for Cosmic Cantina! And I have been there many times at 3am to get a yummy late night burrito!

    Thank you for voicing all of the wonderful reasons to visit (or move) to Durham. I was raised here and wish I had a nickel for every time I have to convince someone why it is so great! From now on, I’ll just direct people to your fabulous blog post!

    durham is really up and coming and i am so happy to see it start to thrive!
    Raleigh has some great stuff going on too (where i live).
    Charlotte(where i grew up in its lame suburbs) has some pockets of cool, but i think it lacks the spirit(and progressiveness) that raleigh and durham have.

    i recently saw morrissey play at DPAC and it was amazing! a fantastic venue.

    i could go on about how much i love NC, but i’ll stop….

  • Durham was a secret… Now the world will see the awesomeness that only Durham residents experience…… thanks for putting this together. heck of a job

  • Jesse – the best BBQ in Raleigh at least is at The Pit downtown in the Depot district. They even have chopped turkey BBQ which tastes almost like the real thing.

    Great write-up. I’m a Raleigh native (almost), UNC grad and current Raleigh resident but am more and more charmed by Durham every day and spend more and more time there. Too many little gems to pass up. Someday we’ll have regional transit that will get us there quicker and easier!

  • This is a great list! I’ve only been in NC for a year but I’m lucky enough to work downtown @ Flywheel Design and we’re in seriously close proximity to some of the places on your list-The Pinhook across the street, Blue across the opposite street, Rue Cler, Toast, the Bulls, etc etc.

    One omission I noticed is record stores! Offbeat in Brightleaf is a favorite of mine for the owners infinite knowledge of the classics and Bull City Records on 9th is amazing as well.

    Thanks for the list!

  • It’s crazy to look at how long your list is, and to think about how long it could be if you added everything.

    Another thing to think about for all those thinking about moving is the cost of living. You can be an artist with only sporadic income and get by down here. You can take way more risks than you can afford to in a city like NY, SF, or LA.

  • The best barbecue in Durham is Dillard’s at 3921 Fayetteville St, hands down. Their website seems to be down right now, but this is some of the best barbecue I’ve had in NC, which says a lot.

    This list is excellent! I’ve lived in Durham my entire life, and I wasn’t aware of some of these places, and I’ll definitely have to try them out. Thanks for the guide!

  • Don’t forget the Museum of Life and Science. The butterfly house is so beautiful that I had my wedding inside it! Rest of the museum is great for kids of all ages. I’m a Chapel Hillian that loves D-Town, too!

  • And a shout out to Triangle-area Oberlin alums! Just shows you how cool Durham really is. When/If I eventually move back to the Triangle, I’m looking you up, Jessie.

  • The colleagues I work with in Chapel Hill say Chapel Hill is a nice place to live. My friends and neighbors in Durham *love* Durham. There’s something about this town that just tugs on your heart strings!

    Regarding Carolina-style barbecue: Try Hog Heaven (2419 Guess Rd) or Bullock’s (3330 Quebec Dr; the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Durham.)

  • You could have at least mentioned the Beaver Queen Pageant in your list of things to do in Durham.


    also, the best new restaurant in town is the Saigon Grill on n. Roxboro St, where Leo’s #2 used to live. Try the quail.

    And tune into WXDU 88.7 Thursdays to hear Kevin Davis (Bull City Rising) and myself talk to various Durham politicians and cultural icons every week. Or find the podcast at iTunes:Shooting The Bull.

  • I went to Duke and loved that town so much–I think about Durham almost daily and miss it dearly. This post REALLY makes me want to go back. Thank you!

  • Thanks so much for putting this out there! I’m new to the area and this give me a great starting point for exploring the city. I’m a recent transplant from Chicago, still chafing from the inevitable gentrification of my neighborhood right before I moved. I hope the trend you mention about preservation and restoration of old buildings holds fast in Durham.

  • Counter Culture’s Alston Avenue HQ doesn’t have a retail component but whole bean and brewed Counter Culture Coffee are widely available locally, as noted. Thanks!

    My additions: taco road (Roxboro north of 85), Bull City Wings (Fayetteville Street) … but there are so many other great things, though ….

    Excellent post, photos, and site!

  • What about Wine Authorities, the best place to buy wine around. Next door to Thai cafe, not to be missed and across the street from Q Shack, down from Nana’s etc. A great little corner of Durham! And La Vaquita taco stand (with the cow on top) across from Four Square – which can hold its own against Mag. Grill any day.

  • I lived in Durham for a couple’a years, but now call Boston home.

    But man, a heck of a lot has changed there in the last two years.


  • Yessss…Durham!! I live on the Durham county and Wake county line, but work in downtown Durham. I love having Parker and Otis nearby for a great coffee; I was just in there today.

    You could add Durham’s Millennium Hotel as places to stay…Millennium is a chain (though not a large chain), but it’s one of the better places to stay in the area. It’s also near the Sarah P. Duke Memorial Gardens.

    I would also consider putting Somerhill Gallery under the shopping heading. They have an enormous selection of artisan glass and products to purchase, not just gallery art. It’s a great place to get beautiful, handmade gifts.

  • Your photos are delicious, Jessie! So full of color and life, just like our town. Thanks for the kind words about the Regulator and Ninth Street, the little engine that could.

  • I was surprised that no one has mentioned Nice Price Books on Broad, a Durham staple. Barry is always fun to talk to and their collection of books and music is great. I love going there to trade books and records regularly.

  • PS. The Green Room is now smoke-free on Wednesdays and Saturdays for those who don’t enjoy the smoky atmosphere.

  • Durham! I’ve been reading this blog for ages, and have been waiting and waiting for a Durham guide. My city! My home! Nice picks, and for food I haaaave to add Bahn’s on 9th street–especially on Wednesdays or Saturdays when they do their amazing noodle bowl specials. Pick one up to go, walk to Duke Gardens, sit in the pagoda and slurp! And you must keep a sharp eye out for DURTY, a Durham-bred artist’s collective that sponsors shows and events all over downtown. Finally, Durham is the best in the area for thrifting. We’re talking down and dirty Salvation Army and Goodwill, none of those one-off vintage spots (though we do all miss the Electric Blender).

  • My husband and I moved here 2 years ago from the mid-west, never having stepped foot in this area before. I am so thrilled that we landed in such a diverse and vibrant; not to mention a “foodies” play ground. After reading this review I’m blown away, yet again, by the awesome city that I am so fortunate to be living in!!

    I’ve got to agree that Wine Authorities should make this list; it’s a fresh and friendly wine shop that offers handmade chocolates, sausages, cheese, and bread…to name a few.

    I love Stone Brother’s & Byrd gardening shop downtown and Barnes Supply on 9th St too. Six Plates Wine Bar is fabulous over on Erwin Rd and West End Wine Bar just opened this month on Main St.

    I’d recommend these two BBQ joints: Bullock’s and Byrd’s BBQ on Cheek Rd. How about Wimpy’s Grill on Hillsborough and Only Burger truck for the best burgers in town?

  • I’d add bahn’s cuisine and kim son restaurant. Both are great Vietnamese restaurants that are Durham institutions.

  • Don’t overlook Joe Van Gogh’s coffee shop on Broad St. Locally roasted coffee from around the world. It is the best I’ve found… beans and drinks. And the there is Broad Street cafe just a few doors down. Also warrants a look.

  • Those who live here know Durham Rocks and now others will too!
    I consider this a work in progress (as all great things are:) so I’m hoping you’ll consider adding the many wonderful suggestions:
    Saigon Grill (Vietnamese)
    Only Burger Truck
    Thai Cafe
    Wine Authorities
    Sitar India Palace
    Broad St. Cafe
    Stone Brothers & Byrd gardening
    Blue Corn
    La Vaquita
    Hog Heaven
    Dim Sum sunday at Hong Kong’s
    Play House Toys on 9th
    and the list goes on….
    Thanks Jessie!!

  • I live in Durham in a historic neighborhood walking distance to downtown — and I am so glad to finally see a guide here about this up and coming city I love! Thank you for including some of the independent arts venues in your list — like Manbites Dog theater and Golden Belt! I work as a writer and actor and I perform at Manbites frequently. If you live in the area and haven’t checked it out – you’re missing out. Come see! And if you’ve never visited D-town, come on down. You will heart it, for sure.

  • I’m so glad I found this! I moved to the area this past fall from Austin and am still trying to find great places to eat and shop.

  • This guide was terrific- made me want to visit Durham and/or live there. The writer/photographer is very talented- her enthusiasm and style are infectious

  • Fantastic guide! But y’all, let’s try not to hype it up *too* much, or The Beige may infiltrate our town.

    Here are my additions (many of which have been mentioned):
    La Vaquita
    Super Taqueria (not for their food so much as their aguas frescas)
    Tonali (a delicious, fresh, reasonably-priced indigenous Mexican place which incorporates local ingredients aplenty)
    Thai Cafe (higher prices than Twisted Noodles, but–I’ll say it–better and worth the couple of bucks extra, even despite the often slow service)

    Thrift World
    Pennies for Change
    (Everything but) Grannie’s Panties

    And for cue? I know this is heresy, but I go to Chapel Hill for my cue. Allen & Son deserves all the attention it gets for its bbq. Still slow cooked over actual wood every single morning, with an excellent spicy vinegar sauce, it’s one of about four or five reasons I ever bother to go to Chapel Hill for food.

    For Durham blogs, I’d add Barry and his blog Dependable Erection, as well as BBQ Jew for the cue lovers. It has great restaurant reviews and keeps you in the know about upcoming cue fests around NC.

    p.s., glad to make it into one of your photos, supporting a local favorite. =)

  • I moved to Durham in July 2008 and didn’t expect much to be honest. But since moving here I have become a full-time artist and love what Durham has to offer! Thanks for the article!

  • thank you! i love this ever growing list of great things about durham. here are a few more:

    brand new and already a fave: local yogurt on university drive across from q-shack.

    rockwood filling station, next to q-shack – pizzas and great salads, and totally addictive chicken wings.

    the sushi bar at the kurama japanese steak house (next to sitar on the boulevard) is not much to look at, but it’s one of the best in the area.

    for those of us who run to support our eating habit, carolina godiva track club has races (both serious and ridiculous), training programs and weekly runs, plus a bunch of friendly people with useful advice and entertaining stories. and the folks at the bull city running store, on fayetteville rd next to kroger near southpoint, are just wonderful.

    finally, there’s the bull durham blues festival – blues at the old ball park for 2 nights in september. sublime.

    thanks again!

  • I just got linked to this list through an acquaintance. I’ve lived in Chapel Hill my whole life and am a huge fan of Durham. I’m glad to see it so beautifully represented in your photographs.

    I know you could only fit in a few aspects of the city but I was sad not to see any of Durham’s proud African American history, which I believe to be the most noteworthy thing about Durham in its North Carolinian context, from NC Mutual to Parrish Steet to Spirit House. I wish at least that the people represented in your photographs weren’t 100% young white folks!

  • Holy cow… these responses just affirm the assertion I made in the guide that Durham inspires people. These are some fantastic listings and I wish I’d included all of them. Some of them are new to me and I look forward to checking them out soon.

    Susan, thank you for your point – I wish I’d taken the time and space at least to mention the awesome history of Parrish Street, known as America’s Black Wall Street (until urban renewal brought an end to an era). The Hayti Heritage Center (804 Old Fayetteville St, 919-683-1709) hosts classes and exhibits, and is working on a permanent exhibit dedicated to the active and successful black-owned businesses of the Hayti neighborhood. In November, I stood in a euphoric crowd in the square on Parrish Street when Obama’s election was officially announced, and will never forget the tears of joy I saw and the huge sense of history smiling that everyone felt.

    Keep the suggestions coming, y’all. Yeah Durham.

  • This guide made me lose any reservations I might have had about moving to Durham (this July) after 30 years in California. On my 3 visits to check it out it amazed me how warm and welcoming everyone was. It’s got so much to offer and doesn’t take 45 minutes to get someplace! Excited.

  • For a local’s take on the best barbecue in the area (alas, it definitely ain’t in Durham) see bbqjew.com. There will be more reviews of Durham’s BBQ joints on the bbqjew.com site going forward, so stay tuned…

  • I’m late to the party, but I just have to throw a few cents in:

    The violent crime rate in Raleigh, per thousand, is actually much worse than Durham’s.

    Though the co-op is closed (alas), steam is gathering behind the Durham Central Market (http://www.durhamcentralmarket.org) — I love the farmers’ market already and i’m SUPER excited to see that get started.

    I didn’t see Sushi Love mentioned anywhere — it’s on Erwin, and it’s AWESOME.

    For late-night pancake fixes, try Honey’s — out on Hillsborough, I think, but I can’t keep the -borough and the -andale straight, nor the panoply of 15-501s. :p

    I’ve lived in D-ham for two years now after having been a Midwesterner my whole life … the longer I live here, and the more other places I visit, the more I realize that my adopted hometown really is the best place on earth. :)

  • Great city guide! I’ve been sharing this post with locals (Durhamites), business owners and folks new to Durham.

    *rufs – Honey’s is on Guess Road at the junction of I-85. Old style diner, huge breakfasts, pretty good biscuits, open all day.

    *durhamagyar – I just drove by Thrift World today and saw that it has closed down :( Still lots of great thrifting in Durham as you and other posters have mentioned.


    Festival for the Eno – 3 day music festival weekend of July 4th

    American Tobacco Campus – Music on the Lawn, free outdoor series throughout the summer months

    Music Maker Relief Foundation – Warehouse Blues Series at West Village apt’s – free outdoor music series throughout summer

    Duke Gardens – free lovely gardens, Summer Music in the Gardens series by Duke Perfomances

    Durham Cinematheque – elcectic film collector Tom Whiteside curates film themes and shows film under the stars at Central Park, info 688-0965 or see http://www.durhamcentralpark.org

    Central Park Strawberry Festival (May)

    Beaver Queen Pageant (June)

    Centerfest (September)

    for “real” news about what’s going on in Durham

    about eating and drinking in Durham. Includes a google map of all reviewed locations.

    I’m sure there is much, much more. Love the community that contributes and continues to grow the comments!

  • Hello, I’ve been living in Raleigh for 8 years and would like to move onward to Durham. However, I am not overly familiar with the area. Where should I start looking?

  • Hey Desta!

    Bullcityrising.com is a great way to start getting familiar with goings-on in Durham… but if you send me an email and let me know a little more about what you’re looking for, maybe I can help! jessie at jgkphotography dot com.

  • Hey Guys,
    Young married family looking to move to Durham from New York. Cant afford New York anymore. I am scared for the move but want a good life for my kids and easier living for us. Tell me more!!!!!!!!!

  • Great List, I think that you should also list Talk of the Town in the drink section in downtown Durham. First of all the place is an institution, and was downtown way before Downtown Durham even came up with the slogan “Find your cool”. Second of all, it is one of the chillest places to have a drink on Thursday nights. Or to hear live music, and dance to the tunes of a dj on Friday and Saturday nights.
    http://www.talkofthetowndurhamnc.com. The website can be shotty, but you can google them as well.

  • For BBQ, Allen & Son BBQ in Chapel Hill, just off old 87 (I think) is by far the best I’ve ever had outside of the pig-pickin’ circuit. It’s not that far from Durham.

  • Young couple (24 and 25) looking to relocate to NC from Indiana. We’ve been to Wilmington and loved it, but there wasn’t a job market for either of us and don’t want to live right on the coast. Love the milder weather, but not sure where to go. Any advice??

  • I live in raleigh and my husband and i rarely go to durham, but we’ll definitely check out some of these hot spots! also, if you’re visiting the area, raleigh is finally on the up and up and has done some major revamping of downtown! great photos!

  • Oh this is such a lovely guide! I moved here from NYC in ’95 and fell in love with Durham. In ’06 I took a job in Baltimore but after 2 yrs was too homesick for Durham and moved back. I LOVE THIS PLACE and your guide sums it up so beautifully, thank you! Unless I missed it above, you might want to add Beyu Caffe to the line up of happenin’ places on Main Street.

  • Hey Jorie – We moved from Indianapolis to Raleigh 2 years ago and LOVE the triangle area more than I can possibly say. Raleigh and Durham are both excellent places for young couples to live. I think it just depends on what you want and where you’ll be working. But everything is so close, you really get both cities, and Chapel Hill and Carrboro too.

  • Born and raised in North Cackalacky, I moved to Chapel Hill in 2002 to begin my undergrad at UNC. It is true what is is mentioned above re: Durham having a bad rep. For those who are not familiar with this area, it is known as the triangle due to the three cities (cultural hot spots) within just a few miles of one another. Since 2002, I’ve lived in both Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, and I must say that Durham is the most unique, organic, historic, and friendly place I have called home. You never have to ponder over the question, “What do you want to do this weekend?” It’s Durham, and there’s always something going on… and it’s always a good time! Thanks for this post!

  • Fantastic Article! My girlfriend and I just moved to the area from Virginia Beach and I’ve been wondering how to go about finding all the cool local places. Your article gave me a list we’ll be working off of for quite some time, so THANKS! :)

  • I love Bull City!! I am from Durham but go to school up North, and I just wish that all of my friends would see Durham as I do before they dismiss it as just another stagnant Southern city. I want to emphasize Nana’s and Four Square as some of the best dining in the area, and I think everyone should absolutely check out Scratch, a new eatery that opened pretty recently on Orange Street, which is fantastic for breakfast or brunch. And let’s not forget that our beloved Duke basketball is another must-experience outing.

  • Oh man, this thread just warmed my heart! We are currently faced with the possibility of relocating from NYC to Raleigh Durham. I have very little experience there, and was worried there would be a lack of culture or (gasp) lack of good food/booze/shopping. I feel so invigorated after reading this post!! Anyone have experience relocating from NYC area to NC? We’re a young family with one child (2 yrs old). I’d love to hear about anyone else’s experience transitioning, and what neighborhoods you recommend checking out!! Thank you!

  • We are planning a move to the Raleigh-Durham area from DC. Has anyone made this leap? If so, how was the transition?

  • Please add Pizzeria Toro and the Cupcake Bar to the 5-points section. They are fantastically awesome and literally opened between the time you wrote this and it was published. Seriously, Pizzeria Toro is… perfection. Really. Five stars in every category (food, service, price, atmosphere).

  • Also, Alley 26, the bar across from Rue Cler… brand new and fabulous!

    I hope I don’t regret giving away all my favorite secret hangouts! But really too good not to share.

  • Aww, I lived in Durham for 10 years, these photos and lists of wonderful places really tug on my heart strings. I have fond memories from Francesca’s, the Regulator Bookshop and many other places. Thank you for featuring the lovely city, you made a southern gal feel warm on a crisp day in NYC!

  • Lilly’s Pizza kind of has the WORST costumer service and the pizzas aren’t worth the hassle… so I would take it off the list. Other than that, great list!

  • One mistake — Bulkogi is not the Korean bbq truck you’re looking for. That would be KoKyu, which has the best duck-fat-fried tator tots out there. Their spray-painted trailer is often hanging out at Motorco.

  • I love Bulkogi’s Korean BBQ Truck, BUT they don’t have those tots.
    KoKyu BBQ is the truck that has the duck fat tots and amazing sliders and tacos (taKos). Bulkogi hangs on Duke Campus and at the end of 9th street. Kokyu is almost always at Motorco Music Hall and across from Fullsteam.

  • Even more great food at Saladelia, Pop’s pizza, Nosh, Elmo’s diner, Mount Fuji sushi, and Tutti Frutti (self serve frozen yogurt!!)…

  • Great guide, Django! Pedantic correction: Technically old-growth means forest stands that have never been harvested. Stick with calling them old oaks.

  • Great job with the guide! I live oh-so-close to Durham and this makes me want to dig my old tar-heels in! Love it! Do Raleigh! Do Raleigh!

  • I love Durham, and I LOVE Old Ceremony! Happy to see them both get well-deserved positive attention! :)

  • Great list! We lived in Durham for a few years and watch a number of places pop up. It’s foodie town with a great music scene.

    Definitely add Alivia’s to the Brightleaf list, hands down best patio in Durham. Also great are Parizade and Blu, both near Ninth Street.

    Someone mentioned Magnolia Grill, sadly, it closed.

  • Hooray for Durham! Let’s add Dolly’s and Vaguely Reminiscent to the “stores where it is easy to spend all of your money on cute things” portion of the list.

  • So excited to see a post on Durham! We moved here two years ago from NYC and have loved getting to know NC, especially the food culture in Durham. Other food trucks to note: American Meltdown, Humble Pig, and Sympathy for the Deli!

  • Great suggestions… I love Durham, it’s a very underrated place with lots of character. I have to second Cosmic Cantina, it’s the best late night burrito experience you will ever have… and you’ll feel so cool once you actually find it.

  • The Old Ceremony is AWESOME! if you go to Durham, make sure you schedule your visit while the band is playing in the area!

  • This website is unreadable…the descriptions are so faint, they can’t be seen. Would love to see the info, but this is sadly, a big fail.

    • heron

      what browser and version are you using? we’ve never had that complaint before so i’m guessing there may be a viewing or compatibility issue happening that’s localized.


  • I can’t believe no one has mentioned Mateo for delicious Spanish wine and absolutely amazing tapas!!! It’s in the 5 Points area. You won’t be disappointed! Great list!

  • Thank you so much for this wonderful guide!!

    I just went to Durham for a month for teacher training and I really didn’t know what to expect. I read your guide and I was able to make it to many of these places during my trip – was never disappointed! I would also add The Museum of Life and Science to the list. I guess it’s for children, but I loved the Butterfly House! Will be heading back to Durham again!