The Scoop on Where to Eat, Stay & Play in Durham
Now that we’ve visited Chapel Hill on our Triangle road trip, the second stop is Durham, NC. Known as the “Bull City,” Durham has a very distinct culture – authentic, down to earth, entrepreneurial – that makes it FULL of one-of-a-kind food, fun and shopping. Truth be told, Durham just might be our favorite point on the Triangle. If you’re making a trip to Durham, this is your guide to Durham, with the best places to eat, stay and play while you’re there:
Nationally recognized as one of the South’s tastiest towns, Durham has more hot spots than you have meals. To make it easier for you, these are our favorite, award-winning spots:
Located on Ninth Street in downtown Durham, you’ve gotta try Monuts donuts. They’re made from scratch with local ingredients.
Featured on Rachael Ray and Food Network, Elmo’s Diner is also consistently a local favorite for breakfast. A retro diner with an energetic vibe, Elmo’s often draws a crowd on the weekends, but the good news is they serve breakfast all day. Try the California omelette with fresh avocado and tomatoes. They have great lunch options too.
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One of the best brunch spots in Durham is Guglhupf. This German bakery and restaurant has a great weekend brunch with tons of drink choices – a full menu of coffees, teas and cocktails. With pretty paper lanterns inside and a beautiful patio outside, it’s a good restaurant choice no matter the season.
Nothing says brunch like beignets and for those, stroll to Rue Cler for a Parisian experience.
Bull City Burger & Brewery is delicious because they make everything in-house, even the condiments like sauerkraut, pickles, mayonnaise, mustard. There are no salads here, but for a great burger with a side of beer brewed on site, this is your spot. They have great outdoor seating right downtown too.
For healthier options, try Refectory Café. This award-winning restaurant caters to all diets –
vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. And it’s still delicious even if your diet is none of the above.
For a true farm to table experience, Piedmont Restaurant offers a menu of seasonal ingredients grown and raised by their sister company, Coon Rock Farm in nearby Hillsborough. Piedmont brings home-grown goodness straight from the farm to a great dinner experience right in downtown Durham.
If you like sushi, we recommend Basan, next to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. You can watch the sushi chefs create their masterpieces while you enjoy a variety of saki and fresh Japanese dishes.
The best desserts are made from scratch and that’s just what acclaimed baker Phoebe Lawless does at Scratch. Try a slice of one of her famous chess pies. The flavors change with the seasons. Note that this dessert spot closes just before dinner so stop by here for an afternoon snack (or get it to go).
The Parlour is a notable Durham spot for hand-churned ice cream and other desserts.
Durham can feel like a bit of a college town, so if you want a bar for grown-ups, Alley Twenty Six is a good place for inventive mixed drinks. There’s fun outdoor seating in the alley if the weather’s nice. Try the Olive Garden – a dirty martini with a bunch of olives. Check their schedule for fun classes where you can learn to craft your own signature cocktail.
If beer is more your thing, grab a drink at local favorite Fullsteam Brewery. The vibe is very laidback here – kids and pets are welcome. And don’t go hungry because there’s no food service, but there are lots of games to play and you’ll get a feel for the energy that makes Durham one-of-a-kind.
If your plans center around downtown, the new Aloft hotel is a great location. It’s ambience is very chic and contemporary and you can walk to a lot of our recommended bites and sights to see.
We also love The King’s Daughters Inn, a hotel meets bed & breakfast option overlooking Duke University’s east campus. They offer complimentary bicycles and their location is very close to Duke, downtown and all the shopping districts. The 1920s style of the inn is beautiful and each room is one of a kind – pick your preferred decor when you make a reservation.
If food equals fun for you, check out the Downtown Durham Walking Food Tour. A local guide takes you and a group through the downtown Durham streets for 5 to 6 tastings of the city’s food finds and stories from Durham history.
No matter the season, check out the gorgeous Sarah P. Duke Gardens, a 55-acre botanical garden on the Duke campus. Open year-round and admission is free.
Tobacco was big in Durham and a lot of the coolest spots today are revitalized tobacco factories and warehouses. The American Tobacco Campus is one of those and it’s a picturesque place to stroll, with restaurants, a documentary movie theater, art shows and several spots to relax and enjoy the scenery.
If you’re a Blue Devils basketball fan, check out the Duke Basketball Museum & Sports Hall of Fame. If minor league baseball is more your thing, the Durham Bulls Park is a fun night. They even play the Charlotte Knights – check the schedule.
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Durham has several distinct areas for shopping. We recommend Brightleaf Square, a pretty outdoor shopping area set in a historic district on the west end of downtown Durham. The shops here are independent and local.
Stop into Vert & Vogue. They offer mens’ and womens’ clothing from designers like AG Jeans, Coclico and Melissa Joy Manning. They also give complimentary parking validation and 10% off if you join their email list.
Morgan Imports is a big, fun store to browse for just about anything. They have cool gifts, holiday, garden, kitchen, kids, even furniture.
Streets at Southpoint is a nice indoor, outdoor mall with over 150 stores, including all of your favorite retailers like Nordstrom, Anthropologie and even a few independent boutiques. You can make a day of it there with great dining options, movies and more.
Andria Rosell is a writer, marketer and mom to two rowdy little boys. Her family relocated to the Triangle from Chicago to escape the winters and explore everything North Carolina has to offer. Get in touch on Instagram @helloandria or www.andriarosell.com