I loved living in Durham for a lot of reasons. It’s got some big city aspects with a small town feel, it’s rich in history and culture, and of course the food and beer scene is amazing. What I love most about Durham is that it has grown a lot as a city, while also remaining true to its roots.
Durham’s growth took off immensely following the end of the American Civil War. Much of this growth can be attributed to the thriving tobacco industry. Much of the old (but beautiful) brick buildings that were once tobacco factories still stand in downtown Durham today. The buildings have since been renovated and turned into districts featuring shops, restaurants, bars, and even loft style apartments.
All of these improvements and development have really paid off well for Durham, and the city is thriving in almost every category. Especially in the food and drink category. In fact, Southern Living magazine named Durham the South’s Tastiest Town. You’re about to find out why!
Monuts is a bakery and cafe located on Durham’s trendy ninth street, which sits smack dab between downtown Durham and Duke University. Monuts actually started as a simple donut stand operating off a tricycle near the Durham Farmer’s Market. Clearly their product was in demand because now Monuts has grown into a counter-service restaurant and bakery with a full menu and lunch fare including soups, salads, sandwiches, and of course, donuts. You guys, does it really get better than fresh, no-frills, local food made from scratch? Not in my book it doesn’t. Monuts quickly became one of my favorite places to grab breakfast.
Don’t miss: The Ooey-Gooey Gouda and Guac Dirty to Me are both hits with me. Also, the cinnamuffins are to die for!
Rise Biscuits and Donuts
Biscuits are not a huge thing where I’m from in the midwest. But in the south, biscuits are king! I was reluctant at first, but I finally gave in and I can see what all the hype is about. No offense to the Pillsbury doughboy, but I can never go back to eating biscuits from a can after living in the south. Rise started in Durham in 2012, but has since expanded to seven(!!) other North Carolina locations. It’s safe to say this place is doing something right. Rise mixes their old school donut flavors with some new school speciality flavor donuts.
Don’t miss: The maple bacon donut is devine!
Elmo’s is your classic American diner. They serve homemade food and breakfast all day long. Elmo’s isn’t going to wow you with its trendy decor, or with never before heard of menu options, but it is going to be a place you can count on for classic food done right. After a night of one too many beers a big hearty breakfast from Elmo’s (and a nap) will get you feeling brand new in no time.
Don’t miss: the pancakes. they’re fluffy and huge and fantastic. Every once in a while they’ll have their pumpkin pancakes on special. If you’re
basic like me, into pumpkin, you’ll love them.
Dame’s Chicken & Waffles
Dames was my first time ever eating chicken and waffles so I pretty much started at the top. Kind of like when my first time eating a philly cheesesteak was in Philly. Dames is legendary in North Carolina and is known to have a chairs lined up outside the restaurant where people are waiting to get seat. The only thing better than their perfectly fluffy waffles and crispy but moist chicken is their famous “shmears”. Sweet cream butters that have been whipped with ingredients like Nutella, strawberry, vanilla and toasted almond
Don’t miss: The chicken and waffles of course! The maple pecan shmear is by far my favorite, although my fiancé would argue the chocolate hazelnut is best.
Happy & Hale
What kind of millennial would I be if I didn’t include at least one hippy dippy health food place on this list? Not a very good one, that’s for sure. The truth is, I love indulgent food as much as the next person, but I also like to be able to eat out without needing a nap afterwards. Enter: Happy & Hale. A place that believes “in producing healthy food that nourishes the body, fulfills the soul, empowers the community and balances the planet”. Happy & Hale has everything from salads to smoothies, and juices to acai bowls.
Don’t miss: the scramble and the acai bowl are my go-tos.
Burger Bach is a New Zealand inspired gastro pub specializing in gourmet grass fed beef, lamb and free-range chickens. Their mission is to take basic food items in their most natural and unprocessed form and make delicious food without sacrificing any taste. Oh yeah, and they have 24 beers on tap featuring local craft beer. Burgers and beer, made right.
Don’t miss: the fries to share are insane, specifically the NZ triple blue cheese, uncured bacon, garlic aioli. When it comes to the burgers, they are all unique and well made. The East Coast is my favorite.
Bull City Burger & Brewery
Clearly I like burgers and beer. Bull City Burger & Brewery was the very last place we went to eat before we moved from Durham. Now that we’ve moved I’m wishing we would have made it there soon because it was bomb.com. Bull City is a microbrewery that happens to have an amazing restaurant hooked up right next to it. Pretty much everything on the menu is made in house, including the hamburger buns and the meat that the grind fresh every morning.
Don’t miss: the fried pickles. Guys, I am a fired pickle fanatic and get them nearly everywhere I go. These might be the best I’ve ever had. The beer is also not to be passed up. The Parrish Street Pale Ale or the Bryant Bridge Gateway Golden Ale are my top two.
Ice cream makes the world go ’round. At least my world, which is why I loved that we only lived a few blocks away from The Parlour. This became my go-to place when my sweet tooth was too much to resist. These guy make some pretty incredible flavors of ice cream, like Vietnamese coffee and brown sugar oatmeal cookie ice cream. But they still have the basics covered like, mint chocolate chip cookies and cream. I usually go with one scoop of a classic flavor and one scoop with a wild flavor.
Don’t miss: The salted butter caramel is literally to. die. for.
Tyler’s is a full-service restaurant, that serves up some good food, but the beer is what steals the show for me here. Tyler’s has over 60 (!!!) different beers on tap, nearly all of which are craft beers, and most of which are North Carolina beers. YAY for local beer!!
Dont miss: I was so impressed with the craft beer scene in North Carolina. Tyler’s rotates their beers so I can’t give you one specific one to try. Tell the bartender what kind of beer you like and they’ll give you at least 5-6 choices. If that’s not heaven I don’t know what is.
Beer Durham is kind of tucked away, but if you make it there it’s worth it for the selection of beer they have. Beer Durham is home to a tasting room complete with 20 beers on tap and a large selection of speciality craft beers sold by the bottle and can. This place doesn’t have much on the food end of things, so it’s really a good place if you’ve already had dinner or just want to stop for a quick drink or two with friends after work.
Don’t miss: If you’re into growlers, head here on Tuesdays, when growler refills are 10% off!