Durham is known for Duke University, the Durham Bulls baseball team, and Lucky Strike Tobacco, but it is a small city with a big personality and we love living here. When we were moving from Chicago, I thought we would have to go to Raleigh (since it is much bigger than Durham) to have any fun. We didn't know how wrong we were! We absolutely love Durham and actually rarely go to Raleigh! Out of Chapel Hill/Carrboro (where I work), Durham (where we live) and Raleigh (where Austin works), Durham is our favorite and we have found so many gems that rival our Chicago and NYC favorites! We are constantly impressed by Durham and all it has to offer and how much it is growing every single day.
If you're ever in the area, here are our Durham must-tries!
- NANA TACO - By far our most frequented restaurant! We are obsessed with their tacos and you can usually find us here on Friday/Saturday nights! They know our orders now and ask where we've been if we miss a week! haha They serve other Mexican food than tacos, but the tacos are a must. They offer what they call "dirty meats" like hog jowels, duck, and chicken liver, but we stick with the basics and they are delicious and still offer a wide variety. Order: chorizo, pork butt, fried shrimp, or garlic beef tacos with a side of Valentina aioli
SMITHFIELD'S - This is our favorite BBQ showcasing Eastern NC bbq. It is a chain in North Carolina, but don't let that stop you. It's vinegar based and totally different than any bbq I've ever had before and we always stop on road trips across the state. Delicious. Order: BBQ Pork Sandwich with coleslaw and a side of fries
LUNA - This restaurant's tag line is "South American meets American South" and that describes it perfectly. It's so delicious and unique. Everyone we have introduced to the restaurant loves it. Located downtown, it's a great place to take friends and family in town. Order: Pulled chicken or brisket patacon (sandwich with two fried plantains instead of bread with a chipotle aioli slaw) with a side of maduros (fried plantain wedges with a cinnamon cream dipping sauce)
BAR VIRGILE - Our favorite burger in the Triangle hands down! So so juicy and perfect. They have amazing cocktails and a speakeasy vibe which make it a great date night spot! Order: the burger, fries w/ garlic aioli, and german chocolate cake
- VIN ROUGE - Our favorite French restaurant in Durham! The food is to die for, but the classic Parisian bistro ambience and outdoor patio keep us coming back again and again! Order: chicken roti, frites, and chocolate mousse
- PARKER AND OTIS - We love this country store and quaint eatery. It's fun spot where you can look around a pick up some gifts and hit the coffee bar while you wait for your food. Order: Caprese sandwich with a side of pesto pasta salad or pimento cheese BLT
- FOSTER'S MARKET - The perfect casual spot to eat outside on picnic tables on a nice day. The yummy sandwiches and their many dessert options are the main stays. Order: turkey sandwich with cream cheese and pepper jelly, chicken caesar wrap, and banana pudding
- SUNRISE BISCUIT KITCHEN - Ok, it's a drive thru biscuit stop and technically it's in Chapel Hill! BUT, they are the best biscuits in town! And they are bigger than average so, enjoy! Order: fried chicken biscuit, pimento cheese biscuit, and just a plain yummy biscuits
- HAPPY AND HALE - We love their dragonfruit and acai smoothie bowls. Simple, fresh and right by our house! They also offer fruit-infused water that is always a treat. Order: Acai or dragonfruit smoothie bowl
- GRUB - Converted from an old gas station, this is a great spot for brunch and it's one of the only spots I know of in Durham with seating on their rooftop. We live in walking distance and it's next to our favorite coffee spot (see below!) so obviously we frequent this spot a lot! Order: pimento cheese and bacon sandwich, granola and fruit bowl, chicken biscuit
Stop for a sip
COCOA CINNAMON - We ride our bikes here often for a coffee/tea and to sit outside on their patio or on our way to the Durham farmer's market. The Lakewood location has homemade churros that you dip into their hot chocolate! They are phenomenal. Order: In the winter, order the Cacao Canela for the most delicious hot chocolate of your life (adds a little bit of vanilla and cinnamon. In the summer, Rihla iced tea for a refresher. Anytime- coffee!
JOE VAN GOGH - This is the spot we most frequent because I love their iced lavender lattes with macadamia nut milk. So good and so refreshing and basically the only way I like my coffee! Order: Lavender or Rosemary Brown Sugar iced latte with macadamia nut milk
HONEYSUCKLE TEA HOUSE - OK, this is in Chapel Hill and it's a hike to get out there but it's a lovely drive through the countryside. You can sip tea and eat a smoothie bowl in the open air tea house, walk around the gardens, play on the playground, or take a snooze in the hammock garden. It's such a fun, unique experience. Order: Smoothie bowl and the iced tea of your choice
- PONYSAURUS BREWING - This outdoor beer garden is a perfect way to spend an afternoon in Durham on a nice day. They even have little bonfire stations in the fall and winter for a cozy place to make s'mores while drinking your beer. I'm not a beer drinker, but I enjoy the atmosphere and their snacks! They always have big jars of options like cheetos, swedish fish, wasabi peas, etc and they'll scoop you some to accompany your drink. Order: Their beer list is ever changing and that is the fun of it!
Things To Do Around Town
- SARAH P DUKE GARDENS - So beautiful all year round. The landscaping crew makes sure to always have something in bloom and it's such a scenic spot to walk around, have a picnic, and wander around for a peaceful day.
- HIKE DUKE FOREST - We love to do the 2 mi hiking loop around Duke Forest all year round. It's quite popular and technically on Duke's campus so if you want to go by yourself, you'll feel safe but it never feels over crowded.
- SEE A SHOW AT DPAC - We get a lot of great traveling broadway shows, concerts and stand up acts here. We've seen a few shows here and really enjoy the experience. It's also right downtown so you can walk to dinner before or after!
- DUKE CHAPEL AND CAMPUS - The Methodist chapel on campus is really beautiful as is the rest of the medieval stone architecture on campus and worth a visit, whether you're a Duke fan or not!
- Grab ice cream at Parlour and walk around downtown - Their handmade classic and eccentric flavors are to die for! There is a lot to explore, such as a ton of cute shops, a small old-school movie theater, and 10 art galleries.
- Visit the Nasher Art Museum - Traveling exhibits stop through here and located on Dukes campus it's perfect for a day of exploring.
- Visit the Duke Lemur Center - The largest collection of lemurs outside of Madagascar!