Founded in 1869, Durham is a historic city in North Carolina’s northern central region. Situated just 25 miles from the state capital city of Raleigh, Durham is famous for its history, institutions of higher education, and art and culture.
On my trip to Durham, I spent plenty of time learning and exploring its cultural attractions, as well as availing myself of its hiking and bicycle trails.
Durham has a lively city center, with opportunities to enjoy art exhibitions and a variety of live performances.
Durham is also noted for its vibrant food scene, which I thoroughly enjoyed. With award-winning restaurants available all over the city, you won’t be short of places to enjoy delectable dishes.
During my Durham stay, I visited many of the city’s restaurants to discover the best to recommend. Check out my list of the best restaurants in Durham below!
530 Foster St #130, Durham, NC 27701
I can tell you from personal experience that Dame’s Chicken & Waffles has some of the most delicious food Durham has to offer.
With a unique combination of European styles with traditional southern fried methods, Dame’s Chicken & Waffles has a wide range of dishes ready for you to enjoy.
I’m a big waffles fan, and that’s why this was one of the first restaurants I tried during my Durham stay. There’s a range of waffle flavors here, such as Classic, Gingerbread, Sweet Potato, and more.
You can add items from the A La Carte menu whenever you’d like. I favor the Turkey Bacon/Sausage and Sauteed Shrimp.
311 Holland St, Durham, NC 27701
Seafood alert! M Sushi is a sushi restaurant the locals will tell you to visit. All the dishes at M Sushi are made with seasonal seafood speedily imported from Japan or Korea or harvested here in the USA. Everything is always supremely fresh.
I was a sushi novice when I visited M Sushi, but after trying the food here, I can’t wait for the next time I’ll have the chance to eat this expertly made food.
You can enjoy lunch or dinner at M Sushi. I visited for lunch and tried some of the traditional sushi rolls and Seaweed Salad. Conveniently located in the City Center, M Sushi is within easy distance of Durham’s Central Park.
105 E Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701
Pizzeria Toro is a friendly neighborhood pizzeria complete with a bar. When I asked locals for recommendations on pizza, Pizzeria Toro came up right away. The wood-fired pizza here always hits the spot.
Before you start devouring your pizza, enjoy some of the starters and salads at Pizzeria Toro. I went with the Ricotta Dumplings and Fried Brussels Sprouts.
There are so many pizza options to choose from. I wanted something unique, so I went with the Spicy Lamb Meatball. I highly recommend it.
If you’re an Anchovy fan, check out the Anchovy and Anchovy with Cheese options. And don’t forget dessert. I favor the Dulcey Panna Cotta, which includes brown butter pecan and coffee.
2010 Hillsborough Rd, Durham, NC 27705
If you’re looking for something sophisticated and a bit off-the-beaten-path, you can’t go wrong with Vin Rouge. This restaurant will transport you to a different world with chic vibes of the famous 1950s and 60s French New Wave.
Have you ever tried escargot? I hadn’t before my visit to Vin Rouge, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this dish.
If that’s not your thing, take a look at the many other items on Vin Rouge’s plentiful menu. And don’t forget to peruse the Red Wine and White Wine lists.
I ate at Vin Rouge twice, once for dinner and the second time for brunch. If you’re heading to Vin Rouge for brunch, try some of this establishment’s excellent coffee selection. I went with Cafe Latte.
737 9th St #210, Durham, NC 27705
Located near Old West Durham, a charming neighborhood, this restaurant focuses on what it aptly describes as Asian fusion cuisine.
Juju Durham also features a tapas bar, including small plate options. When it comes to spirits and sake, you’ll be spoiled with choices.
Have you ever visited Jujube in Chapel Hill? Juju Durham is that restaurant’s sister location. Both establishments were founded by an award-winning chef, Charlie Deal, and another local restaurateur, Julian Bentley.
Juju Durham is known for its exciting flavors and creativity. When you visit Juju Durham, you can eat in the main dining room, on the patio near a tranquil fire pit, or a comfy booth.
109 W Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701
Lots of us have wanted to try Paella but are intimidated by the big bowl and the long process. That’s where Mateo Bar de Tapas comes in.
This unique eating establishment offers Paella in a Pizza Box! That means if you want to bring your paella home, it’s easy.
Mateo Bar de Tapas has a Paella menu, including Meat Lovers and Seafarer selections. If you’re a vegan, you’ll like the Vegan Deluxe.
Paella is a communal experience. Each dish feeds between two and four adults. Mateo Bar de Tapas, as implied by the name, offers a full tapas menu.
On my visit to Mateo Bar de Tapas, I ordered the Pollo Fritzo, a Tapas selection with fried chicken and serrano ham, and mahon cheese.
601 W Main St suite c, Durham, NC 27701
Located on Durham’s Main Street, Cucciolo Osteria is a sister location to an original Seoul, Korea location.
This restaurant provides modern Italian dishes with a creative interpretation. Cucciolo Osteria only uses top-notch ingredients, and you will appreciate this restaurant’s upscale atmosphere.
Cucciolo Osteria only uses seasonally fresh ingredients, which means the menu changes. There are some constants at Cucciolo Osteria, however, such as its many delicious pasta-based dishes.
I enjoyed dinner at Cucciolo Osteria, where I ordered Truffle Tajarin, including Reggiano, truffled pasta, and fresh black truffles. I can also recommend the Beef Tagliata, boasting prime New York strip.
5420 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd, Durham, NC 27707
This restaurant brings together the best inspiration of Korean and American cultures, creating the unique vibe that is Namu.
Namu is popular with locals and tourists alike. One of its best-known dishes is the Kimchi Fried Rice, and I can certainly attest to its deliciousness.
I also tried the Mandoo. This delectable Korean dumpling dish is available with meat and vegetable options.
Innovation is a watchword at Namu, and this eaterie isn’t afraid to be something different. As well as the great selection of dishes, Namu offers an impressive Cafe Beverages menu. The espresso here is superb.
345 Blackwell St, Durham, NC 27701
Downtown Durham becomes even more vibrant by the year, and NanaSteak has been a key part of this exciting development.
NanaSteak is truly in the heart of Durham culture, found next door to the Aloft Durham Downtown Hotel and the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC).
This upscale restaurant is welcoming yet sophisticated. With stylish contemporary decor and natural light flooding into the space, dining at NanaSteak is always a pleasure. NanaSteak prides itself on using fresh North Carolina ingredients.
In my opinion, the entree of choice is the iconic Nanasteak Double Patty Smash Burger with House Pickles, Onions, Aged Cheddar, and Jalapeno Remoulade.
1821 Hillandale Rd, Durham, NC 27705
A family-owned Mediterranean bistro conveniently found on the corner of Hillandale Road and Frost Street in Hillandale Commons Shopping Center, Bleu Olive is yet another impressive restaurant in this city.
You can count on Bleu Olive for always using top-notch ingredients. I visited Bleu Olive Mediterranean Bistro for dinner and ordered the ever-popular Lamb Burger.
This unique burger dish includes a mouth-watering lamb patty with baby arugula, beet relish, goat cheese, and Chermoula sauce. It is accompanied by fries, too. I highly recommend this dish.
One of this restaurant’s most popular dishes is the Moussaka. This is a traditional braised lamb casserole. It comes with eggplant, Yukon Gold potatoes, and goat cheese bechamel.
2694 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd, Durham, NC 27707
Foster’s Market is a community hub, as well as a restaurant, cafe, and gourmet food market. It’s everything all in one if you love delicious food. At Foster’s Market, every dish is made with supremely fresh and housemade ingredients.
You’ll hear locals talk about heading to Foster’s Market for breakfast and lunch. I went for breakfast, and I appreciated the wide selection of dishes.
I highly recommend the BLT Sandwich. You can add scrambled eggs if that’s your thing. Don’t forget to order a gourmet coffee drink, too.
Even reading the Hot Sandwiches menu is a mouth-watering experience. Take a look at the Grilled Black Forest ham and Grilled Italian Grinder selections.
910 W Main St, Durham, NC 27701
If you’ve never tried Ethiopian food, you’re in for a treat. My dinner at Goorsha was a memorable experience, with truly delicious food and a friendly atmosphere. With a central Durham location, Goorsha is easy to find.
At Goorsha, you can order a communal plate or go with individual portions, whichever you prefer.
All Goorsha dishes are made with fresh, local, and organic ingredients. The meal selections are based on Ethiopian tradition with new creative touches.
You can pair your meal with one of the curated artisan wines or craft beers on the menu. Or if cocktails are your preference, check out the house-made cocktails available.
401 E Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701
A charming French restaurant in the heart of Durham, Rue Cler features the sophisticated dishes of Executive Chef Todd Whitney. Always using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, Rue Cler excels in the French tradition.
If you love history, you will certainly appreciate the building where Rue Cler is housed. It was built in the early 1920s, and it’s well-known by all the locals.
As Rue Cler focuses on seasonal ingredients, the menu changes at different parts of the year. The wine menu is excellent.
In my opinion, the Magret de Canard is one of Rue Cler’s best dishes. It boasts duck breast with orange sauce, raisins, rainbow chard, and roasted carrot.
1647 Cole Mill Rd, Durham, NC 27705
Head to Picnic Barbecue whenever you’re craving barbecue and picnic-inspired food. If you want take-out, no problem. This restaurant is known for its excellent take-out services. There is also outdoor seating available.
Some dishes locals rave about include the Chopped Brisket Sandwich, Fried Chicken Sandwich, Pig Whistle Deviled Eggs, and Fried Chicken. The Picnic menu has frequent changes, so there’s always something exciting to choose.
So what did I choose? I went with the Fried Chicken. You can’t go wrong with this classic, and Picnic does it superbly. I also tried some of the Pig Whistle Deviled Eggs. With so much to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start first.
2726 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd, Durham, NC 27707
If you’re looking for an award-winning restaurant with a casual and easygoing atmosphere, look no further than The Refectory Cafe.
This well-known local spot is renowned for its homemade dishes made with fresh, local ingredients.
Even if you have a special diet, The Refectory Cafe will be able to accommodate you. There are options on the menu for raw food, plant-based, low-fat, keto, low-carb, gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan diets.
The Refectory Cafe serves Brunch every day of the week. I enjoyed one of the quiches, made with farm-fresh ingredients. I heard locals rave about one of this restaurant’s French toast dishes.
4600 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd Suite 26, Durham, NC 27707
Piri Piri dishes are what Zweli’s is famous for. This casual and inviting Durham restaurant is the creation of Zimbabwean chef Zwelibanzi Williams.
If you’ve ever had Piri Piri, you know (and love) its spicy chili flavor. With every Piri Piri dish, Chef Zwelibanzi Williams marinades the food of choice in a Piri Piri marinade.
Choose Piri Piri Chicken Breast, Chicken Wings, ½ Chicken, Tofu, or one of the other available options.
Zweli’s also offers a Sandwiches & Salads menu perfect for any lunchtime excursion. When I visited Zweli’s, I went with the Crispy Chicken Sandwich. I can assure you; it was absolutely delicious.
107 W Main St, Durham, NC 27701
As you explore the fascinating sights and history of downtown Durham, check out COPA on Main Street.
A Cuban-inspired restaurant with a Soil to Table commitment, COPA is known throughout the community for its delectable dishes.
Among the most popular dishes at COPA are its slow-roasted pork sandwiches. There are a few different varieties, one of which is the Havana Sandwich.
The Havana includes slow-roasted pork with cheese, ham, mustard, pickle, and mojo sauce. Another is the El Caney, similar to the Havana but with avocado and without pickle or ham.
You can’t go wrong with the slow-roasted pork at COPA. In fact, this is the food this Durham establishment is best known for.
101 E Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701
M Pocha is a Chapel Hill Street fixture serving unique dishes inspired by Korean cuisine. This restaurant combines Korean flavors and traditions with the tapas approach. There are also entrees here if that is what you crave.
With many, tapas is a late-night favorite. If this is the experience you’re after, head to M Pocha for its Late Light Menu on Fridays and Saturday nights.
This menu offers tasty items such as Spicy Pork Nacho Fries, Chili Oil Wontons, and the iconic Drunken Noodle.
Of course, M Pocha also serves dinner earlier in the evening. The dinner menu includes small plates, dumplings, rice, meat, burgers, sides, and noodles/soup.
402 W Geer St, Durham, NC 27701
Hutchins Garage isn’t just any pizza place. This fun pizzeria and local sensation is housed in a garage. Well, it’s not used as a garage, but that’s what the building looks like from the outside.
If you’re not in the know, you might just pass it by. With such delicious pizza in-store, that would be a big mistake.
This local eatery offers a range of classic pizza pies, with options such as Fried Chicken Pizza, Spicy Vodka Pizza, Margherita Pizza, Spinach Ricotta Pizza, and Kale and Fennel Sausage.
Remember to wash down your pizza with some cold beer, which Hutchins Garage has in abundance.
While you’re in this well-known North Carolina city, remember to enjoy the wide variety of attractions found here, ranging from art and cultural spots to the many opportunities to explore the great outdoors.
As we’ve seen on this list, Durham isn’t short of top-notch restaurants with every kind of dish you could wish for.
Durham takes pride in its food scene, and it shows. Did we leave a restaurant out of this list? Make sure you leave us a comment, and we’ll check it out!