1. Rise’s biscuits are so good, your grandma wishes she had the recipe
Rise’s biscuits are an out-of-body experience. They taste like a salty, buttery mix granted to us in perfect ratio by the upper level gods of biscuit heaven.
Let me put it this way: I love this place so much, I bought a Rise t-shirt. When was the last time you bought a t-shirt from a biscuit place?
I’m lucky enough to have Rise as my Saturday morning staple. I get a plain biscuit and a side of hash (potato, chicken, or corn beef). I’ve heard the Chicken Biscuit is delicious, but the biscuit on its own is so perfect, I am hesitant to introduce anything that might hurt its feelings.
2. Grab a pretzel knot and some pancakes and get ready for a brunch-gasm in the beer garden at Guglhupf.
I LOVE THIS PLACE, TOO! (Sorry about the caps, but it’s hard to express the passion otherwise.)
Pro tip: Get here before 10 a.m. on a Sunday. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting for a parking spot and then be waiting in line for 20 minutes. That being said, I’ve made that wait a ½ dozen times and it’s worth it every time.
3. Chicken and waffles at dame’s should be declared a Durham historic landmark.
Have you ever heard of a “schmear”? I hadn’t until I went to Dame’s Chicken and Waffles. It’s flavored, spreading butter. As if butter needed to be more awesome. That’s not the only thing this Durham mainstay has either. Along with with the schmears, Dame’s serves the best Carolina-style barbecue sauce in Durham. I literally drank it from the bottle.
Dame’s is so good that my buddy has already made birthday reservation–for the next three years.
4. When your parents come to town, go to Nana’s and try the tasting menu. You’ll thank me later.
The tasting menu and wine pairing is what Nana’s is known for; my wife loved it. Personally, I need to make my own choices, so I went risotto and venison. I think I won the battle of amazing vs. super amazing, but you can make up your own mind.
This is the most expensive place on the list; that’s why I suggest having your parents take you (or go for some special occasion). The food is absolutely worth the price, just make sure you make a reservation ahead of time because everyone wants to go there.
5. And for every other day of the year go to Nanataco and grab a pork butt burrito.
The everyday cousin of Nana’s is Nanataco. You can get some great Mexican food at a great price. I’ve had the tacos, burritos, and quesadillas and everything is delicious. I make sure to grab extra verde sauce from their counter and a side of Guac.
What a great word Guac is. Nanataco does it proud and I lived in California for 8 years, so I would know.
6. Or stop next door at Q Shack for pork ribs with His sauce.
If you’re seeing a theme here with my taste in barbecue sauce (vinegar-based) then you’re a true Durham-ite, and have been paying attention to my ramblings. This was the first barbecue I had in Durham, so it’s where I learned that vinegar-based sauce is the only sauce that matters. I need to ask them why it’s called His sauce the next time I’m there.
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7. A maple-bacon-bourbon donut from Monuts will get you carb-drunk.
8. Despite what the name implies, I’d take only the pickle chips at Only Burger.
Personal-bias: my favorite kind of hamburger is a BigMac. If you think that invalidates my list, then your super judgemental.
I don’t like these big fancy burger places. A burger should just be meat, cheese, bun, ketchup, and some condiments.
All that said, the normal people in my life, who appreciate fancy burgers, love Only Burger.
Anyways, back to my original point, the fried pickle chips at Only Burger are an experience you have to have living in Durham. I love ‘em and go back just for them once a month.
9. You really haven’t had a sandwich until you’ve had Toast.
When we came to buy our house in Durham, our Realtor brought us here. Bomb dot com. This isn’t some super fancy restaurant, but their ingredients are fresh and the menu never fails to look tasty as hell. Paninis, crostinis, and sandwiches, oh my!
10. Stop at Saladelia for some good, casual mediterranean food whenever the urge hits.
Saladelia isn’t a Michelin star restaurant; it’s where you go to grab a gyro and a Greek salad after a long day at the office. And it’s worth it… every… single… time. I have a Greek grandmother and I wouldn’t hesitate to bring her here for some tzatziki sauce and dolmas.
11. I scream, you scream, we all scream for The Parlour
Yea, sorry about the lame pun headline, but don’t let that sour your opinion on The Parlour. This is the one place in Durham you go for ice cream.
People and the Internet love The Parlour’s Salted Butter Caramel; I don’t. You don’t put salt in ice cream; it should be a rule. I stick with the good ol’ Vietnamese Coffee. And you should too.
12. Bad pizza makes life essentially unlivable, luckily, we have Randy’s.
I’m a pizza snob. Like I-didn’t-eat-pizza-in-California-for-eight-years pizza snob because it doesn’t compare to New Jersey pizza. I tried Randy’s my first week in Durham and now I get it twice a month. The pizza here actually tastes like New Jersey (yes, it tastes like the state) and it’s glorious.
13. I don’t normally do French, but when I do, I do beignets from Rue Cler.
The mad genius who invented fried bread was, well, a very mad genius. Yea I said it. Rue Cler takes that genius and steps it up a notch. Their beignets are friggin’ delicious. If nothing else, stop here after going to DPAC for dessert once in your life.
Oh yea, and everything else Rue Cler makes tastes like a French man bottled up Paris and brought it to Durham. Thank you for that, random French man.
Places I left off on purpose, feel free to get mad
1. Fosters: I really didn’t like their French toast, which was heartbreaking and why I left them off the list.
2. The Refectory: Too hippie dippie without enough substance. All the focus on farm raised and organic doesn’t make up for the pretty average food in my opinion.
3. Mateo: Good tapas for Durham, bad tapas compared to anywhere else. I have higher standards coming from San Francisco.
4. Vin Rouge: I enjoyed the exact same meal three times more at Rue Cler. So even though it was good, I didn’t include it.
5. Every Asian place in Durham: If you think any Asian food is good in Durham, you haven’t been to the rest of the country. Sorry.
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