The lighter side of real estate

These 13 Durham Restaurants Will Blow The Taste Buds Out Of Your Mouth

If you’re not dying to try these Durham restaurants after reading this, then you might not be human.

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166 articles, 142 comments

1. Rise’s biscuits are so good, your grandma wishes she had the recipe

Best Restaurants in Durham

Source: Rise Facebook Page

Rise Biscuits and Donuts
8200 Renaissance Parkway Suite 1003 (Really close to the Super Target in Southpoint)
(919) 248-2992
Yelp: 4 Stars – 178 Reviews

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.

Best Restaurants in Durham

Source: Guglhupf Facebook Page

2706 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd. Suite #1
(919) 401-2600
Yelp: 4 Stars – 329 reviews

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.

Best Restaurants in Durham

Source: Dame’s Facebook Page

Dame’s Chicken & Waffles
317 W. Main St
(919) 682-9235
Yelp: 4 Stars – 291 Reviews

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.

Best Restaurants in Durham

Source: Nana’s Facebook Page

Nana’s Durham
2514 University Drive
(919) 493-8545
Yelp: 4.5 Stars – 120 Reviews

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.

Best Restaurants in Durham

Source: Yelp

2512 University Dr
(919) 489-8226
Yelp: 4 Stars – 155 Reviews

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.

Best Restaurants in Durham

Source: Q Shack Facebook Page

The Original Q Shack
2510 University Dr
(919) 402-4227
Yelp: 4 Stars – 214 Reviews

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.

Best Restaurants in Durham

Monuts Donuts
110 East Parrish St
(919) 797-2634
Yelp: 4 Stars – 69 Reviews
Yea, you read those ingredients correctly. And now I bet you want one.

8. Despite what the name implies, I’d take only the pickle chips at Only Burger.

Best Restaurants in Durham

Source: Foodspotting

Only Burger
3710 Shannon Rd
(919) 937-9377
Yelp: 3.5 Stars – 65 Reviews

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.

Best Restaurants in Durham

Source: Toast Facebook Page

345 W Main St
(919) 683-2183
Yelp: 4 Stars – 212 Reviews

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.

Best Restaurants in Durham

Source: Saladelia Facebook Page

Saladelia Cafe
4201 University Dr
(919) 489-5776
Yelp: 4 Stars – 44 Reviews

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

Best Restaurants in Durham

Source: The Parlour Facebook Page

The Parlour
117 Market St.
Yelp: 4.5 Stars – 54 Reviews

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.

Best Restaurants in Durham

Source: Randy’s Pizza

Randy’s Pizza
1813 Martin Luther King Pkwy
(919) 490-6850
Yelp: 4 Stars – 34 Reviews

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.

Best Restaurants in Durham

Source: Carpe Durham

Rue Cler
401 E Chapel Hill St
(919) 682-8844
Yelp: 4 Stars – 121 Reviews

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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posted on: March 11, 2014
67,404 views, 29 comments


  1. Stephanie

    Leaving Foster’s off the list because you didn’t like ONE dish on their menu would be akin to my discounting every blog writer or journalist simply because you can’t use the proper form of your/you’re. Foster’s french toast is truly horrible but the rest of their menu is wonderful.

  2. AJS

    Old Havana Sandwich Shoppe – only real Cuban restaurant until you hit Miami or Jersey.

    • Dale in response to AJS

      Old Havana Sandwich Shop is good, but don’t write off Havana Grill in Cary (I know, it’s Cary, but they’re allowed 1 or 2 good restaurants).

  3. Ras

    Top 3 reasons why this review and the author’s opinions are completely invalid and why no one cares what you have to say:

    1) Your favorite burger is a Big Mac… Surely you realize how ironic it is to say “a burger should just be meat, cheese, bun, ketchup, and some condiments” and then say your favorite burger is a Big Mac… Do you have any idea how many chemicals and how few genuine food-based ingredients are in a Big Mac? Let alone the fact that the texture of the meat is like rubberized mud and they taste like gym socks… I’m not saying Only Burger makes the best burger, but McDonald’s clearly makes the worst.

    2) You don’t like sweet & salty ice creams?! Sorry your baby-tongue can only handle sweet flavors. Maybe someday you’ll grow up and your tastes will mature a bit. Until then, Bryers has you covered…

    3) You call yourself a “pizza snob”, forgoing pizza for 8 years, and then say that RANDY’S saved you?! Seriously?! RANDY’S?!!!!! Is it the canned tomato paste based sauce that screams “AUTHENTIC” and really does it for you?

    BONUS 4) If you can’t find good Asian food in Durham then you must only be looking at PF Changs or Hibachi Express.

    Wow… Just wow… Thank god you brought your pompous yelptastic attitude to the Triangle from California. Too bad your palette sucks ass and renders your opinions worthless…

    • Wendy in response to Ras

      So where is there good Asian food in Durham? Seriously, I want to know.

      • Chris Kolmar in response to Wendy

        Happy China is edible. Thai cafe is ok. They just aren’t the level of quality you’ll find even in places like New Jersey.

      • Lyn in response to Wendy

        I like China Palace (corner of Garrett and Old Chapel Hill Road) and Thai China (in a strip mall with a Food Lion on NC 55 in RTP). Both are family-run places with very friendly waitstaff.

      • Tonya in response to Wendy

        Happy China (near Nanataco/Nana’s/Q-Shack) is a quite respectable Sichuan restaurant. It certainly approaches 35 Chinese Restaurant in Cary and Gourmet Kingdom in Carrboro. The best place we’ve found for dim sum in the Triangle is at Hong Kong Cafe on Guess Road.

        • Tonya in response to Tonya

          Hong Kong Restaurant (not Cafe), but unclear how to edit my original post.

      • Ras in response to Wendy

        Best Asian restaurants in Durham: Sake Bomb, Shiki Sushi, Vine Sushi, Peony Asian Bistro, Thai Lanna, Banh’s, Spice & Curry… Not Happy China, and not Thai Cafe. This author has shit for taste.

        • James Hepler in response to Ras

          Hong Kong on Guess Rd. has a wonderful dim sum. And I know it’s not Durham, but I HIGHLY recommend C&T Wok in Morrisville and Gourmet Kingdom in Carrboro. Also both Chosun OK and Vit Goal down around 54/55 are delicious Korean restaurants. Pho 9N9 on T.W. Alexander is way above par Vietnamese food.

          While it’s true that it is hard to top the kind of Asian food you can get in SF, particularly Thai and Vietnamese, trying to claim that there is no good Asian food in Durham can only reveal a lack of experience and/or creativity. It certainly is grounds for the denial of any credibility.

          Also, Halgo is the bomb, but this guy is probably too cool for Polish food.

          • Alix in response to James Hepler

            James, you forgot Saigon Grill on Roxboro. Very delicious Vietnamese.

          • James Hepler in response to Alix

            Fair point! I also enjoy Saigon. And Bahn’s on a Saturday has pretty darn good pho, and their chicken curry turnovers are so good!

  4. Dale

    Q-Shack? Seriously?

    Q-Shack is acceptable as fast-food BBQ. That’s it. Well…they also have clean bathrooms. They’re not in the top 100 restaurants in Durham. Makes me think you only included them on this list because you could walk there from a couple of the other restaurants.

  5. Anne Dillon

    So true about the Asian food. Bums me out.

  6. Patrick

    A couple of those wouldnt be on my list and the following would probably make mine (Saladalias and only burger would be on my list too)
    Papa Mojo’s
    Danny’s BBQ
    Sarahs Empenadas
    Jamaica Jamaica

    • Patrick in response to Patrick

      I forgot
      The Federal
      Bocci Trattoria
      Parker and Otis

      We are very spoilt in Durham, thats for sure

  7. Sam

    Bull city burgers & brewery is the best restaurant in Durham by ANY measure. Everything made in house except ketchup (which you shouldn’t use). Beer brewed 20 feet from the tap. Every inch of the dining area is from local recycled barn walls and shop class tables. And oh yea…they have the best burgers you’ll ever eat! Plus exotic meat month every March. Go there.

  8. Jason Butler

    Q Shack doesn’t have anything on backward bbq on hwy 55.

    • James Hepler in response to Jason Butler

      ^^^This guy knows!^^^

    • Stephanie in response to Jason Butler

      While Backyard bbq is good, I will argue that Hog Heaven on Guess Rd. Is better!

  9. Taylor

    The title of your article is wrong. It should have said “These 13 Durham Restaurants Blow the Taste Buds Out of MY Mouth”, because you’re dismissing some of the best restaurants in town for very silly reasons. Leaving off Mateo’s because you have “higher standards coming from San Francisco”? No, my friend, you have an uneducated palate.

  10. Cliff

    Hate to tell you, but the biscuits at Rise really aren’t that good, although you might have to be from the South, which I am, to know that. The best biscuits in Durham are at the Hardee’s on Duke Street, where Shirley, the lovely woman who bakes them, has recently won Hardee’s national biscuit baking contest. The biscuits at Rise don’t even come close!

  11. Pam

    I moved from Durham to Colorado 18 years ago: y’all are making me want to move back!!

  12. Amy

    Vin Rouge is the best restaurant in durham, not just best French.

  13. Jill hassan

    Best Chinese Neo China University Drive Durham,NC

    Randy’s Pizza? !!! ergh!!


  14. Jack Warren

    In true Jeff Foxworthy fashion, if your Asian restaurant doesn’t have a native language menu/menu section, you are not even looking for Asian food. If you claim to be from SF, what’s your favorite Chinatown haunt? Where is “The tea market”? There are many good places for ALL the Asian foods in Durham, you seemed to not have looked, or asked.

  15. Chris Kolmar

    Hunan Homes was my favorite Chinese food in SF. I also really enjoyed the Kimche Fried Rice at Majikku Ramen in Daly City.

    One year later, I’d say Twisted Noodle is good, but if you think Asian Food is better in Durham than SF, you’re fooling yourself.

    The places I’d add to list in the last year would be:
    1. Metro 8
    2. Harvest 18
    3. Hope Valley Diner

    Still can’t recommend Fosters for anything besides coffee and bacon.

    Did not enjoy The Pit.

    Bull City Gourmet is too expensive.

    The food at the farmer’s market is below expectations.


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