17 Best Restaurants in Durham, NC
WARNING: Your mouth may begin to water after reading about the best restaurants in Durham, NC!
Our website is focused on real estate and helping people find and sell great homes in Durham however we are pretty good at helping you find the best restaurants in the area as well! Our blog is a great place for us to offer a local's guide into many of the things that make Durham great, including restaurants. Whether you're looking for the best Italian restaurants or the best restaurants in Durham the family there is a restaurant for everyone below!
Without further ado, let's jump into Durham's Best Restaurants!
One of Durham’s best restaurants is Nana’s thanks to eight-time James Beard Award-nominated Chef Scott Howell. When visiting Nana’s you can expect impeccable service and warm hospitality paired with some of Durham’s finest cuisine and a carefully put-together wine list.
26 years ago, chef Scott Howell opened Nana’s in the Rockwood neighborhood of Durham. Soon after the restaurants began to garner national attention establishing Nana’s as a fantastic destination for American cuisine. Nana’s stays agile with their menu, though they remain true to the staples that people love. These creative dishes are inspired by the seasons as new locally available ingredients become available.
Along with their great menu selection and dining atmosphere, many folks will head to Nana’s for a drink at the bar to catch up with friends. No matter the reason, Nana’s is a great place to go for an enjoyable night out.
Nana’s is a big part of Durham’s history and identity as one of the South’s great dining cities!
The Refectory Cafe
The Refectory Cafe was established in 2005 and became the first “Green” restaurant on the Duke Campus. The goal of the Refectory Cafe was to be a ‘one of a kind’ local farm-to-table restaurant where vegetarians, vegans, plant-based diets, and gluten-free diets can happily meet and share a meal together. After having a lot of great success on campus, The Refectory Cafe moved off campus expanding its horizons to the entire local community.
Paired with impeccable service and a full bar there is something for everyone at The Refectory Cafe.
As someone who is not a vegetarian I truly enjoy eating at the Refectory Cafe and for the most part, you won’t even realize what you are eating is a meal full of vegetables. It’s a great experience for all to enjoy!
Rue Cler Restaurant
A Parisian Restaurant, Rue Cler has proudly been one of the best restaurants in Durham offering simple, classic preparation in the style of a Parisian Bistro. The diner-like menu is updated frequently with a focus on seasonal cuisine sourced from local seasonal ingredients.
Rue Cler is named after the famous market street in Paris. Chef Todd Whitney combines traditional French cuisine from fresh, locally sourced, ingredients and combines them to create a classic bistro menu.
Located in Downtown Durham, Rue Cler is an easy walk to the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), and the Carolina Theatre. It’s the perfect pre-meeting spot for those who are heading out for the night in Downtown Durham and would like to grab a meal or a drink prior to the event.
Breakfast. Brunch. Sandwiches. Morning, noon, or night go check out one of Durham’s best places to grab a bite to eat, Foster’s Market. Foster’s Market has an inviting casual atmosphere, plenty of outdoor seating, and a menu that has something for everyone, any time of day! From some tasty breakfast sandwiches to baked goods and more!
Catering for an event? Foster’s Market is a great restaurant to call ahead and ask about their catering menu!
Burger Bach is a Durham restaurant that is a New Zealand-inspired Gastro Pub. Burger Bach brings New Zealand to Durham with award-winning gourmet burgers and more! This is not your ordinary burger joint. With a commitment to preparation and only using the highest quality of ingredients, this is the type of burger joint where you can taste the difference.
Burger Bach is not only a great place to eat, it’s a great place to gather with people to have a drink and socialize.
In addition to great-tasting burgers, Burger Bach, also serves sauteed steamed Prince Edward Island mussels, Wild-caught jumbo Argentinian Royal red shrimp. Additionally, roasted oysters are shucked to order as well as a raw full bar of fresh local and Mid-Atlantic oysters.
A Mediterranean restaurant in Durham! One thing you have to love about the restaurants in Durham is just how diverse they are from a New Zealand-inspired Gaste Pub to bleu olive, a fantastic Mediterranean Bistro! At bleu olive, the focus is simple - high-quality ingredients with the consistency you expect. Family owned and operated since 1994 bleu olives has been proudly serving Durham residents. With a private dining room that can seat up to 25 guests for special events or parties, just be sure to call ahead!
Juju Durham is an Asian Tapas + Bar restaurant in Durham. Launched by local restaurateurs Charlie Deal, the award-winning chef behind Jujube and Durham’s Dos Perros and Julian Benfey. Juju in Durham is located near Duke University’s East Campus and it just may the be the luckiest place in town. Looking for an early bite or a fun evening late into the night, JuJu Durham is a great restaurant to visit.
Small plates, with big flavors, each dish is prepared creatively with attention to local integrity, tradition, and of course taste! Aside from their food menu JuJu in Durham offers cocktails, sake, wines, craft beers, and more.
Mateo Bar de Tapas
Located in Downtown Durham in the old book exchange building this Durham restaurant - Mateo Bar de Tapas is the first solo venture from chef Matthew Kelly of Vin Rogue!
A menu that combines the flavors of Spain with the beloved locally sourced ingredients of the South. The casual, yet refined, Spanish dishes hold a true Southern blend. Alone with a great tasting food menu is a beverage menu that includes a robust Spanish wine list as well as one of the largest Sherry offerings in the country.
One of Durham’s best restaurants is Vin Rouge! A French bistro in Durham, NC with some terrific outdoor seating that truly makes you feel like you’re no longer in Durham and quite possibly in France, at least for the evening! The walls inside of Vin Rouge are showcase black and white photos of French Art Deco design and French celebrities.
Executive chef, Matt Kelly, also the chef of Mate Bar de Tapas, brings the Provencal French cooking to your table at Vin Rouge. French dishes like escargots, steak fries, et fruit de Mer makes Vin Rogue the perfect place for an intimate dinner for two.
Dame’s Chicken and Waffles
Dame’s Chicken and Waffles is a staple in the Durham restaurant scene. Dame’s offers a commitment to the pairings of world-class comfort food that is meant to fill your heart and your belly. The chicken and waffles offer just the right mix of sweet and salty with all sorts of different drizzles to go with your dish.
Great service. Great food. Great experience. The chicken is high quality, perfectly seasoned, and crispy with waffles that will make you smile. This is the type of restaurant in Durham you will want to visit if you’re from out of town!
Cucciolo Osteria Durham
Cucciolio is one of Durham’s best Italian restaurants. Jimmy Kim, owner, and chef insists to focus on simple traditional Italian dishes, prepared with fresh, high-quality ingredients. All pasta is made in-house, making every dish on the menu divine. Local favorites include the Linguine All Carbonara and Bolognese Tagliatelle! I would recommend saving some room for a glass of their vibrant house-made limoncello! Enjoy classic Italian cuisine in this high-ceilinged dining room with warehouse brick and exposed beams, bringing an industrial-chic atmosphere to the downtown area.
M Sushi is the perfect dining option for a connoisseur of sushi! Owner and sushi chef Mike Lee also has a hand in the popular sushi spot in downtown Raleigh- Sono. He has been known to raise the bar for sushi restaurants in the triangle area, delivering fresh, seasonal seafood directly from Japan, Korea, and the US. M Sushi sits in an inconspicuously chic location across the street from The Durham Hotel.
The menu at M Sushi is small and intentional, filled with fresh, high-quality sashimi, nigiri, and both specialty and traditional rolls. Small plates such as seaweed salad, hamachi, and dumplings can also be found on the menu, and will surely not disappoint your tastebuds! Deemed as the best sushi in the Triangle area, M Sushi is a must-try for any sushi devotee!
On the search for a perfect date night spot? Look no further than Littler in Durham! Littler provides a cozy, candle-lit atmosphere surrounded by brick walls, string lighting, and intimate seating. This hidden gem is within walking distance from the Durham Performing Arts Center, making it a great spot for an after-show dinner on your next night out!
Their ever-changing menu reflects the extensive use of seasonal vegetables and local ingredients. Gary Brooks, the chef, and the owner has created a creative spread that showcases tasty options for a refined palate- offering everything from octopus, lamb burgers, chicken-fried duck tongues, and braised pork shank with cauliflower gratin. The signature treat on the menu is the spoon bread- a cloudlike cross between soufflé and grits, topped with tender sautéed shrimp. Littler’s extensive wine list and seasonal cocktails are also a great addition to this trendy restaurant. Regulars of this restaurant love the witty “It’s Not Pumpkin Spice” cocktail revealed in the fall months, that will make you want to sip on it all season long!
Food truck turned restaurant, Namu brings the first Korean restaurant and coffee shop combo to the Triangle area! Owners of two local food trucks, Bulkogi and Bo’s Kitchen, decided to keep true to their Korean roots and create Namu. Locals come for fresh play on traditional Korean dishes, but also for the experience of a zen oasis in the middle of the city. The cafe is an intricate space with many private nooks, along with a tranquil garden space out back encompassed by bamboo and a picnic area. Although the restaurant offers a handful of local beers and wines by the glass, Namu recently opened its own beer hall just right next door providing a vast selection for the craft beer drinker.
Whether you are a Korean BBQ devotee or a newcomer to the cuisine, you are bound to find something on the menu to appease your tastebuds. The Namu menu plays on classic Korean tastes, with an American twist. KBBQ bowls, Kimchi-Bul-Fries, KBBQ tacos, ramen fried chicken, and Korean short ribs are just a few of the items on this mouthwatering menu. Namu is also unique in how much integrity they put into their coffee menu. They are known for having the most satisfying matcha latte in the area. Also offered at the coffee bar are traditional espresso beverages with the option of numerous syrups, as well as snacks and desserts like rum cake, Belgian waffles, and lemon cake. It is safe to say Namu has something for everyone, and no matter what time of the day you make a trip to Namu, you will not be disappointed!
Searching for the best traditional North Carolina BBQ? Look no further than this local favorite- Picnic! With the same casual ambiance of your family barbecue, this cuisine can be nostalgic for those who grew up in NC, and a taste of Carolina tradition for those newcomers! Not far from the Eno River, Picnic is the perfect addition after a day spent on the river, or hiking up an appetite on the trails. Owners Wyatt Dickson and Ryan Butler bring the farm to table dining to fruition, raising their own pork on a privately owned farm just 10 miles down the road from the restaurant.
Picnic’s menu is kept small and simple, allowing chefs to reveal the quality and complexity that result from hours upon hours of meat slow cooking over hardwood coals, and the perfect harmony of the fresh ingredients in the side dishes. Offering classic bbq eats of fried buttermilk chicken, pulled pork, brisket, ribs, pimento cheese, collard greens, hush puppies, and baked beans. The last bite of your fried chicken does not conclude your experience at Picnic. Their dessert menu is simple but every bite is anything but that. By choosing peanut butter pie, banana pudding, or chocolate chess pie, your most beloved memories of grandma’s homemade sweets will come to life on the plate!
This list would not be complete without a pizza joint! Food truck turned restaurant, Pie Pushers is located on West Main Street and sits on the second floor, providing a charming view of downtown Durham! This Durham restaurant has a casual, funky atmosphere decorated with eclectic Yeah neon signs and string lights as you enter the building and make your way upstairs.
Owners Mike Hacker and Becky Cascio have perfected the New York-style pizza, by mastering the crispy- yet foldable thin crust, and offering a variety of toppings and cheeses. Pizza can be purchased by the slice for a few bucks, or by a whole pie to share with friends as they are huge! With a focus on utilizing local ingredients, they have an everyday menu with their traditional pie flavors, while also rotating a variety of specialty pies so there is always something new to try! Barb’s Margherita is a popular option on the menu. A unique play on the traditional Margherita pizza, this pie is topped with basil pesto, fresh tomato, tangy goat cheese, and mozzarella. Saturday morning brings a special brunch menu featuring “The Jack Hacker” which is a thick slice of pie topped with sausage gravy, bacon, and a sunny- side up egg! Whether you enjoy a slice at the unique restaurant or stumble across the food truck at an event, your taste buds will thank you for stopping at Pie Pushers!
When it comes to authentic Mexican cuisine, Mez is the city’s favorite destination restaurant. The contemporary building is a very open atmosphere with high ceilings, and an expansive outdoor patio strung with market lights. With an emphasis on local, fresh ingredients, Mez is well known for its chipotle chicken Tingo, award-winning guacamole, and a variety of authentic taco combinations. Along with the staples on the menu, Mez has a rotating seasonal menu, utilizing whatever local farms are producing at the time. Far from your hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant, Mez provides authentic Mexican flavors and ingredients in a manner that is contemporary and fresh!
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Hi there! I'm Ryan Fitzgerald, a REALTOR in Raleigh-Durham, NC and the owner of Raleigh Realty. Chances are you and I share a similar passion, Real Estate! I also have a passion for building businesses, working out, inspiring others, technology, sports, and people. Connect with me on Facebook and Instagram!