In recent years, the city has really cleaned itself up. Downtown is (finally) looking put together and beautiful, and there are many more things to do and see and...eat.
Despite being a small city in the South, Durham has an incredible wealth of fantastic restaurants. My ultimate realization of this came in April, when I opened my Wednesday New York Times to get my weekly dose of food writing (Mark Bittman is a favorite). The caption beneath a huge picture of a delicious meal from on the front page exclaimed: "Durham, a Tobacco Town, Turns to Local Food". Beneath the photo, I noticed the restaurant's name: Watt's Grocery. One of my absolute favorites! Lunch is fairly priced (between $8-$12 for unbelievable gourmet farm-to-table meals...) and always unique and delicious thanks to NC-born chef Amy Tournquist. In the back of the Dining section was another full page of color pictures of Watt's and another Durham restaurant.
Watt's isn't the only place to pick up incredible food in Durham, and it can be found all over the city. My favorite time to eat out is at lunch--a cold glass of iced tea (whether you like it sweet,"unsweet" or a combination of the two) becomes the perfect companion to meal and sun.
In Durham, you don't necessarily have to sit down to get amazing food...sometimes getting takeout or take-home can prove just as rewarding.
The Durham Farmer's Market (Saturday morning and Wednesday afternoon) has grown into an incredible place to find the best foods as well as fresh fruits and vegetables (and meat and cheese and eggs and bread and...the list goes on!).
Don't miss: Chapel Hill Creamery's "Thunder Mountain Swiss" (my favorite cheese, fantastic on farm bread or olive ciabatta) and their "Carolina Moon" (a brie-like cheese).
- Scratch Bakery's buttermilk doughnut muffins (they also just opened a restaurant!)
Doughnut muffins at Scratch
Also to be found at the market? The OnlyBurger truck. Grab one for lunch after produce shopping.
The New York Times also mentions one of my other favorite outside restaurants--Taqueria La Vaquita.
Out of many indoor dining options, I couldn't recommend Durham restaurants without talking about my absolute favorite: Toast. The interior design of the restaurant is strikingly beautiful (perhaps I'm biased, aqua/teal is my favorite color!). An endless combination of Italian paninis, bruschetta, crostini, salad remains....(olive oil! garlic!). The food is unbelievable, and satisfies my soul.
Some others worth mentioning:
- Bahn's tofu and vegetable plate on Ninth St. (or Wednesday Vietnamese)
- Pop's or Pop's Backdoor(granny smith apple, ricotta, brie and truffle oil pizza)
- Gugelhuph pastries (best pastries in Durham!)
- Caffe Driade in Chapel Hill (favorite cafe--Starbucks pales in comparison--location!)
- Panzanella in Carborro
- grab the salad bar at Weaver Street Market--as good as any restaurant