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North Carolina Travel Guide
Durham Restaurants

Durham has a number of great restaurants and nightlife in the city centers on many of them. While listing them all would take more time and space than I have, these are a few of the ones that I like and certainly enough to get you started.

George's Garage, Durham, NC Any restaurant page for Durham has to begin with Karpenissi's own Giorgios Bakatsias who has opened (and closed) more restaurants than any man in Durham. His Vin Rouge French Cafe and Wine Bar across Hillsborough Street from the Garage has provincial food and a large wine list. Service, ambience and the ratatouille are all worthy of praise as are the bar and deserts. Cafe Parizade at nearby Irwin Square is Mediterranean in inspiration with pizzas, pastas and some Greek specialities. Especially fun is their Greek Night when Giorgios can be seen dancing on the table usually with several blonde sorority girls. He has a lot of kefi and he is a seriously good cook. Blu Seafood and Bar is owned by Chef Tim Lyons who came to Durham after stops in famous restaurants in Vermont, California and Key West, where he worked under several well known chefs. He describes his restaurant as "upscale, casual seafood with innovative regional classics. In other words, our place is comfortable with great food, some local, some global, but always fresh." It has been described by my Durham friends who eat there as 'amazing'. It is at 2002 Hillsborough Road right by the intersection with 9th Street.

Also in the 9th Street area Cosmic Cantina is a favorite of nearby Duke University students and slackers which features a variety of Mexican entrees and imported beers. It is a popular hangout day or night. Elmos Diner is another popular restaurant which, as the name suggests, serves diner food, meaning American style hamburgers, salads, sandwiches, soups and deserts. For Middle Eastern food go to International Delight's Restaurant on 9th Street where their motto is " No Ketchup".

Meteo Bar de Tapas, DurhamDowntown Durham is happening. They said it was happening twenty years ago but it never did. But now it is really happening and there are some great restaurants and bars and clubs all within walking distance. On your get aquatinted tour I suggest you begin with Mateo Bar de Tapas, from chef Matthew Kelly, formerly of Vin Rouge, housed in the old Book Exchange building at 109 West Chapel Hill Street in the heart of downtown Durham. Featuring a menu that blends the flavors of Spain with beloved ingredients and dishes of the South in a beautiful space with high ceilings and a long bar with great bartenders who know their wine, beer and tapas. If you are going to a concert at DPAC or a Bulls game this is the place to eat. You can park nearby and walk to both venues and come back for your car and a snack or nightcap. I won't even bother listing all the stuff on their extensive tapas menu but if there is a better one in the Triangle I would like to see it. My advice is to order what you normally like to drink and then ask Mike or one of the other bartenders what goes with it. You will probably notice across the street at 101 East Chapel Hill Street, Pizzaria Toro which makes wood-fired pizza and doubles as a neighborhood bar. Great atmosphere and even better pizza. At Revolution, Executive Chef Jim Anile is known for his innovative style within the culinary world and the restaurant also hosts cooking classes. If you can't find a seat at Mateo or Toro walk over to 107 West Main and eat here instead.

JW Jones Band at Blue Note Grill, Durham, NCTucked away on the service road that borders 15/501 Business, a couple doors down from Spartacus Restaurant is the Blue Note Grill, your friendly neighborhood ribs and burgers bar and grill that has brought in some really terrific blues bands. It is an intimate setting for hearing some very professional bands and people even get up and dance. Lots of micro beer choices, many of them local, and I can vouch for the baby-back ribs and the pulled pork as well as the shrimp-stuffed jalapeno poppers. They have open blues jams on Tuesday, and live blues and traditional rock bands Weds through Saturday. I saw JW Jones here and they were the best blues band I have seen since the Nighthawks, twenty years ago. The grill is owned by Andrea & Bill Whittington who both cook there and is located at Boulevard Plaza Shopping Center aka 4125 Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard. This is the kind of place you really have to go out and support.

One restaurant which you will never find on your own without a map is G2B a gastro pub with an impressive list of draft and bottled beers and some amazing dishes to go with them. Chef Carrie Schleiffer attended culinary school at The Institute of Culinary Education in NYC and worked under Chef Michael Anthony at Gramercy Tavern as well as Top Chef Master, Chef Floyd Cardoz at Tabla in NYC. Executive Chef Sean McCarthy earned a BA in culinary arts from Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, then moved to New York City to train under Top Chef Master Floyd Cardoz at Tabla before spending a year and a half at Magnolia Grill under James Beard award winner Ben Barker. Add pastry chef Deric McGuffey  and charcuterie master of Piedmont Charcuterie Inc Matt Strain and you will understand why this is a restaurant worth searching for. I recommend the G2B Burger which is a one pound burger. Yes. One pound and lots of other stuff too. You can choose from a dozen or more meats and cheeses for their various charcuterie platters including duck pastrami and lamb pate. Or try their paella stuffed squid or my favorite, the Scottish Egg which is a hard boiled egg encased in sausage, the whole things the size of a tennis ball. Great fries, a large wine list and friendly cheerful waiters add to the package and make me want to keep going there until I finally get tired of the drive. It is on Shannon Road which you can get to from 15/501 bypass in Durham just past the giant parking lot at Targets. Cross University Drive and there is an office complex with shops on your left at 3211 Shannon Rd and the restaurant is in the back. Go now.

Pop's Restaurant at 605 West Main Street in Downtown Durham is situated in West Village between the old Liggett & Myers building and the West End Wine Bar and features Northern Italian specialties such as gourmet portabello pizza, shrimp linguini, basil-fragrant brick roasted chicken, and big bowls of mussels. Named one of the top new hot spots in the country by Bon Appétit magazine. Nana's Restaurant was named one of the best new restaurants in the nation by Esquire Magazine. Serving Southern regional cuisine with strong Italian and French influences, the restaurant's selection of wines has won the coveted Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator magazine each year since 1994. It is located at 2514 University Drive in the Rockwood building. Chef-owner Scott Howell trained at the Culinary Institute of America and has worked at several notable restaurants and worked for a year in Italy at the prestigious San Domenico.

In the mid 1940’s out of their home on South Alston Avenue in Durham; Glen Bullock sold the barbeque on the weekends that he cooked in the family’s back yard. Bullock’s Barbecue is a third generation family run business that spans over six decades. Good food, family and dedicated employees, some who have worked at Bullock’s Bar B Cue for 35 years or more have made the restaurant what it is today, the area’s best place for barbeque. Bullock’s proudly displays walls of autographed photos that bare testament to the celebrities and sports greats who have taken time from their hectic schedules to sit a spell and enjoy Bullock’s good food and down home atmosphere. The New York Yankees, Dolly Parton, Jay Leno, Waylon Jennings, Robert Duvall and Kenny Rogers are just a few names that grace the walls. The barbecue, Brunswick stew, fried chicken, slaw, beans, hushpuppies and the best desserts you’ll find anywhere and lots of country cooking favorites too including corn, turnip and collard greens, candied yams and deviled eggs. Bullock's Bar B Cue is at 3330 Quebec Drive in Durham. You can e-mail them at: Whenpigsfly@bullocksbbq.com

Symposium Restaurant, Durham, NC Special kudus go to the restaurants who had the vision to open in the new American Tobacco Historic District in the Lucky Strike Cigarette Factory . This massive real estate venture is one of the major hope of downtown Durham and the success of these restaurants will go a long way towards attracting more businesses to the area. With a million square feet of rental property that leaves a lot of room for possibilities. The current restaurants include my Carrboro neighborhood bar and grill Tyler's with their pub food and dozens of imported and micro-brewed domestic beers which should be a popular place to go after Durham Bulls games and maybe after Duke basketball games too. Mellow Mushroom has gourmet pizzas and a nice roomy bar. The Symposium Cafe offers an upscale but casual ambience, together with food and drink of superb quality at modest prices. Their menu consists of gourmet sandwiches and wraps, classic entrée selections, exotic desserts, fresh fruit drinks, and specialty coffees and teas. All three restaurants offer outdoor dining with tables on or overlooking the man-made river and waterfalls that flows through the grounds of the old factory.

Other restaurants worth mentioning are Foster's Market on US 15/501 which makes great soups, sandwiches and salads. Maggiano's Little Italy and Firebirds Rocky Mountain Grill which are located at The Streets at Southpoint and are national chains but I am including them because they happen to be good and you may happen to be at the mall and hungry. Satisfaction at Brightleaf Square is a great place for pizza and to watch the Blue Devils. Rick's Diner and Catering Company is open 24 hours. Kemp's Seafood House is popular for the southern fried seafood that we love and our arteries hate. Fishmonger's is a no frills seafood whose motto is " We don't do it fancy -- we just do it right." Anyone who has been to the annual Independent Christmas Party knows that the Fishmonger's table with its oysters-on-the-halfshell and steamed shrimp always draws the biggest crowd. 

See also: Things to Do in Durham, Restaurants in Chapel Hill, NC Barbecue, Durham Hotels, Duke University, Annual Events in Durham, Durham Photo Album and History of Durham

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