25 Best Restaurants in Durham, NC [2022 Updated]

While the population of Durham, NC, is just under 300,000 residents, it’s home to both North Carolina State University and Duke University. In addition, Durham was the American Tobacco Company’s birthplace and headquarters.

The textile and power industries also had a significant role in the city’s initial development. While these sectors have declined, Durham has experienced revitalization and population growth, transforming itself into a hub for education, medicine, and research.

Here are the 25 best restaurants in Durham, NC:

Vin Rouge

$$$ | (919) 416-0466 | WEBSITE

 

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The menu at Vin Rouge is like a best-of list for a classic French restaurant. As the weather heats, a table on their walled patio for weekend brunch is a sought-after reservation, and the wine list is a Francophile’s dream.

Vin Rouge is the ideal venue for an intimate meal for two, including traditional French cuisine such as escargots, steak frites, and fruit de Mer, prepared by Executive Chef Matt Kelly.

 

Chicken Bee

$ | (984) 888-5561 | WEBSITE

Best Restaurants in Durham, NC Chicken Bee

Chicken Bee is an excellent place to get Korean fried chicken, bulgogi, and other Korean dishes. This informal cafe on 9th Street will keep you satisfied with its tasty bar food. Make sure to leave room for the truffle fries, seafood pancake, and bingsoo dessert.

 

Alley Twenty Six

$$ | (984) 439-2278 | WEBSITE

 

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Shannon Healy, a mixologist, collaborated with Carrie Schleiffer, a chef, to create a creative drink and food pairing that is unusual and delicious.

Schleiffer’s cuisine includes blistering shishitos, cornmeal-fried oysters, and crispy pork belly, while Healy’s cocktails are legendary and vary seasonally. The famed Alley burger is always available. A downtown Durham bucket list item is to take a selfie with a burger and a cocktail in the actual alley.

 

Taqueria La Vaquita‎

$ | (919) 402-0209 | WEBSITE

Best Restaurant in Durham, NC Taqueria La Vaquita‎

Most people know La Vaquita just from the cow on the road. La Vaquita, arguably Durham’s most famous taqueria, serves a variety of traditional tacos on handmade corn tortillas.

Barbacoa, carnitas, lengua, al pastor, and other dishes come to mind. In addition, traditional dishes such as mole poblano, ceviche, polla a la crema, and tortas are available.

 

Rose’s Noodles, Dumplings, and Sweets

$$ | (919) 797-2233 | WEBSITE

Farmington Hills, MI Best Restaurants Rose's Noodles, Dumplings, and Sweets

Rose’s has worn several hats over the years, but its current incarnation as a pastry counter/noodle joint/dumpling bar is the best.

Katie Meddis creates delectable cakes, pastries, and ice creams, while her husband Justin prepares some of the state’s most extraordinary East Asian cuisine. Then, of course, a take-out order of dumplings and macarons would complete Rose’s experience.

 

Chicken Hut

$ | (919) 682-5697 | WEBSITE

 

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Chicken Hut is a Durham institution and one of the city’s oldest black-owned businesses. The daily specials fluctuate (oxtails on Fridays, for example), but the famed fried chicken is always available. The restaurant, which opened in 1957, is still run by members of the Tapp family.

 

Bullock’s Bar-B-Cue

$ | (919) 383-3211 | WEBSITE

Farmington Hills, MI Best Restaurant Bullock's Bar-B-Cue

Bullock’s has been serving traditional Eastern Carolina barbecue since 1952, and it claims to be Durham’s longest-running restaurant.

The barbecue is undoubtedly the main attraction, but the Brunswick stew bread bowl, Calabash shrimp appetizer with Cajun sauce, and country-style steak with gravy are other options. Bullock’s serves classic Southern comfort food prepared the old-fashioned way.

 

Mothers & Sons Trattoria

$$$ | (919)294-8247 | WEBSITE

 

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Mothers & Sons, a trattoria in downtown Durham emphasizing regional Italian food with a seasonal sensibility, is the brainchild of partners Matt Kelly and Josh “Skinny” DeCarolis.

DeCarolis opened the South’s first restaurant dedicated to fatta a mano—handmade pasta. If you’d like something other than pasta, try their speck-wrapped monkfish or Bistecca.

 

El Chapin Guatemalan Grill & Catering

$$ | (919) 908-7975 | WEBSITE

Restaurants in Durham, NC El Chapin Guatemalan Grill & Catering

Grilled meats, caldos, and even pupusas are among the Guatemalan dishes available at El Chapin. Cuchitos de pollo are chicken-filled maize flour cakes, while Carne Guisada is a beef filet with a special sauce and a beet and cabbage salad.

Ceviche, tamales, and atol de elote, a sweet maize and milk drink, are other options. In addition, a market is located within the restaurant for customers wishing to stock up on Latin American pantry goods.

 

Goorsha

$$ | (919) 588-4660 | WEBSITE

 

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Goorsha serves traditional Ethiopian dishes with a modern twist, such as tibs (spiced beef) and Shiro (chickpea stew). Each meal is made with local, organic ingredients to honor tradition, health, and deliciousness, whether you choose a communal plate to share or an individual piece.

 

King’s Sandwich Shop

$ | (919) 682-0071 | WEBSITE

Restaurant in Durham, NC King's Sandwich Shop

Open since 1942, King’s Sandwich Shop serves the same classic burgers and hot dogs they did eighty years ago.

The menu includes grilled burgers with King’s sauce, hot dogs with all the fixings, piping hot fries, and ice cold shakes. Specials are offered every day, but the classics have kept people coming back for decades.

 

M Sushi

$$$ | (919) 908-9266 | WEBSITE

 

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Although there are multiple locations under different names, the original flagship is M Sushi. Diners enter a world of expertly prepared sushi and sumptuous Japanese food by taking a few steps into the semi-subterranean environment.

The rolls are available a la carte, but the omakase menu (the Lite Omakase is six courses, while the Grand Omakase is eight) offers the whole M Sushi experience. There’s also a sizable wine, cocktail, and beer menu.

 

Lime & Lemon Indian Grill & Bar

$$ | (919) 748-3456 | WEBSITE

Lime and Lemon opened before the pandemic and immediately became a local favorite, winning multiple “Best of” accolades. The restaurant has three locations in the Triangle (Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and 9th Street) and brings southern Indian cuisine to the area.

For example, there’s an assortment of kothu parota, a Tamil Nadu street meal made of flaky flatbreads in a curry masala with the diner’s choice of meat. Their distinctive mango lime chicken, chili paneer starter, and the chef’s exceptional Bombay lamb chops are other noteworthy items.

 

Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant

$ | (919) 479-8339 | WEBSITE

Farmington Hills, MI Restaurants Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant
Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant serves traditional Chinese-American cuisine, but the restaurant transforms into a lively dim sum parlor on weekends. As carts of sui mai and other dim sum favorites pass from table to table, diners line up outside to wait for a spot.

Of course, a cup of steaming green tea is required, and the experience is best shared with friends or family so that everyone can sample a little bit of everything.

 

COPA

$ | (919)973-0111 | WEBSITE

 

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Enjoy roast pork sandwiches, small Cuban dishes, and unique cocktails in a classic Cuban setting! COPA is conveniently located on Main Street near the Durham Performing Arts Center.

 

Pizzeria Toro

$ | (919) 908-6936 | WEBSITE

Farmington Hills, MI Restaurant Pizzeria Toro

Wood-fired pizza is all the rage in Durham, with a slew of new places popping up in the last few years, but Pizzeria Toro is the original.

Chef Gray Brooks and his colleagues create innovative takes on Neapolitan classics, such as prosciutto cotto with green olives, asiago, rosemary, and North Carolina littleneck clam pie with chiles and pecorino. Try the pig ears- you won’t be disappointed!

 

Cucciolo Osteria

$$ | (984)243-8744 | WEBSITE

In a modern but business-like dining room, Cucciolo Osteria serves upscale Italian cuisine. Their homemade pasta is a must-try, but their main dishes are also drool-worthy. Try their braised beef shank or Fennel Crusted Pork Chop to delight your tastebuds.

 

Dame’s Chicken and Waffles

$ | (919) 682-9235 | WEBSITE

Located near the Durham Food Hall and the Boxcar Bar and Arcade, Dame’s Chicken and Waffles is the go-to place for fantastic soul food.

OMG, heart-wrenchingly amazing fried chicken topped with syrup on fluffy waffles! Choose your fried chicken- cutlet, wings, or drumsticks, then add a waffle and a delectable shmear (flavored butter).

 

Picnic

$ | (919) 908-9128 | WEBSITE

 

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At Picnic, one of the Triangle’s go-to destinations for pulled pork, fried chicken, and more, pitmaster Wyatt Dickson serves authentic wood-fired Carolina ‘cue.

The barbecue plate and the barbecue sandwiches are excellent ways to get a true sense of the restaurant (with collards and hush puppies, of course). Chopped brisket and a special burger oozing with pimento cheese are other menu items that change frequently.

 

Gocciolina

$$ | (919) 973-4089 | WEBSITE

 

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Gocciolina is a  relaxed and inviting take on Italian tapas with a modest, understated but delectable presentation. Arrive early to avoid the lines; the dining room is small, but you may be able to eat at the back bar.

The menu changes daily, but try their Spicy Seafood Spaghetti or Whole Fried Black Bass if you get a chance.

 

NanaSteak

$$$ | (919) 282-1183 | WEBSITE

 

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NanaSteak is the epitome of luxury eating. Drinks and snacks can be enjoyed with friends in the gorgeous and well-appointed bar, or dine from a menu featuring regional fare from North Carolina.

The award-winning wine list has a wide range of unusual and exciting choices to complement any meal. NanaSteak is the ideal setting for an extraordinary evening, with immaculate attention to detail.

 

Juju Durham

$$$ | (919) 286-3555 | WEBSITE

 

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Juju Asian Tapas + Bar, located near Duke’s east campus on the corner of 9th Street and Hillsborough Rd., is one of Durham’s most popular venues for lunch, cocktails, or a night out.

They’re known for fresh, inventive takes on classic Asian cuisine and superb wine, beer, and cocktail selection. Most of their dishes are tapas-style on small plates, allowing you to order multiples and pass them around the table.

 

Zweli’s

$ | (984) 219-7555 | WEBSITE

Top Restaurants in Durham, NC Zweli's

Zweli’s has acquired a dedicated following as one of the few Zimbabwean eateries in its few years of operation. Chef Zwelibanzi Williams serves samosas, jollof rice, and other Zimbabwe-styled dishes. Many diners select chakalaka, one of the most popular things on the menu.

 

Yamazushi Japanese Restaurant

$$ | (919) 493-7748 | WEBSITE

Top Restaurant in Durham, NC Yamazushi Japanese Restaurant

This Woodcroft institution is known for its traditional kaiseki-style (coursed) Japanese dining and private tea ceremonies.

Yamazushi, which has consistently been recognized as one of the best Japanese restaurants in the state, is a unique experience served by the husband-and-wife combination of George and Mayumi Yamazawa.

 

Saint James Seafood

$$$ | (919) 219-7900 | WEBSITE

Farmington Hills, MI Top Restaurants Saint James Seafood

The menu is dominated by seafood, with a few vegetable and meat dishes thrown in. In addition, there are various displays of fresh seafood on ice and lamps overhead that look like spotlights on a ship.

Although the menu is predominantly seafood, it has a lot of variety, including raw seafood, baked oysters, a dozen or so appetizers, eight seafood entrees, and some Calabash-style seafood plates.

 

Summary

Durham may not be huge, but the dining options are excellent! We hope you get to try one of the best restaurants in Durham during your stay. You won’t be disappointed!

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