Durham, North Carolina, is home to one of the most vibrant and exciting culinary scenes in the South. With numerous James Beard (the Oscars of food) nominated chefs, this small city has become a hot destination for foodies alike. Curious to see why Durham, NC has been declared “The South's Tastiest Town” by Southern Living and “America's Foodiest Small Town” by Bon Appétit? Look no further than these top restaurants to satisfy your cravings from morning to night.
With seasonally flavored doughnuts that will make your mouth water and breakfast sandwiches that satisfy the loudest morning growls, this busy bakery has everything you're looking for in a breakfast. Baking all their pastries from scratch, Monuts uses fresh, local ingredients for their made to order creations. Even if you're the type who just wants a shot of espresso with a hand-crafted scone, they have you covered. Located near downtown Durham, Monuts is conveniently located for locals to grab a bite before work, or for visitors to walk to from their hotel. Check out the Monuts menu. We know you won't be disappointed with what you find.
Must order: Daily Donut, Pep It Up Breakfast Sandwich
Location:1002 Ninth Street Durham, NC 27705
If you love breakfast pastries but want something a little off the beaten path. Guglhupf is the place to go. This German-style bakery not only makes all of its delicacies from scratch, but also offers an ever-changing menu of scones, muffins, cookies, danishes, croissants, tarts, tortes, and desserts. But don't let that stop you there! If you're looking for something a little more savory Guglhupf has a delicious assortment of sandwiches, schnitzels, and even kebobs. It's no surprise that this innovative bakery has won numerous awards like the prestigious Good Foods Awards and Open Table's Diner's Choice Awards. Guglhupf Bakery is a must for anyone looking for an unforgettable breakfast pastry.
Must order: Ham and Cheese Croissant, Cinnamon Schnecke, Chai Latte
Location: 2706 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd, Durham, NC 2770
Maybe you're on the hunt for a classic southern experience. It's A Southern Thing serves elevated southern breakfast right in the heart of downtown Durham. Their menu is full of irresistible dishes, like shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy, crab cake benedict, and even a pancake board with homemade jams and butter. But this restaurant doesn't stop there! It's A Southern Thing offers bottomless mimosas for a more leisurely dining experience. Bottomless mimosas, need we say more?
Must order: Shrimp and Grits, Bottomless Mimosas
Location: 605 West Main Street, Durham, NC 27701
James Beard-nominated chef, Ricky Moore, opened Saltbox with a waterside seafood shack in mind. Changing up their menu daily, the restaurant serves freshly caught fish and shellfish right from the North Carolina Coast. Each dish is prepared to your liking and offers an assortment of delicious sides including, crispy seasoned potatoes, slaw, fried broccoli, and Hush-Honeys (fried cornmeal fritters glazed with honey 🤤). Saltbox is a fan favorite, so lines can get long and the menu tends to run out. Show up on the earlier side and you're certain to choose from the cream of the crop.
Must order: Fresh Fish Spiced Griddled, Hush Honeys
Location: 2637 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd, Durham, NC 27707
Having won just about every local best-sandwich award for the past decade, Toast is a small sandwich shop nestled right in downtown Durham. Serving hot or cold, panini-style or open-faced, soup or salad, this restaurant has everything you could ask for. So go ahead and elevate your lunch routine with house-cured meats on Italian-style sandwiches.
Must order: Panini- soppressata, fontina, arugula, mustard
Location: 345 W. Main St, Durham, NC 27701
Looking to spice up your lunch experience? M Kokko is a Korean restaurant with a small but mighty menu. This quaint restaurant will hit all of your lunch cravings in a cozy, yet vibrant atmosphere. From a steaming bowl of ramen with thin slices of soy-braised pork belly to their light and crunchy chicken sandwich with a ginger salad on the side, all of their foods will have you waiting in line for more!
Must order: Fried Chicken Sandwich
Location: 311 Holland Street, Suite B, Durham, NC 27701
If you're more the type who loves a classic sandwich, Eastcut Sandwich Bar won't disappoint. With their homemade bread and fresh mozzarella pulled in-house, each sandwich is crafted with the best ingredients. This restaurant will satisfy all sandwich cravings serving up classic Italians, chicken parms, turkey clubs, BLTs, Philly cheesesteaks and so much more! It's no wonder they call themselves "Sandwich Utopia".
Must order: Spicy Gabagool Sandwich, Housemade Mozz Sticks,
Location: 3211 Old Chapel Hill Road, Durham, NC 27707
Durham is home to one of the best chefs in America (four times) by the James Beard Foundation, Chef Matt Kelly. Blending authentic flavors of Spain with classic ingredients from the South, Mateo offers a refined menu of Spanish dishes with Southern soul. Food enthusiasts will line up for tables to get a taste of their small tapas-style dishes like the Chicken Croquetas with espelette pepper honey and aioli, Gambas al Ajillo shrimp with garlic and chilies, Patatas Bravas, Spanish ham and cheeses, charred octopus with black garlic aïoli, and grilled cabbage with parmesan fondue and crispy potatoes. To accompany their food is a robust selection of Spanish wines and one of the largest sherry offerings in the country. Your dining experience at Mateo will be one to rave about for years to come.
Must order: Chicken Croquetas, Mejillones, Dry Aged Ribeye
Location: 109 West Chapel Hill Street, Durham, NC 27701
If you're looking for a fine dining experience before going to DPAC show or just to treat yourself to a nice night on the town, Nana's is hands down the best dinner in Durham. The eight-time James Beard-nominated chef, Scott Howell serves seasonally inspired, creative American cuisine. Customers rant and rave about their Truffle Chicken Liver Pate, seasonal risottos, rosemary roasted lamb rack, and wood-fired prime New York strip steak. Nana's menu is always changing based on what local farmers provide, giving diners fresh, seasonal flavors, and warm hospitality.
Must order: Truffle Chicken Liver Pate, Seasonal Risotto, Braised Lamb Shank
Location: 2514 University Drive, Durham, NC 27707
Gocciolina may be located in a strip mall, but don't let that fool you. This quaint Italian restaurant has been named Durham County Restaurant of the Year in 2019 and the Best Italian in Durham three years in a row. Their house-made pasta may steal the spotlight, but the antipasti shouldn't be missed. Start your dinner off by ordering the spicy chickpeas and crispy fried eggplant. Then split some entrees like the outrageously delicious Baked Gnocchi and their signature Carbonara. And don't even think about leaving without tasting their homemade gelato. Make sure to plan your dinner at Gocciolina well in advance, as they book up quickly even on weekday nights.
Must order: Spicy Chickpeas, Baked Gnocchi, Daily Gelato
Location: 3314 Guess Rd, Durham, NC 27705
Another renowned restaurant that calls Durham home, is Vin Rouge. An upscale French restaurant perfect for a fancy night out or a special occasion. The four-time James Beard-nominated chef, Matt Kelly, makes his mark once again. This time he features traditional French dishes like escargots, steak frites, beef bourguignon, and gratin de macaroni (a fancy term for baked mac n' cheese). As one of the most critically acclaimed restaurants in the area, Vin Rouge has consistently ranked in the top tier of local "Best Of" lists.
Must order: Beef Bourguignon, Hanger Steak and Frites, Gratin de Macaroni
Location: 2010 Hillsborough Road, Durham, NC 27705
Pizzeria Toro is as close as you'll get to eating pizza in Napoli, without the expensive airline ticket. This casual upscale restaurant will hit the spot for those who love pizza but want sophisticated flavors. The wood-fired pizzas are thin and crispy on the bottom, with a chewy, blistered crust. You can choose from topping combinations like fennel sausage with roasted peppers and provolone, or a soft egg with oyster mushrooms, arugula, and parmesan. Just like their pizzas, the appetizers change with the seasons, but the Suppli al telefono is a must with its gooey mozzarella inside and crunchy fried outside. When looking for the best pizza in Durham, head to Pizzeria Toro for dinner.
Must order: Suppli al Telefono, Sweet Fennel Sausage Pizza, Spicy Sausage White Pizza
Location: 105 E. Chapel Hill Street, Durham, NC 27701
M Sushi is the Triangle’s first sushi restaurant dedicated to high-quality seafood. Their small menu balances fresh raw flavors with ones seared to perfection, using only near-daily deliveries of seasonal seafood directly from Japan, Korea, and Hawaii. Besides their beautiful assortment of mouth-watering sushi rolls, you will find M Sushi's most stunning display of raw ingredients in a bowl of assorted fish and vegetables. Fresh crabmeat dusted with nori, sits on top of a dollop of warm sticky rice. Each strip of salmon, tuna, and scallop pop individually with every bite you take. Tiny bits of pickled Japanese cucumber and eggplant lightly balance the naturally sweet and saline flavors of the fresh raw seafood. With every ingredient carefully selected, even down to the freshly grated wasabi, you are sure to have the best sushi experience of your life.
Must order: Seaweed Salad, Twisted Mango Roll, Spider Roll, Chirashi
Location: 311 Holland Street, Durham, NC 27701
Learn more about Durham, NC in our Durham City Guide!