Thanks to many years of international immigration, the world-renowned research, and academics of Duke University, and the booming tech startups, it’s no surprise that Durham also has a plethora of high-quality international restaurants.
We’ve been eating our way through North Carolina‘s Bull City for a while and decided it was time to share our favorite places to eat beyond barbecue, fried chicken, and other southern staples that make up part of the city’s food scene.
This is our must-eat list of international restaurants in Durham, from Downtown to its surrounding neighborhoods and beyond.
We’ve also shared quite a few places to eat in our guide to Casual Restaurants in Durham if you’re still hungry.
International Restaurants in Durham
Menu | 107 W. Main Street
Located in the heart of Downtown’s Baldwin building, COPA serves up delicious farm to table tapas-style Cuban bites. While the small plates are a can’t-miss, the cocktail selection at COPA is secretly our favorite reason to visit.
Do yourself a favor and sip on La Diosa Negra after the Cuban tobacco smoke works its way out.
And in case you notice something familiar about COPA, the owners previously owned the Old Havana Sandwich Shop and brought those favorites over to feature on the lunch menu during the week.
If you join a Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tour in Durham, you might get a sampling of COPA’s awesomeness.
Facebook | 1920 Perry Street
Looking for a late-night place to shovel chips and queso? Cosmic Cantina is that spot. A hole in the wall that can be hard to find if you aren’t in the “know,” but the food is always delicious and they’re open until 4 am.
Located off of Ninth Street up a dark and questionable stairway, you’ll find some of the best chimichangas and tacos in all of Durham.
They also have a great little hidden patio where a pitcher of margaritas is always a crowd-pleaser.
Website | 415 East Chapel Hill St
Meaning “soup base” in Japanese, this shop serves up plenty of that, filling piping hot bowls with the best ramen, accompanied by Japanese whiskey and sake.
Whether you’re enjoying the open kitchen in the restaurant downstairs or getting late-night snacks in the upstairs Izayaka, Dashi’s flavors and aesthetics will quickly transport you to the back alleys of Tokyo and Osaka.
Gonza Tacos Y Tequila
Menu | 604 Fernway Ave
Fresh flavorful taco combinations, kickass outdoor seating, and an extensive tequila menu have us giving them a thumbs up! Located in the middle of Durham’s Warehouse District, this Colombian-Mexican restaurant is a must eat!
Menu | 910 West Main Street
Goorsha means “a hug between friends” and offers up deliciousness and a cozy atmosphere at its location in the Brightleaf District. All I’d is that you should expect to arrive at Goorsha hungry and willing to get your hands dirty.
Forks are not something found at your place setting, as Ethiopian food is traditionally eaten using your hands and a soft spongey bread called “injera.”
While Goorsha does offer a wide assortment of meat dishes, our recommendation is to get vegan dishes like Timatim Fitfit or Metin Shiro and split with a friend!
Menu | 2706 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd.
Guglhupf mixes a German bakery, café, and Biergarten and is perfect for brunch or dinner. Strings of twinkle lights and humming waterfalls converge with the smells of proofing bread and sounds of interesting conversations.
Once only known for their brunch and café, Guglhupf is expanding its dinner menu to include German sausages, spätzle, schnitzel, and delicious assortments of meats and cheeses.
Lime and Lemon
Menu | 811 Ninth Street #150
One of the problems with most Indian restaurants is that they only represent one region on that massive subcontinent. But that’s not the case with Lime and Lemon on Ninth street.
Using traditional spices and extreme attention to detail, the dishes at Lime and Lemon are both delicate and bold.
Serving traditional North and South Indian fare, you can find your old favorites but also some new and interesting dishes to try!
Starting with M Sushi, Chef Michael Lee absolutely slays every restaurants concept he has started. From delicate fresh sashimi to street food style Korean, there isn’t an M Restaurant that we wouldn’t dine at.
M Sushi is definitely more upscale and a date night experience, but don’t disregard them for a lunch spot! The bento box is affordable and (don’t tell anyone) cheaper than it is at dinner!
While the entrance to M Kokko is “around that corner and in the basement of that building,” it’s never hard to find with the line of people outside waiting to get a sweet taste of their famous chicken wings.
M Tempura is also another “hard to find spot”, but when you do find it the flavors are totally worth it. Light, delicate, and intimate.
We spent five years living in South Korea, so when we saw that Lee was opening a Korean street food joint, we were tickled! M Pocha embraces family style seating and harkens to the flavors we know so well. Make sure to order a bottle of makgeolli and sip it from a bowl!
The restaurants all have small and intimate settings, but all packed with the flavors that Chef Michael Lee is known for!
Menu | 5420 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd
Tucked away off of 15-501, Namu dishes up the most delicious Korean fare. Sprung from their popular food trucks, Bo’s Kitchen and Bulkogi collaborated to bring Durham the best Bibimbap, green tea lattes, and mandu.
Meaning “tree” in Korean, Namu has a beautiful outdoor patio section and equally peaceful indoor seating.
Next door to the coffee shop is a beer hall, which serves over 120 varieties of domestic and international beers.
Menu | 2200 West Main Street
Parizade is not just incredible food, but an experience in bold Mediterranean flavors. Built by chef and restaurateur Giorgios Bakatsias, Parizade has spent 26 years feeding the people of Durham.
The whimsical interior design matches the chef’s fine attention to detail, as beautifully plated food makes for a visual and delicious feast.
Whether you’re hosting a business meeting, catering special events, or just meeting a friend for a delicious and healthy lunch, Parizade is the place to be.
Rose’s Noodles, Dumplings and Sweets
Website| 121 N. Gregson Street
From meat market to noodle shop, Rose’s Noodles, Dumplings, and Sweets is a delicious hidden gem in the Brightleaf District. Serving East Asian inspired dishes with North Carolina ingredients, the noodle game is strong!
Most of the menu items are strong in Chinese background, from the belt noodles (pictured) to the delicate dumplings made in house. Brunch at Rose’s is truly a delicious experience as they only serve pho, porridge, and steamed buns for two hours on Saturday and Sunday.
Not to be missed- the sweets. Rose’s has a display case filled with decadent and delicious options. But we’ve been told not to skip the ice cream sandwiches! Next time, we’re ordering those first!
Parking for Rose’s can be a pain- mostly because the spaces in front of the restaurant are reserved for the other businesses and not the restaurant. Best bet is to look for residential parking along the side streets!
Saigon Grill typically takes an extended vacation during Lunar New Year to go back to Vietnam and visit family, but we’ve heard rumors that he might be closed for good now. We will keep our eye out and let you know!
Facebook | 2929 North Roxboro Street
Whether you’re eating a bowl of pho or bun cha (or their amazing spring rolls), you’ll quickly realize that Saigon Grill brings the flavor that has made Vietnamese food one of the best cuisines you’ll find in the world.
We keep coming back because Saigon Grill any time we want to time-travel back to those plastic stools and the heat of Hanoi.
Menu | 4600 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd
Did you know that the only Zimbabwean restaurant in the US can be found right here in Durham?
From peanut braised collard greens to the chakalaka, health-conscious diners will be pleased to find that all of the sides at Zweli’s are vegan.
For me, the must-order dish is the Piri Piri chicken, seasoned and grilled over an open flame. It’s spicy, but not overpowering and charred, but still juicy.
And with so many new and interesting flavors coming out of this kitchen, it’s no surprise that many foodies in Durham are flocking to Zweli’s.
Honorable Mentions and Final Thoughts
Since the city’s food scene is always changing and evolving, this guide will move with it. We can’t wait to see how the folks on this list continue to succeed and how more international players come to Durham and shine with their dishes.
We know there’ll be plenty of room for them.
Got any favorite international restaurants in Durham that you’d like to share? We’d love to know and eat our way through them, too!