Last Updated on September 26, 2023
Last Updated on September 26, 2023
Looking for a local’s recommendation on where to eat in Durham? Well as certified foodies and Bull City residents, we’re here to share our list of the best restaurants in Durham here. There are so many ways to explore Bull City’s food scene, and we’ve mixed things up with some Downtown Durham restaurants and those in other neighborhoods.
So before you venture out for your next meal here, take a gander at our favorites!
If you’re looking for specific restaurants in Durham, here’s how we’ve organized things:
- Casual Restaurants in Durham
- Date Night Restaurants in Durham
Must-Eat Casual Restaurants in Durham
One of the things I love about all these casual restaurants in Durham is how hardly two offer the same types of food. The city’s restauranteurs know that you have to find a niche, and once that’s been served, there’s always a new one to search for.
Backyard BBQ Pit
5122 NC 55
If you’re new here, you need to know that we are major North Carolina barbecue nerds. And it doesn’t come lightly when we say that Backyard BBQ Pit on Highway 55 is our favorite barbecue in the Triangle!
The parking lot at Backyard is always filled from the moment they open until closing time. The no-frills, counter service, and the low-key vibe is precisely what you’ll find in this Black-owned Durham restaurant.
Everything at Backyard is delicious, from the moist smoked pork barbecue to the saucy ribs. Delicious AND affordable. Backyard reminds us that restaurants should be about the food, first and foremost.
900 Park Offices
Boxyard is located in RTP (Research Triangle Park) and is a super cool shipping container food hall concept. Multiple vendors serve food, clothing, and desserts, and on the weekends, there are some pretty awesome events!
Some of our favorite Durham restaurants even have second locations in Boxyard, including Beyu and Fullsteam Brewery. At the Boxyard location of Fullsteam, you’ll find the incredible brews you’re used to and the fluffiest square pizzas you’ll ever taste. They are so good that I’ve tried to recreate them at home and failed. Must be all that beer making them extra yummy!
Boxyard is also home to Lawrence Barbecue, which will always have a line. Bring your stretchy pants and order everything. Yes, everything. Next door is their second concept- Leroy’s Taco Shop, which was born out of demand for their birria tacos!
Bull City Burger and Brewery
107 E Parrish St #105
The perfect restaurant to grab an in-house beer and grass-fed burger in Durham, Bull City Burger and Brewery has a lot going for it. There’s always a fun new item added to the specials list, which is fun if you’ve been there more than a few times like we have.
And if a fun rotating menu isn’t enough for you, check out BCBB’s exotic meat month each April. That’s when tarantulas, reptiles, scorpions, and more fun animals appear on the menu.
If you join a Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tour in Durham, you’ll likely stop by Bull City Burger and Brewery.
The Chicken Hut
3019 Fayetteville St
The Chicken Hut is a cafeteria-style restaurant and has been an institution in Durham for over 60 years. With daily specials and fresh made-to-order fried chicken, people line up around the block for that and their incredible side dishes and moist cake.
This place is open for lunchtime orders, so plan ahead and get in fast!
800 Taylor St
Get a true taste of Italy when at Cugino Forno! Three cousins spent years perfecting their craft and researching the best Neapolitan-style pizza so they could dish it up to you. Located in the Golden Belt district in Durham, expect authentic and fresh ingredients. With 80% of the ingredients imported directly from Italy and the pizzas fired in a 900º Napoli oven, we guarantee this is the best pizza you’ll have in your entire life!
Read more: The Best Pizza Restaurants in Durham, NC
Dame’s Chicken & Waffles
530 Foster St Unit 103
We all think of chicken and waffles as a Southern thing, but really the first tales of poultry and hot griddled carbs come from the arts renaissance in Harlem during the 1920s. The interior of Dame’s Chicken & Waffles in Durham honors that period of art and jazz.
They also make chicken so juicy and crispy that you will keep coming back for more. Choose a waffle (we love the sweet potato), one of their seven shmears, add a drizzle, and you will surely be in heaven!
Durham Filling Station
617 Hick St
If you want the most bang for your buck and a delicious burger, then the Durham Filling Station is for you! The counter-service restaurant grills to order and harkens back to the good old days of concessions. With picnic tables over a garage port in the back, this casual Durham restaurant makes for good fast eats.
Oh, and don’t skip on the dessert! With the menu changing daily we’ve seen ice cream sandwiches and banana pudding hit the board! You are bound to be full and happy after a burger at Durham Filling Station!
The Durham Food Hall
530 Foster St
The Durham Food Hall features a wonderful mix of chef-driven restaurants, a bar, coffee shop, and the best bagels in Durham! Located next to Central Park, vendors at the Durham Food Hall always have an emphasis on quality, local, and fresh!
726 Rigsbee Ave
You cannot come to Durham without stepping foot into the beer mecca that is Fullsteam Brewery. We wouldn’t have craft beer in North Carolina without Pop the Cap, spearheaded by Fullsteam Owner Sean Lilly Wilson.
And not only is the beer incredible and innovative (I mean, who else makes beer with
1807 W Markham Ave & 2816 Erwin Rd Suite 205
Heavenly Buffalos has been one of our go-to restaurants in Durham since we moved here. It’s been a reliable takeout staple for our favorite because we can always trust the chicken will be crispy, spicy, and oh-so-delicious! Wing and waffle fries are really all many people need in life and Heavenly Buffaloes is there to cater to your every need.
They even consider vegetarians, vegans, and anyone with an aversion to chicken with an incredible meatless wing! Also, who doesn’t want to Burnie Zass-Hoff?
King’s Sandwich Shop
701 Foster St
King’s Sandwich Shop (701 Foster St) is the OG of casual restaurants in Durham. Preparing home-cooked food on Foster Street since 1942, King’s is right around the corner from the Historic Durham Athletic Park.
We love walking up and ordering something random but challenge you to a Royale with Cheese or a couple of Spicy Blackbean Burgers, depending on your lifestyle.
112 W Main St
Bringing authentic South American Cuisine to downtown Durham, Luna’s is an international restaurant worth the hype. With a diverse menu that also features vegan and gluten-free options, we can’t help but fall in love every time we take a bit of maduros!
2512 University Dr
Not only does NuvoTaco serve up Mexican-American food with fresh, local ingredients, but they are one of the only restaurants to get dirty! Their meats are what I’m talking about, so get your head out of the gutter!
If you’ve never had a taco with beef tongue taco or hog jowls and want to try it, this Durham restaurant is the place. You don’t have to eat the dirty stuff, though. I will judge you if you come here without the Big Daddy Burrito!
I guarantee it’s the size of our toddler’s face.
1647 Cole Mill Rd
We’ve been coming to Picnic Durham for a long time and are not alone. This place is well-known for its whole hog BBQ and picnic tables outside. Go for the pulled pork or sway away from traditional NC BBQ with some brisket.
Also, don’t be afraid to be tempted by their smoked buttermilk fried chicken, which might be the tastiest bone-in bird you’ll ever eat. However, you must eat their bacon-braised collards. That’s an order!
102 City Hall Plaza
Neapolitan isn’t your standard style of pie and Pompieri Pizza isn’t your typical neighborhood pizza joint.
With a casual laid-back vibe, Pompieri serves elevated flavors with locally sourced ingredients and a wood-fired char. In true Neapolitan style, you won’t be served with your pie precut and the dough puffs out at the sides giving a light and airy crust.
And is it kid-friendly? With an in-house children’s play area, you bet! Feel free to bring your kiddos to this awesome Durham pizza restaurant for a night out.
Hot tip: Check out their all-you-can-eat Family Meal Pizza on Sundays from 4:30 pm-6:30 pm! The chef chooses the pizza, so bring your adventurous tastebuds for some of the best food in Durham!
325 Blackwell St. Suite 125
I’ll admit- I hit my Burger Era during Summer 2023. And Queen Burger was at the top of my list. Queen Burger is under the same umbrella of phenomenal people as Queeny’s and King Fisher.
Queen Burger makes delicious smash burgers using grass-fed beef and ooey gooey cheese. Not into meat? Don’t worry- Queen Burger has one of the best house-made beet burgers in all of North Carolina!
Rose’s Noodles, Dumplings & Sweets
121 N Gregson St
What used to be Rose’s Meat Market is now an unassuming spot that packs giant flavor. Dishing up East Asian-inspired meals with North Carolina ingredients, diners at Rose’s slurp, devour, and leave happy.
While parking at Rose’s can be tricky, don’t be discouraged and find street parking! Also, while we typically take our toddler with us to most of these casual restaurants, we went kid-free to Rose’s. The space is tight, and the tables are high, but we would take her for an ice cream sandwich or a macaroon!
Saltbox Seafood Joint
608 N Mangum St & 2637 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd
James Beard Award-Winning Chef Ricky Moore brings fresh daily caught seafood to Durham, and we can see why there are always long lines! People are always flocking to Saltbox Seafood Joint all year round, but don’t miss the annual lobster roll!
Coming from a fine-dining background, Moore makes simple food shine. The chalkboard menu changes daily based on what is being caught on our shores. Nothing is frozen, and each menu item is treated with care while prepared.
ZenFish Poké Bar
810 Ninth St
ZenFish Poké Bar is one of Durham’s healthiest (and most delicious) casual restaurants. With a variety of base options from white rice, brown rice, salad, and quinoa to even zucchini noodles, this is the ultimate stop for the rising Poké trend being seen across the country.
One of the best parts of ZenFish is its commitment to the community. The signature bowls of Compassion, Gratitude, Courage, and Kindness are an inspiration and reminder of how to let love into your life.
Sourcing local farmers’ ingredients and ensuring that everything is compostable makes this guilt-free casual restaurant a must-stop!
406 Blackwell Street, Suite 100
Zweli’s is truly an experience. It is one of the few Zimbabwean restaurants in the county, and Durham is so lucky to have it! Serving traditional Zimbabwean fare, you can expect delicious and flavorful meals. If you haven’t ever had Zimbabwean food, we promise you are in for a treat!
Order the samosas, piri piri chicken, jollof rice, and don’t skip the peanut braised greens! We absolutely love Zweli’s and hope you too fall for the flavors too!
Date Night Restaurants in Durham
If you’re looking for a place to impress your partner, these are some of our favorite date-night restaurants in Durham. Expect to make a reservation in advance for most of these hot spots!
107 W Main St
COPA features upscale dining with tapas, Cuban main dishes, and a few sandwiches harkening to the owners’ previous Old Havana Sandwich Shop. Delicious Cuban sandwiches served on homemade bread are part of why COPA is a must-eat restaurant in Durham.
The food is sourced from their farm in Hillsborough, keeping every bite as local as possible at this Durham restaurant. Our recommendation? You can’t go wrong with sandwiches and a side of maduros!
311 Holland Street
M Sushi is an experience. One that cannot be replicated. Because we promise that every bit you’ll have once you step inside the dimly lit, hard-to-find restaurant is worth it. Make a reservation here at M Sushi because seats fill up fast, especially on the weekends.
While you can order sushi a la carte, we recommend going for the omakase experience. Everything comes to the table as prepared, and focusing on the food experience will make your night more memorable. M Sushi is arguably the best date night restaurant in Durham and has consistently been one of our favorites over the years.
101 E Chapel Hill St
After spending five years in South Korea, we became very familiar with “Pocha,” or Korean street food. Occupying the small corner spot west side of Downtown Durham, M Pocha takes Chef Michael Lee’s love for street food and spreads it across all Asian culinary cultures.
If you arrive for lunch, you will probably find a bento box option featuring several choices of Korean proteins and a mix of banchan (side dishes) which change daily. The evening menu also varies, features bacon dumplings, kimchi army stew, Malaysian rice dishes, and noodles to slurp.
The environment, much like in Korea, is communal seating. With seats looking out the window lining the store and one long community table in the center, M Pocha is a place to share laughs and great food in a casual environment.
Mother and Sons
107 W Chapel Hill St
One of the best meals that Carl and I have had in Durham has been at Mother and Sons. It was our last night out as a couple before our second baby arrived, and we were so excited to score a reservation.
From restauranteur Matt Kelly, Mother and Sons features fresh homemade pasta and unique flavor profiles. We highly recommend ordering some Arancini for the table and never skip the squid ink pasta!
If you are looking for a restaurant near DPAC, we highly recommend going to NanaSteak! Located steps from DPAC, it is easy to park, eat, and enjoy a show with a reservation. NanaSteak serves up more than just incredible charcoal-grilled steaks and prime rib.
If you don’t have time before your show for a meal, NanaSteak is also a fantastic place to grab a cocktail before a DPAC show.
105 E Chapel Hill St
Pizzeria Toro is what we like to call an “upscale” casual Durham restaurant. That’s because it’s accessible to all but with more advanced flavor profiles. You won’t find Buffalo mozzarella, spicy lamb meatballs, soft eggs, zucchini bechamel in your typical take-out pizza place.
You’ll find the main dining room with an open kitchen layout, a farm table in the center, and tables along the walls. It’s not uncommon to see strangers conversing with each other over the farm table spurred by the question, “What’s that you got there?”
Grab a friend and split their PNW Chanterelle mushroom pie and the kale salad I still dream about every night!
Dessert in Durham
For some, Dessert is what you eat after a fantastic meal at a sit-down place. But as you’ll see there, these dessert-specific spots are the perfect way to finish your journey through our favorite casual restaurants in Durham.
2618 Hillsborough Rd
With seasonal flavors and tastes inspired by owner Summer Bicknell‘s travels, Locopops is the perfect place to dangle your legs off a front porch and lick a pop! We love their baby pops and silky ice cream, too.
Thanks to their expanding menu, you can grab a slice of Mexican chocolate chess pie.
117 Market St
Want a sweet treat while strolling around downtown? The Parlour is the best place to go! Local fresh ingredients and 18 percent butterfat means this ice cream will leave you wishing for a double scoop.
They have plenty of treats, with vegan-friendly fruit sorbets and coconut milk-based creamy ice cream! Personal favorites include Bourbon Butter Pecan, Vietnamese Coffee, and Salted Butter Caramel.
Simon Says Dip This
117 W. Parrish St.
Love a dipped cone? Then Simon Says Dip This is your spot for dessert in Durham! Choose a cone, a cup, or ice cream sandwich- then pick from 24+ flavors to dip your ice cream in! Can’t decide? Choose from some of their expertly designed flavors like Caramel Popcorn Dip with Cheddar & Caramel Popcorn or Cheesecake Dip with Graham Crackers and Strawberries!
Ready to Dig Into these Restaurants in Durham?
These are not the only casual restaurants in Durham that we love, but this should get you started if you’ve never eaten here. With such an awesome food scene to tackle, this was tough.
If you’ve explored some of the Bull City’s places to eat, what’s been your favorite so far? What’s your favorite casual spot to grab food in Durham?