Durham has reputation as town for foodies

CorrespondentJune 19, 2014 

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Gray Brooks, a co-owner of Pizzeria Toro, says the restaurant, shut down by a fire in November, will reopen in mid-July.

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In 2008 Bon Appétit magazine named the Durham-Chapel Hill area “America’s Foodiest Small Town.” Little did they know that they had discovered the beginnings of a food scene that was about to become the envy of many a larger city.

Downtown Durham in particular was on the verge of a renaissance that would transform it into a prime nightlife destination. The transformation has been astonishingly fast, and it has been nothing less than spectacular.

How spectacular? Of the 22 noteworthy foodie destinations highlighted in our downtown Durham guide, only three existed in 2008. These three – Rue Cler, Piedmont, and Toast Paninoteca – were brave pioneers scattered across a downtown that was just beginning to show signs of promise when they opened.

Six years later, that promise has been realized in a big way. Walking along a four-block stretch of Main Street, you’re faced with a wealth of options. Do you go for contemporary fine dining at Revolution or soul food satisfaction at Dame’s Chicken & Waffles? An authentic Cubano sandwich at Old Havana Sandwich Shop or Spanish tapas and a world class sherry selection at Mateo?

Venture a few steps off Main Street, and the temptations expand to include a refreshing contemporary take on traditional Mexican cuisine (Dos Perros); local grass-fed beef burgers and house-brewed beer (Bull City Burger & Brewery); and wood-fired pizza (Pompieri Pizza). You can make that two wood-fired pizza options come late July, when the outstanding Pizzeria Toro, closed by a fire in November, is slated to reopen.

Dessert? During the daytime, your dilemma is whether to opt for a maple bacon bourbon donut at Monuts or one of talented pastry chef Phoebe Lawless’ flaky-crusted pies at Scratch. The choice doesn’t get any easier after the sun goes down: chai-spiced cupcake iced with local honey buttercream at The Cupcake Bar, or house-churned fresh lavender ice cream at The Parlour?

Just north of The Loop (as the area around Main Street is referred to by locals), the Central Park District has been coming on strong of late. Most of the excitement is centered around the intersection of Geer and Foster Streets, dubbed the D.I.Y. District (a Central Park subset, if you will). Here you’ll find a smorgasbord of enticements packed into a compact area, from organic coffees, loose leaf teas and sipping chocolates (Cocoa Cinnamon) to authentic wood-cooked barbecue (The Pit).

With the downtown area yielding such a bumper crop of new restaurants, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the entire city has proven to be fertile soil for foodies. Anyone willing to get in the car and explore will discover a number of restaurants that rate as best-in-class in the Triangle (Vin Rouge and Yamazushi come to mind). Then there’s the wealth of ethnic eateries scattered all over town, from the perennially popular Super Taqueria on North Roxboro Road to the soulfully satisfying Korean fare at Vit Goal Tofu near RTP.

Durham’s reputation as a welcoming city for food trucks is well-deserved, too. Dozens of mobile vendors make their home base here, and several have proved so successful that they’ve opened brick-and-mortar locations. If you’re trying to track down the ones that are still on wheels, you’ll find their itinerary on their website or twitter feed. Or just head over to Fullsteam Brewery, where one or more of them are usually parked on any given night.

2014 Durham Restaurant Guide

THE LOOP

Bull City Burger & Brewery

107 E. Parrish St.

919-680-2333

bullcityburgerandbrewery.com

The Cupcake Bar

101 E. Chapel Hill St.

919-816-2905

cupcakebarbakery.com

Dame’s Chicken & Waffles

317 W. Main St.

919-682-9235

dameschickenwaffles.com

Dos Perros

200 N. Mangum St.

919-956-2750

dosperrosrestaurant.com

* * * *

Read Greg Cox’s review of Dos Perros.

Mateo

109 W. Chapel Hill St.

919-530-8700

mateotapas.com

* * * * 1/2

Read Greg Cox’s review of Mateo.

Monuts

110 E. Parrish St.

919-797-2634

monutsdonuts.com

Old Havana Sandwich Shop

310 E. Main St.

919-667-9525

oldhavanaeats.com

The Parlour

117 Market St.

919-564-7999

theparlourdurham.com

Pizzeria Toro

105 E. Chapel Hill St.

919-908-6936

pizzeriatoro.com

* * * *

Read Greg Cox’s review of Pizzeria Toro.

NOTE: Pizzeria was closed by a fire in November 2013. Repairs are underway, and reopening is targeted for late July.

Pompieri Pizza

102 City Hall Plaza

919-973-1589

pompieripizza.com

Revolution

107 W. Main St.

919-956-9999

revolutionrestaurant.com

* * * *

Rue Cler

401 E. Chapel Hill St.

919-682-8844

ruecler-durham.com

* * * *

Read Greg Cox’s review of Rue Cler.

Scratch Bakery

111 Orange St.

919-956-5200

piefantasy.com

Toast Paninoteca

345 W. Main St.

919-683-2183

toast-fivepoints.com

D.I.Y. / CENTRAL PARK

Cocoa Cinnamon

420 W. Geer St.

cocoacinnamon.com

DaisyCakes

401-A Foster St.

919-389-4307

eatdaisycakes.com

Fullsteam Brewery

726 Rigsbee Ave.

919-682-2337

fullsteam.ag

Geer Street Garden

644 Foster St.

919-688-2900

geerstreetgarden.com

* * * 1/2

Read Greg Cox’s review of Geer Street Garden.

King’s Sandwich Shop

701 Foster St.

919-682-0071

kingssandwichshop.com

Parts & Labor @ Motorco Music Hall

723 Rigsbee Ave.

919-901-0875

motorcomusic.com

Piedmont

401-B2 Foster St.

919-683-1213

piedmontrestaurant.com

* * * *

Read Greg Cox’s review of Piedmont.

The Pit

321 W. Geer St.

919-282-3748

thepit-durham.com

FOOD TRUCKS

American Meltdown

americanmeltdown.org

Chirba Chirba Dumpling

chirbachirba.com

OnlyBurger

onlyburger.com

Parlez-Vous Crêpe

parlezvouscrepe.com

Pie Pushers

piepushers.com

Porchetta

porchettardu.com

Greg Cox’s other top picks

Bleu Olive

1821 Hillandale Road

919-383-8502

bleuolivebistro.com

* * * *

Read Greg Cox’s review of Bleu Olive.

Blu Seafood & Bar

2002 Hillsborough Rd.

919-286-9777

bluseafoodandbar.com

* * * *

Read Greg Cox’s review of Blu Seafood & Bar.

Fairview

3001 Cameron Blvd., in The Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club

490-0999

washingtondukeinn.com

* * * * 1/2

Four Square

2701 Chapel Hill Road

919-401-9877

foursquarerestaurant.com

* * * *

Read Greg Cox’s review of Four Square.

G2B

3211-106 Shannon Road, Durham

919-251-9451

g2b-restaurant.com

* * * *

Read Greg Cox’s review of G2B.

Gregoria’s Cuban Steakhouse

2701 Hillsborough Road

919-973-2717

gregoriassteakhouse.com

Guglhupf

2706 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd.

919-401-2600

guglhupf.com

* * * *

Read Greg Cox’s review of Guglhupf.

Happy China

2505 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd.

919-237-2021

happychinasushi.com

* * * *

Read Greg Cox’s review of Happy China.

Harvest 18

8128 Renaissance Pkwy.

919-316-1818

harvest18restaurant.com

Metro 8

746 Ninth St.

919-416-1700

metro8steakhouse.com

* * * 1/2

Read Greg Cox’s review of Metro 8.

Nana’s

2514 University Drive

919-493-8545

nanasdurham.com

* * * * 1/2

Rose’s Meat Market & Sweet Shop

121 N. Gregson St.

919-797-2233

rosesmeatandsweets.com

Six Plates Wine Bar

2812-104 Erwin Road

919-321-0203

sixplates.com

* * * 1/2

Read Greg Cox’s review of Six Plates Wine Bar.

Straw Valley

5490 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd.

919-403-2233

strawvalleyfoodanddrink.com

Super Taqueria

2842 N. Roxboro St.

919-220-9884

Taqueria La Vaquita

2700 Chapel Hill Road

919-402-0209

lavaquitanc.com

Tonali

3642 Shannon Road

919-489-8000

tonalirestaurant.com

* * * 1/2

Read Greg Cox’s review of Tonali.

Vin Rouge

2010 Hillsborough Road

919-416-0466

vinrougerestaurant.com

* * * *

Vit Goal Tofu

2107 Allendown Drive

919-361-9100

vitgoaltofukoreanbbq.webs.com

* * * 1/2

Read Greg Cox’s review of Vit Goal Tofu.

Watts Grocery

1116 Broad St., Durham

919-416-5040

wattsgrocery.com

* * * * 1/2

Read Greg Cox’s review of Watts Grocery.

Yamazushi

4711 Hope Valley Road

919-493-7748

yamazushirestaurant.com

* * * * *

Read Greg Cox’s review of Yamazushi.

The N&O’s critic dines anonymously; the newspaper pays for all meals. We rank restaurants in five categories: * * * * * Extraordinary * * * * Excellent. * * * Above average. * * Average. * Fair.

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