For the next month, the Durham Performing Arts Center hosts the crown jewel of the arts world, the biggest show on earth, the toughest ticket in the universe.
Welcome to Durham in the time of “Hamilton.”
Getting tickets is the hard part. Now where do you eat? We’re here to help with that.
Hamilton’s stop in Durham has attracted an audience from across the state. The good news for in- and out-of-towners, downtown Durham is one of the best block by block dining cities in the South. The bad news, you might want to grab reservations now.
Here are the best bites to seek out before the curtain, plus some nightcap spots after the show.
320 East Chapel Hill St., Durham
Shannon Healy runs one of the area’s finest cocktail bars. There’s a frequently changing menu of seasonal drinks that’ll never steer you wrong, but bartenders can make anything you like with a few choice adjectives. They also boast a kitchen to match the booze.
107 E. Parrish St. #105, Durham
Proving that pasture-raised beef can be done on a high volume scale, don’t be disheartened if the counter-service line stretches to the door, it’s worth the wait. Bull City boasts a sign declaring, “Yes, we made that,” which applies to everything, from the pickles to the buns to the mustard. Even the beer.
107 W. Main St., Durham
A Cuban restaurant like COPA might not exist anywhere else on earth, serving Cuban food based on pre-revolution recipes drawing heavily on European influences. But there’s still a mean mojito.
415 E. Chapel Hill St., Durham
This two-story restaurant is a downstairs ramen bar and an upstairs izakaya. If the downstairs is full, don’t despair, there are also noodle bowls upstairs and better luck with a seat.
315 E. Chapel Hill St., Durham
Bearing the city’s name, this hotel restaurant is a lobby dining room of retro elegance, with a cozy tucked away bar. A world away, the rooftop bar has its own menu and a livelier vibe, offering the tallest view of downtown currently available. If you’re wandering through for brunch, it sneakily has one of Durham’s best coffee programs. Critic Greg Cox named it the best restaurant of 2017.
202 Corcoran St., Durham
This modern diner on the ground floor of the new Unscripted Hotel goes from morning to night, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Colonel’s Daughter, the black box bar next door, is narrow and dark, usually with a movie on the lone television. There are more than dozen seats at the bar, but plenty of standing room along the wall, with a wooden railing for drinks.
Luna Rotisserie & Empanadas
112 W. Main St., Durham
The restaurant boasts a South American meets American South menu with, yes, both rotisserie meats and empanadas. Both are excellent. Whether settling in for a meal (with interesting sides) or grabbing a bunch of empanadas and small plates, Luna should suit your needs.
311 Holland St., Suite B, Durham
This sister restaurant of M Sushi serves famous Korean chicken wings and sandwiches, but also excellent bowls of ramen. The waiting list can be staggering, like a certain global phenomenon musical.
117 Market St., Durham
This master creamery is known to have a line in a snowstorm.
105 E. Chapel Hill St., Durham
This Neopolitan pizzeria is one of the most bustlely spots in town, with a menu of red and white pizzas and even a selection of hams. A large communal table means you may bump into new friends.
121 N. Gregson Ave., Durham
Named one of the country’s best new restaurants by Bon Appetit before it was even a restaurant, Rose’s serves deeply satisfying bowls of ramen and housemade noodles and an always changing menu of spicy, sour, tingly bites, including dumplings and buns. Don’t waste time wondering why an Asian noodle shop is paired with a dessert counter, just be thankful it exists.
2637 Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard, Durham
Fried fish becomes art at this seafood shack a couple miles outside of downtown Durham. Chef Ricky Moore serves whatever is fresh that day from the North Carolina coast, from safe bets like shrimp and flounder, to compelling cases for eating more mackerel and croaker.
806 W. Main St., Durham
Saint James somehow manages to be every kind of seafood restaurant at once, serving loving odes to the fried fish platters, elegant shellfish towers and the bounty of the sea in between. There’s no shame in doubling up on Old Bay fries, or on anything from the tiki-heavy cocktail menu.
Don’t forget drinks!