Elmo’s has everything you want out of a home-cooked brunch, but they do it better. In typical diner fashion, their breakfast menu is all-day, every day. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying it around 11am on a weekend. You’ll immediately feel at home in this casual, family atmosphere. Eventually, the waiters, whose uniform is jeans with their choice of Elmo’s t-shirt, will be able to predict your order. They have southern favorites like shrimp and grits or big, fluffy biscuits as a breakfast bread option, but they round out the menu with choices like the breakfast burrito or the huevos rancheros. You may already have a difficult decision in front of you, but don’t forget to glance at the specials menu. You might be lucky enough to be there on a day when they’ve got the pumpkin or sweet potato pancakes.
Elmo’s Diner, 776 Ninth St., Durham, NC, USA, +1 919 416 3823
From the old-time movie stars on the walls, to the dressy tables, to the calm sparkle of the chandeliers, Vin Rouge will make you feel like you’re living in luxury from the moment you walk in. They serve brunch from 10.30am to 2pm on Sundays only, so it’s a bit of a special affair. The menu isn’t long, but you’ll find picking one dish a challenging decision nonetheless. They stay close to their French roots with several different versions of eggs Benedict and omelets. Their croque monsieur sandwich will make you feel as if you’re sitting inside a Parisian cafe. Don’t forget the drinks, either. In addition to coffee and the like, they have everyone’s brunch favorites – the Bloody Mary, the mimosa and the kir royale.
Vin Rouge, 2010 Hillsborough Rd., Durham, NC, USA, +1 919 416 0466
When you’re pulling up to a less-than-enticing building on the side of a highway, you might feel like you’re made the wrong choice with Foster’s Market. However, as soon as you step inside, you’ll be convinced. The front part of the restaurant is more like a general store, with all sorts of goodies from local and nearby producers. The bakery also greets you as soon as you walk in. You won’t miss out on anything if you choose to have one of their scones and don’t go any farther. Venturing just a little farther though, you’ll find the main dish options and then you’ll find yourself overwhelmed with choice. Whatever you choose will be good and if you’re lucky with the weather, it’s lovely to sit outside on the porch and enjoy your meal in the company of Durham’s inhabitants and their canine companions.
Foster’s Market, 2694 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd., Durham, NC, USA, +1 919 489 3944
Fairview Dining Room at the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club
Brunch at Fairview Dining Room at the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club, or WaDu, as the locals dub it, is indeed an indulgence. They even say as much on their menu. The whole venue is dripping in elegance – this isn’t a place for flip-flops and jeans. Brunch here is a three-course affair, starting with your choice of appetizer. This is followed up by main courses that range from true breakfast (like challah French toast or a Belgian waffle) to something closer in genre to lunch (like a beef tenderloin or fusilli with grilled chicken). Do save some room though, because dessert is a free-for-all of flavor. The WaDu is also proud to embrace their state and they make a real effort to partner with artisan suppliers in Durham and all over North Carolina.
Guglhupf, a German-inspired bakery just up the road from Foster’s Market. It is a good stop to make any day of the week for all the breads and pastries they have to offer. Their cafe puts on a show over the weekend however, with their spectacular brunch. There’s something in it for everyone – various egg preparations, pancakes with maple syrup, soups and salads and even German favorites like schnitzel. Their drinks menu also offers a large array of choices for tea lovers and the cocktail section is especially exciting. They have the brunch basics – mimosas and Bloody Marys. But they round the selection out with a radler (beer and lemonade) and a Berliner weisse (wheat beer with raspberry syrup).
Guglehupf, 2706 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd., Durham, NC, USA, +1 919 401 2600
The Mad Hatter Bakeshop
When you’re young – or young at heart – the The Mad Hatter Bakeshop is a fantastical place. It is located in a building that was once a gas station with servers in funny hats and whimsically colorful cakes and cookies behind a pane of glass. The servers and baristas are unfailingly friendly as you make your decision. Choose one of the Mexican-inspired breakfast features or something wholesome and filling like a sausage biscuit. Alternatively, go for one of the Asian-inspired wraps. They take special care with their hot drinks (the chai tea latte is especially good). Don’t miss out on one of their frosted cookies. The designs of these change depending on the season, the holiday, or whether the nearby university, Duke, has recently won a college basketball championship.
The Mad Hatter Bakeshop, 1802 W. Main St., Durham, NC, USA, +1 919 286 1987
Monuts Donuts is a true Durham success story. What started as a donut stand operating on Saturdays at the farmer’s market, has now expanded into an actual restaurant offering meals all day. If you’re lucky enough to visit on Sunday, it serves a wonderful brunch. Donuts may certainly be the root of the vision, but the expansion has brought new and exciting flavors to join the ranks. Their brunch menu changes frequently. But, you can be sure that what you’re getting will be made absolutely from scratch with local ingredients whenever possible. They often make an effort to add ethnic twists to their food, frequently with Mexican-inspired dishes. In addition to that, they also make their own bagels. There’s nothing quite like a fresh bagel with cream cheese on a weekend morning.
Parker and Otis
Parker and Otis feels like a wonderland the minute you step into the door. Only later, once you’ve gone through any number of their cute and colorful non-edible products on sale, will you pick up a menu. For their brunch choices, check out the breakfast menu, which is available until 2pm on Saturday and 3pm on Sunday. Parker and Otis keep things simple and rely on the high quality of their mostly local ingredients to make everything delicious. With the huge ceiling fans lazily circling above the perpetually shaded porch, this place somehow manages to make even the hottest, most humid Durham summer days feel pleasant. Grab a peach iced tea and take a seat. Then wait for that magic moment when the waiter comes outside with a tray and calls your name.
Parker and Otis, 112 South Duke St, Durham, NC, USA, +1 919 683 3200
Given the name, you can probably guess that Rise isn’t the best place for people with gluten intolerance. Rise splits the dough between the oven and the deep fryer for, respectively, the biscuits and the donuts. You can go into Rise planning on getting something familiar – for example, a chocolate glazed donut or a chicken biscuit. However, more than likely you’ll come out with one of their exceedingly creative combinations, like a creme brulee donut or a biscuit with apple cider braised pork butt, caramelized apples and hoop cheese. They’ve gone ahead and put all of their fresh ingredients together in the most exciting ways possible. So, you don’t have to think about it – you just have to rise to the challenge of choosing.
Rise, 8200 Renaissance Pkwy., Durham, NC, USA, +1 919 248 2992
Food trucks at the Durham farmer’s market
A trip to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning makes you feel alive. As soon as you arrive, your senses overflow with how much they’re taking in. There’s the smells emanating from each booth, the sights of the people and food surrounding you, the tastes of samples being thrust into your hands. Leave the awning of the market proper and venture over to where the food trucks have parked for a quick and highly satisfying bite to eat. You never know what your choices will be, as usually there are roughly four present out of 50 trucks in total. Durham has really embraced the food truck scene and while sometimes they might seem difficult to track down, the farmer’s market is a sure bet.
Durham Farmers’ Market, 501 Foster St., Durham, NC, USA, +1 919 667 3099