In the past decade, Durham, North Carolina and its restaurant scene has begun racking up the accolades. Use this guide as a starting point in Durham for everyone’s favorite weekend meal: brunch.
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
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.
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
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
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