North Carolina’s exciting and colourful city, Durham, is an unmissable spot while in the Triangle area. An energetic and active cultural hub, Durham boasts music, dance, and art festivals, and is home to numerous nationally acclaimed restaurants. The eclectic selection and great variety of tastes make Durham’s culinary scene one to explore. Following our previous selection, here are our top 10 cultural venues revealing the city’s stimulating diversity.
‘We didn’t invent Chicken & Waffles; we want to be the only ones you think of’ – says this venue’s mission statement. It was during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s to 1940s that this seemingly odd pairing became a hit as the first real late-night food combination. Dame’s Chicken and Waffles is the venue that gave it a brand. Located on West Main Street, Dame’s is an exciting culinary experience, where Southern fried chicken and European sweet waffles are the simple basis for a wide selection of mouthwatering options. Try the original combo, or ask for the house signature chicken and waffle dishes separately. Dame’s gives a tantalising taste cavalcade that can be wonderfully enjoyed with a range of local craft beers or the seasonal wine collection.
Located in a former tobacco warehouse in Durham’s downtown area, 604 West Village developed a unique and historical milieu, while bringing authentic Italian gastro-culture to the city. The interior is as would be expected: wall bricks, high ceilings, wooden floors, and some decorative art on the walls. While the indoor area is somewhat dimly lit, the spacious patio is a chance to enjoy a fresh and tranquil meal outside. The menu is exciting and unusual, featuring not only classic Italian homemade pastas but also seasonal seafood and other specialties that clearly expose a creative kitchen in the background. With various events, from Latino nights and Monday Martinis, 604 West Village ensures a multi-faceted fine dining experience.
Beyù Caffè(pronounced ‘be-you’) is a place with heart and soul. Owner Dorian J. Bolden aimed to merge a coffee shop, restaurant, bar and jazz club under one roof, and he couldn’t have done it better – Beyù Caffè is the place to be for great food and premier live jazz. Praised by locals and visitors alike, the venue is great for those with a hunger for excellent American dishes, or those hankering for a chic but low-key cultural experience. The menu has a great line of options from small plates (chicken wings), to large plates (pizzettes), as well as classic burgers and seasonal specialties (pumpkin spice latte). As for the jazz schedule, it is eventful and eclectic, with various musicians, from local emerging performers to Grammy-award-winning artists, performing in this cultural venue.
Blu Seafood and Bar is the best seafood spot in town, if not in the whole Triangle area. Supporting local fishing communities, the restaurant doesn’t compromise when it comes to freshness and quality, and this, as well as the impeccable service, is what brings the continued success among locals and visitors. The setting is faithfully inspired by maritime elements, with a dominating blue color and tiny aquarium windows inserted into the sidewall. This is an upscale restaurant, where the focus is concentrated on serving a rich variety of delectable, innovative, and exciting assortments of seafood dishes. Choose from the special oyster menu, the nightly and weekly changing menu, the fixed lunch and dinner menus, or try the daily catch.
Located on the campus of Duke University, Fairview Dining Room is part of the multiple-award-winning, exclusive Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club. Fairview Dining Room is acclaimed as being the area’s most celebrated high-class venue, whose name needs no introduction to either hungry guests or well-known food critics. The restaurant features neo-American cuisine, and has a contemporary and seasonally changing menu, offering such innovative creations as Blue Devil Breakfast and the jumbo lump Chesapeake crabcake. The milieu is classic, perfectly matching the Inn’s English country design, and the cordial and well-trained staff make guests feel appreciated on entry. For the best seats, book a table by the windows, to ensure enjoyment of the views over the stunning gardens.
Housed in a 1908 historical building (listed on the National Register of Historic Places), Four Square Restaurant would be worth a visit simply for its location – the building is an excellent example of the Neoclassical Revival style of Victorian architecture. Nonetheless, once there, don’t miss the exquisite cuisine with seafood and steak specialties, listed on a bi-monthly changing menu. ‘Great cooking starts with great ingredients’ is the philosophy of Four Square’s kitchen: the restaurant has a well-established agreement with local farms and suppliers to receive premium fish, meat and vegetables. Perhaps that’s why it has ranked among the best high-end venues in the area since its opening in 1999.
Vichyssoise | Courtesy Piedmont/Jennifer Noble Kelly
Nana’s is set in warehouse building constructed over 60 years ago, and since its opening in 1996 (followed by a complex refurbishment in 2000), its name has become well-known, not only in the city but also throughout the Triangle area. Recognised for its excellent, weekly changing special menus that are primarily American-inspired, the restaurant uses ingredients received from local suppliers, ensuring freshness and a popular community approach. A multiple-award-winning venue with a cosy setting, where local artists, such as Jane Filer, had the chance to indulge their creativity and design the walls of Nana’s. Keep an eye out for Chef Scott Howell, who is frequently spotted in his characteristic outfit, personally delivering the delectable plates to his satisfied guests.
Piedmont is Durham’s number-one organic restaurant that fuses local ingredients with avant-garde preparation techniques to create delectable and exciting American-European cuisines. Led by Chef Ben Adams, the restaurant revives classical dishes and gives them a contemporary twist with the innovative farm-to-table concept. The menu is seasonal and adventurous. Set in a refurbished 1920s Nash car dealership building, Piedmont’s interior follows modern lines: large windows, exposed woodwork, and vaulted ceilings in the spacious dining area. Don’t miss the special gastro-themed events, such as the Farmer’s Dinner or TOPO Distillery Dinner, and enjoy the wide selection of handcrafted cocktails and some of the best beers in the area.
Tonali is the city’s favorite destination restaurant when it comes to authentic Mexican cuisine. A family-led, warm and thoughtful venue which brings delectable Mexican dishes right to the table of Durham’s famished guests, the menu at Tonali changes weekly, meaning that no two dining experiences will ever be the same. However, one thing is guaranteed: all ingredients are carefully selected from the freshest supplies at local farms. An excellent place for meat-enthusiasts, veggie-eaters will have several delicious options as well. The attentive Spanish-English speaker service and excellent food make Tonali a charming spot that has been firmly positioned on Shannon Road since 2006.
Open since 1986, Yamazushi Japanese Fine Dining is a tiny traditional Japanese venue in the heart of Durham, where the past is gently brought into the present. The ritual atmosphere of Japanese tea ceremonies is echoed at Yamazushi by featuring Kaiseki multi-course meals. This is an eight-course special line of small-portioned traditional dishes, served in strictly timed intervals over 2.5 hours. Imagine flower-shaped sashimi and other delicacies, all presented with care and attention to detail. The success of the venue lies in the masterful hands of Chef George Hitoshi Yamazawa, who, by creating exceptional flavours from the freshest ingredients, demonstrates more than 40 years of outstanding cooking experience daily. Enjoy the traditional and serene Japanese atmosphere, with an excellent selection of sake and authentic oriental teas. Yamazushi is by reservation only and all reservations must be made 24 hours in advance.