The UNC vs. Duke rivalry is the thing of legends. Hating Dook is a Tar Heel’s favorite pastime. Unfortunately, this Tar Heel’s other favorite pastime is eating. I decided to put my pride aside to reconcile these two hobbies. I ate my way through Durham and never looked back. While I stand by UNC’s superiority, I am willing to admit that Durham is doing something right in their food scene.
For any Tar Heels venturing into enemy territory or any god-forsaken Dookies looking for somewhere to eat after a tough loss to Carolina this winter, here are 10 gems to check out:
This place looks and tastes like a hipster version of southern comfort, and I am 100 percent down for it. The outdoor patio is a calm escape from the bustle of college life, and the food is as delicious as it is photogenic. 10/10 would definitely recommend making the 8-mile trip for Geer Street.
#SpoonTip: Try the crispy Polenta Cake with spicy chickpeas, sesame roasted squash, and yogurt sauce or the Fried Chicken with Mac and Cheese & Jalapeño Cheddar Hush Puppies
Bull City’s motto is “Eat Pasture-Raised Beef & Drink Freshly Brewed Beer,” and after eating there, I’m thinking of adopting that motto for my everyday life. Their beef is all sourced from North Carolina, and their business practices are uber sustainable. You get to feel good about what you’re eating and how it got to your plate.
And don't forget, if you wear a Bull City Burger and Brewery shirt on Tuesday, they’ll give you a free order of dirty fries. Hell yes.
#SpoonTip: Get the Green Monster Burger (Gruyere, red onion, roasted poblano peppers) and Dirty Fries (serves two-ish)
As an avid Bon Appétit reader, I am constantly on the look out for their recommendations in the great state of North Carolina. Unfortunately, they tend to favor restaurants in cities like New York or San Francisco.
Loaf is one of the only North Carolina restaurants I’ve ever seen grace the pages of Bon Appétit. When I saw that, I immediately had to go. It deserves all the praise it has received. The one drawback is that there isn’t any seating, but I’m willing to eat my pastry standing up as long as it’s from Loaf.
#SpoonTip: The PB and Scuppernong Jam Window and Pumpkin Cream Cheese Danish are unworldly
Treat yourself to Mothers & Sons. Or if you’re on a budget, then have your parents treat you. But please experience it. Mothers & Sons has the most authentic Italian food I’ve had apart from actually eating in Florence. You’re probably going to want to make a reservation and wear your stretchy pants. And trust me, I know it’ll be hard, but don’t fill up on pasta. The dessert menu is worth it.
#SpoonTip: Get the Bucatini Cacio e Pepe, Cavatelli Pugliese, and Warm Chocolate Cake. The pasta dishes are small like they are in Italy, so you should order a few to share with your table.
5. Rue Cler
Rue Cler embodies the bougie attitude of both France and Durham. Any self-respecting brunch goer should definitely make their way to Rue Cler if they haven’t already. Brunch here makes you feel like you’ve got your life together on a Saturday morning despite the fact that you’re probably behind on your schoolwork and still haven’t done your laundry.
#SpoonTip: Go for the beignets (the full dozen if you're sharing) and a Croque Madame
Monuts is always there for my serious sweet tooth, but it's about so much more than just donuts. They have a killer breakfast menu and a relaxed and fun ambiance. They also pay their employees a living wage and you can tell the employees are genuinely happy to be there. In fact, the last time I was there, one employee offered me as many free donuts as I could take home with me. Talk about customer service.
#SpoonTip: The Pumpkin Yeast Donut and Chai Cake Donut might make you cry they're so good
Mad Hatter is a lively, whimsical restaurant with food that doesn’t disappoint. Their breakfast is phenomenal (huevos rancheros for life) and their cake selection is legendary. Not only are their cake slices as big as my head, they also have the perfect balance of sweetness, flavor, moisture and density.
Best of all, they have big tables and free wifi for when you need to study but you’re also looking to eat your weight in buttercream frosting.
#SpoonTip: Make sure you get the Chai Latte, Strawberry Shortcake, Huevos Rancheros, or Blueberry Cheese Danish
8. Pie Pushers
Although Heels and Devils might not agree on a lot of things, they must share the notion that pizza is a staple food group for college students.
Pie Pushers is the better way to fulfill your pizza-loving college student stereotype. They offer a wide variety of cleverly named specialty pizzas at their modern Durham location, and they provide a limited menu from their pizza truck. Seriously, what more could you ask for? A pizza food truck that brings garlic knots right to you? Sign me up.
#SpoonTip: Order the Buffalo Chicken Pizza or Barb’s Margherita Pizza and don't forget the Garlic Knots
Okay, you caught me. I’m biased. I may or may not be an employee at The Bagel Bar’s Chapel Hill location, but hear me out. Summer 2016 I tried my first sandwich from The Bagel Bar. It was the Rojo Caliente (sausage, egg, cucumber, salsa jalapeno cream cheese) on everything. It was amazing. I went back to get the same thing the following week.
On trying it for the second time, I determined that it was definitely the best bagel below the Mason Dixon line and I had to be employed there. Now I eat bagels all the time, and my life is so much better for it.
#SpoonTip: To fall in love like I did, order the Rojo Caliente, Guac and Squawk, or Bruschetta Bagel
How could Dame’s not be on the list? I mean, it’s “almost famous.” But seriously, I’d heard about the hype surrounding Dame’s, but I never experienced it first hand until this beautiful meal. We went in at 4:30, and they were packed. People want their chicken and waffles at all times of the day.
Their smears are heavenly, and their sides are a delicious heart attack waiting to happen. I am a huge advocate of the chicken and waffle combo – if you haven’t tried it yet, you should be heading to Dame’s right now.
#SpoonTip: Try the Cheese Grits, Mac n Cheese, and What a Classy Hen