Because I am a rising senior, this past summer was my time to squeeze in any last minute college visits before my crazy, chaotic supplement-filled fall.
I decided to fly down south with my dad to Durham, NC to check out Duke University. My dad, much like me, is a fellow foodie, and is where I get my love of food from. My dad usually accompanies me on the college visit trips, and ever since our first visit, we started our own little tradition by turning a usually dreaded info session and campus tour into a city food tour. This mentality was no different when we went to Duke.
As someone who has never been to North Carolina before, I expected Durham to be a typical, small, southern town. However, Durham really exceeded my expectations. My dad referred to it as “a mini SoHo,” to put things in perspective for any of you native NYCers. Durham has a main street that is lined with cute boutique shops and trendy, local eateries.
With so little time at Duke, it can be difficult to choose three perfect meals among dozens of amazing restaurants. So, for all the indecisive people out there, here is your 24-hour meal guide to eating at Duke University.
Breakfast: Cocoa Cinnamon
If you’re not a big breakfast person like me and you just really need a big cup of joe to wake you up in the morning, Cocoa Cinnamon is the perfect place for you. But, Cocoa Cinnamon is not your ordinary coffee shop, which is why I loved it so much. Because really, who wants to fly 2.5 hours just to get an ordinary Starbucks latte when you can choose from drinks like La Villa Rica or Tenochtitlan?
Buzzfeed listed Cocoa Cinnamon as one of the top 24 coffee shops to visit before you die, so basically, you have to come here before you die, and why not do it during a college visit?
When you hear that a restaurant is named “Toast,” you almost immediately roll your eyes and think of another basic, limited lunch place with only avocado toast and maybe a slightly more sophisticated ricotta toast. But I promise you, Toast is much more than you would assume from its name.
Toast is an authentic Italian sandwich shop and it really stays true to that motto serving what it feels to be like an unlimited variety of paninis, tramenzinis, and crostinis. You can pair any of the three with a soup or a salad for an additional $2. I chose to order three different crostinis paired with their famous, chilled tomato soup, which made for a perfect, affordable, post-tour lunch.
Dinner: Luna Rotisserie and Empanadas
Luna’s slogan is “South America meets American South,” combining the unique cuisine of South America with the also distinct Southern American Cuisine. The menu ranges from empanadas (obviously) to kale bowls and everything in between.
My advice is to listen to the name of the restaurant and order the rotisserie chicken, white meat or dark meat, whichever you prefer, and the empanadas. There are an assortment of empanadas, including vegetarian ones, but their most popular one is the pork carnitas. For the chicken, you have the option to choose two sides to accompany the chicken, and you really can’t go wrong with any. Come to Luna for a great vibe and traditionally unique food.
Dessert: The Parlour
If I had only one meal in Durham, I would legitimately come to The Parlour and just eat ice cream, even if it were for breakfast. And yes, that may be coming from an ice cream fanatic, but The Parlour is a must because, one, who doesn’t love ice cream and, two, because they have the most addictive salted butter caramel ice cream on the planet.
If that doesn’t sell you, their ice cream is homemade with seasonal ingredients, meaning they support local farmers. No matter what time of year you come to Durham, even if it happens to be snowing outside, do not miss out on a visit to The Parlour.
Although I probably wouldn’t have taken a leisurely vacation to Durham, I am very glad I made a trip down south to NC to tour Duke’s beautiful campus and enjoy a bit of the amazing food. For me, good food options at college is a necessity. While I know I will be eating most of my food in the university’s dining hall, it is great to know that Duke has local restaurants just a mile away from campus, not to mention a free shuttle service to transport me there. With great academics, weather, athletics, and food, Duke is clearly a very impressive school and made for a great visit.