What are the must-sees in Durham NC?
October 3, 2009 7:43 AM   Subscribe

Durham, NC filter: what are the must see, must do, must eat places around town? what are the biggest attractions for outsiders who might be considering moving to the area? Durham Bulls game? art galleries? 9th street? (is mcdonald's drugstore still around?)
posted by unlucky.lisp to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
welcome! nice username :-)

I suggest you hunt down the Only Burger truck.
posted by pinky at 7:52 AM on October 3, 2009

I live in Raleigh, but I drive to Durham to eat at Nana's and the Magnolia Grill. Both are fantastic.
posted by something something at 7:52 AM on October 3, 2009

Nanas. Magnolia grill.

Lunch at fosters. Across the way from fosters are some great kitcshy antique shops.

popsicles at locopops, afternoon drinks at the washington duke inn.

The sarah p duke gardens.
posted by slateyness at 8:20 AM on October 3, 2009

Carpe Durham is a pretty popular restaurant review site.

Locopops, Local Yogurt, and Francesca's (on 9th St) are good places for dessert.
posted by leesh at 8:25 AM on October 3, 2009

I try to hit Elmo's Diner on 9th at least once whenver I visit Durham. My mom's favorite is City Beverage, out by Woodcroft/Southpoint. My best friend goes to The Q Shack weekly.

I can second Foster's and Francesca's, and have not yet had the privilege to try Nana's or Magnolia Grill (perhaps on my next birthday?) but have heard excellent things about them.

I recommended A Southern Season in Chapel Hill in another question recently; if you're looking to bring any NC treats to friends/family outside of the area, I'd definitely recommend heading there.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:17 AM on October 3, 2009

Yet another plug for Locopops (I am actually posting this from inside the Locopops in Chapel Hill.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:50 AM on October 3, 2009

I always found the Elmo's in Durham a bit less something than the one in carrboro
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:22 AM on October 3, 2009

Guglhupf is the best bakery around, and they've got good food, too. I've just come from brunch there.

I'll second the recommendation for the Q-Shack, even though they stopped carrying the pasta salad I loved so much. Other food: Toast. Dos Perros (new mexican place). La Vaquita (taco stand). Parker and Otis is supposed to have good food (this is my only secondhand recommendation) and if you want a gourmet shop without driving all the way to Chapel Hill, I'd say check it out, though Southern Season is definitely great for that. It's worth it to drop by Francesca's--it's not dessert that'll change your life, but I think it's a good place to get a feel for Durham. There'll be a bunch of Duke kids there, but look for the folks that don't look like kids. Whole Foods is a good place for that, too, as is the Blue Coffee Company cafe in downtown Durham.

This is our farmer's market. Folks are working on putting together a co-op grocery here.

Ninth Street still has the Regulator, and there's the used bookstores Nice Price and Books do Furnish a Room within walking distance.

If you're a garden person, check out the Duke Gardens. I know it's fall, but it's a lovely place anyway.

We've got the DPAC for big shows and the Carolina Theatre for indy fare (and film festivals).

We've got the American Tobacco Trail and Duke Forest for walking and biking. And really, one of the best things about Durham to me is that you get a slightly urban feel, with good food and enough culture, but there's a lot of nature (and farming!) around without travelling far.

We've also got great housing prices and, I think, a great atmosphere. Durham is also a nice central place in the triangle. Do feel free to message me if you want to know more. Or if you hear scary things from people who live in Raleigh and want the other side of it. Because you might.
posted by hought20 at 11:29 AM on October 3, 2009

Seconding Guglhupf.

I'm also a pretty big fan of the Fed as a place to have a few jars. It also has really good food, and not just your typical pub fare (though the nachos, honestly, freakin' rock)...but I'm not really sure if that's what you're looking for.

If you want a 'nicer,' sit-down dinner then I'd recommend Pop's.

As for things to do, I'd recommend a visit to the Tobacco museum. I know it sounds lame, but it's actually pretty awesome.

I know you asked about Durham, but if there is one reason to visit Raleigh it would be for St. Jacque's. Best meal of my life. Seriously. My eyes are glazing over just typing this.
posted by FunGus at 1:04 PM on October 3, 2009

La Vaquita! Durham has great taco stands. La Vaquita is a walk-up place with a couple picnic tables (but they do take debit/credit). It's really authentic Mexican food (as far as this upstate New Yorker knows), and completely delicious!!!

They wrote about it on Carpe Durham, where they reviewed several dishes and have directions and stuff. Check it out!
posted by imalaowai at 1:17 PM on October 3, 2009

Trying to cover things in your question that haven't already been covered:
McDonald's Drug Store closed 6 years ago or so. In its place now is Ox and Rabbit which is a strange little gift shop, but they kept the counter and soda fountain and serve traditional drug store drinks.

Bulls games are awesome, even for someone not that interested in sports. The season is over now, with the Bulls winning the International League championship. woot. But come March, it all starts over.

There are a number of good art galleries. We have a monthly-ish Durham Art Walk (whose website is down). Durham Arts Council is a fantastic group that organizes all kinds of classes and events and has a nice gallery of student work. Duke's Nasher Museum is still really young, but has already launched a couple of major exhibitions that are now touring the country. On the smaller, funkier end we have a number of random little galleries and of them I like Through This Lens quite a bit.

We also have fantastic outdoors opportunities. Someone else mentioned Duke Forest. The Eno River runs through the city and some dedicated citizens in the Eno River Association are slowly buying up the area along the river and selling it to the state as part of the amazing and ever expanding Eno River State Park. West Point on the Eno is a city park that's a great picnic, historical kind of thing and also home to our amazing annual Festival for the Eno

Oh, and the people here are great and we love our town.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:29 PM on October 3, 2009

Oh and Nana's and Magnolia are great and famous but the up and comers are Watts Grocery and Piedmont, both of which are focused on local food.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:31 PM on October 3, 2009

I absolutely second the Tobacco Museum. It's free, an enjoyable place, and a good spot for a picnic on a beautiful day. There is a fat black cat named "Biscuits" who strolls the grounds and happily receives pettings.

It also boasts an animatronic tobacco farmer. No joke.

Duke University is also a fun place to stroll around, especially the Gardens. I also recommend going to the Nasher Museum of Art. There have been some fantastic exhibits there in recent years. If you have a family, there is a Family Fun Day every few months. Admission is free, and there are fun crafts for the kiddies.

You should also check out Events@Duke to find out if there are any interesting performances/lectures/film screenings/etc going on at the university. Frequently you can find free things to do. Sometimes even free things with free food!

I also recommend the local Manbites Theater. There are quite a few theater companies in the area who do great work.

You should seriously take a hike along the Eno. It's really lovely.

I worked at Elmo's for a couple of years, and I am sorry to say that food is average at best (and my God if you only see how much margarine goes into those biscuits). However, it is an extremely-well run establishment with a well-trained wait staff and really comfortable atmosphere, and kids get free cartoon ducks to color, so it is still worth a visit. Especially on a hungover Sunday morning, 'cause the waits sure know how to keep that hot coffee coming.

I also second Guglhupf (where I also worked), which has the best croissants in the Triangle, and Locopops and Local Yogurt (drool). These are locally own businesses, and their product is high quality.

I think Durham is a great place to live. Housing is cheap as hell, the population is diverse, and, as someone mentioned, you get all the good things that come with urban life (food, entertainment, culture) in a place that's still a bit country (my neighbor brings me fresh tomatoes from her garden).
posted by duvatney at 2:54 PM on October 5, 2009

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