Recommendations! Bike/hike; picnic/take out near Durham NC
May 1, 2020 6:32 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to plan something special for a foodie who likes biking and hiking, and lives in Durham. I don't know the area very well. Help me with your ideas!

I would ideally like to find 1) a hole-in-wall eater or a bakery, or something else that is gastronomically exciting along those lines, that is open for take-out; 2) that is near but not IN Durham, but accessible through a trail or a not-horrible road, so that my person can enjoy a bike ride or hike there, get the take out that I'd be happy to pre-arrange, and have a picnic in nature. Or something like that.

This person has a very cosmopolitan taste so ethnic cuisines are welcomed. They are also happy to ride both on and off-road.

Thank you in advance!
posted by redwaterman to Food & Drink (7 answers total)
What is your timeframe for this? I've found especially with the smaller local eateries it seems to change week to week whether they will even be open. What is your definition of "near" Durham? Also can you give an indication of whether this person is in, say, North Durham or South Durham?
posted by research monkey at 7:32 AM on May 1, 2020

The Eno River State Park is closed due to Covid so the trails may be inaccessible. I have had a hard time finding trails open around the Triangle, they closed most of them after they got way too crowded with people not social distancing. So unless you want to wait a few weeks for parks to open you'll have to go to more out of the way trails, and somehow confirm they're actually open.
posted by JZig at 8:16 AM on May 1, 2020

A few layers of difficulty here:

1. Almost all the trails in the Triangle are closed. I believe Duke Forest may be open, although I have not been there personally to confirm.

2. Trailheads in the area are geographically separate from restaurants, bakeries, etc. It's not far -- Duke Forest is about 15 minutes from Downtown Durham, for instance -- but does require traveling on freeways or interstates, so not a quiet bike ride or hike.

3. While Durham does have some great restaurants, they are mostly American or European, which I'm guessing is not what you mean by "ethnic." I have personally been extremely underwhelmed by the quality of Middle Eastern, African, and Asian restaurants on offer. I'm not a foodie, but the best I can say about them after living here almost two years is "edible." (Sorry, Durham Food Lovers -- please, please prove me wrong here!)
posted by basalganglia at 8:36 AM on May 1, 2020

Sandy Creek Trail is a small park in West Durham, with wetlands and a moderate number of trail runners and bird watchers. There's a half-mile trail that ends in the Good Shepard Church parking lot, then it's another half-mile walk down Garrett Road sprawl to Zweli's Zimbabwe restaurant. I believe Sandy Creek is still open and Zweli's is doing take out. Hardly an escape into the wilds, and definitely in Durham, but it does include a nice slice of nature and the samosa are picnic-friendly.
posted by bendybendy at 10:56 AM on May 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is kind of hard, yeah, because a lot of the trails around here are closed, but one idea that comes to mind is the paved bike path that starts at Umstead Park in Chapel Hill (NOT Umstead State Park, if you're googling), and goes over to Community Center park. It's not a very long ride for someone who bikes more than very occasionally. Near Umstead, and very close to the path, is Root Cellar, which is a cafe where you could easily get takeout. I think they even do boxed meals. There are spots along the trail where you could stop for a picnic, since you're not really supposed to stop in the parks right now.

Food at Root Cellar is so-so. There's also Lucha Tigre (again, not outstanding food, but fine), and Hunam (which I haven't tried) in the same little shopping center.

At the other end of the trail, there's University Mall with some good food--there's a new "street food" place I have not tried, and Bar Taco, which is actually really really good.

To do the Root Cellar end of things, you have to cross a big busy road, but there's a light. To do the University Mall end of things, you have to walk a bit and cross a busy road at a light, and there's of course a big mall parking lot, no fun.

I'll second the recommendation for the River Walk in Hillsborough along the Eno. I don't know Hillsborough super well, but if dropping into Weaver Street (local co-op) to grab packaged food isn't quite good enough, I wonder if there is some other food place within a couple of blocks of the trail that would work.

Hole-in-the-wall special near a trail is very, very unlikely around here, though I could be forgetting something/unaware of it. The really special food tends to be inside of Durham right now, and trails good for biking are further out.
posted by hought20 at 12:00 PM on May 1, 2020

Best answer: Okay, I want to add that I say Root Cellar is so-so, but I actually really love their tofu banh mi and have eaten it more times than I am going to admit, and they often have some really good baked goods. I have a friend who loves their cubano. Just FYI, if you go that route. The menu is just a little spotty, and the salad case is often upsetting.
posted by hought20 at 12:02 PM on May 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Caffe Driade in Chapel Hill has a beautiful setting, but it's a cafe, not really a restaurant.
posted by Comrade_robot at 11:19 AM on May 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

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