Hi, friends! In today’s blog post, I am sharing my top 10 tried-and-true foodie spots in Durham, NC. For those of you who don’t know, I have been living and working in Durham the last few years of my post-college life. Though I do my best to explore all of Triangle and North Carolina, needless to say, I eat more of my meals in Bull City.
I don’t think there’s anything more convincing than me going back to these places over and over again to prove to you that these are indeed some of my favorite restaurants! Seriously, I have eaten or gotten takeout from all of these places at least three times though many of these places, I have frequented probably 10+ times over the last few years.
I am happy to report that all of these places are quite affordable too! I am a pretty frugal gal so it makes sense. I would consider all of these places either $ or $$. You can expect to spend max $15 per person; some of these places give you a TON of food and many will feed you under $10 per person.
Without further ado, here are my top 10 favorite Durham food spots in alphabetical order (because I can’t play favorites within this list) with my order suggestions!
Chicken Bee is the only Korean Fried Chicken place in Durham, but that is not the only reason I keep going back here. (There is a KFC place in the Triangle that I am never going back to because it’s not Korean FC if you know what I mean.) Located on 9th street right next to ZenFish, Chicken Bee offers not just KFC but also other Korean dishes and ramen, which is much welcomed in the area. What I think you should get: a whole chicken fried in spicy garlic sauce with pickled radish as both of your sides. My sister Su’s Food News is obsessed with Chicken Bee and loves their Korean red sauce (sweet & spicy). Once you call in, your order will usually be ready in 25~30 minutes. They also have online ordering available.
A family owned and black owned business that has been in the Durham community for decades, The Chicken Hut has hands down the best fried chicken. Working from home during the pandemic has been a blessing in disguise since it’s much easier for me (read: Alex) to make it during their lunch hours to pick up the food (The Chicken Hut is a walk-up). On Fridays, they have oxtail as well, but the fried chicken still has my heart. I would recommend getting both oxtail and fried chicken–I promise it will be enough food for four adults with the sides! If you haven’t been recently, they are now taking credit cards for payment. AND they have a huge parking lot right behind the building.
In old Wimpy’s spot, The Durham Filling Station is such a solid burger place, and I am so grateful they are open Saturdays. In addition to burgers, they have biscuits, hotdogs, desserts, and more! They always have specials too (I have personally gotten brisket burger and bacon pimento cheeseburger with Bull City Pepper hot sauce). Their bacon cheeseburger will satisfy your burger craving, and you should try their Junkyard dog at least once. Do not sleep on their curly fries because they are the the BEST, MOST PERFECT curly fries. Their house-made pimento cheese is good on everything. For vegetarian eaters, they have added a couple of options including mushroom BBQ burger. You can call ahead for curbside pickup. Or you order at the pickup window where masks are required. There are a couple of picnic tables outside.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know I have been obsessed with Durham Food Hall ever since they opened during quarantine. In the last several months, I have tried quite a few of the vendors. Pictured above is the pastrami sandwich from Old North & Meats, the vendor I have frequented the most so far (I recommend literally everything from there). I also love the Pimento Cheese Bacon Burger from Lula & Sadies (the basil mayo does make a difference). The Chicken Katsu Sandwich from Everything Bagels is saucy and delicious! Trust me, the Soft Shell Crab Sandwich from Locals is not just photogenic! Napoli Durham has pizzas and gelatos (Thai Tea! Lirturgy Chai!)–you can choose the cooked level for the best eating experience, and they also have frozen pizzas. Seriously, I could probably write a whole blog post just on DFH. All of the vendors are on toast.com for online ordering and contactless pickup inside the building. You can also call for curbside pickup.
I used to live five minutes from Heavenly Buffaloes, and I regret not getting their chicken wings every week! You probably already know they have the best wings in Durham, so I’ll just echo everyone and say they do indeed. I have not tried all of their sauces and rubs yet, but I really like their medium sauce (this is PLENTY spicy) and the zesty garlic Parmesan. My suggestion is to get 7 piece bone-in and 7 piece vegan wings (soy nuggets) and a full thing of waffle fries (if you get half, you will regret it, I promise). They have online ordering for all locations and deliver via DoorDash.
If you have not been yet (what are you doing?!), Itaewon Grill is the best Kbbq fusion place in the area (I said what I said). Located near Duke West Campus, Itaewon Grill is a build your own Kbbq (think Korean bbq meats Chipotle). I can’t keep count of how many times I have been, but my entire family has been fans ever since they opened. They have several different protein options (including tofu), and you can also get a combo of two different meats for your bowl. My go-to order is a medium bowl with pulled pork (saucy) on udon noodles (spicy), but I also love their bulgogi and galbijjim. Not enough people talk about their smoothies, but their yuja (honey citron) and muesli (honey plum) smoothies are so fretting and priced very well.
I don’t even think I need to describe Saltbox, but I have to write something so I’ll tell you that it is the best seafood place in Durham (and I’d say in the area as well). I love shrimp, but I actually prefer getting fish at Saltbox. I recently tried their grilled tuna, and it was superb. Pictured here are the bay scallops, flounder roll, and the hush honeys. I will say the hush honeys are a must every time! They are hush puppies but sweeter and superior. Check their Instagram page for daily offerings at both Durham locations. They have online ordering available.
Y’all. I was 27 when I had beef chow fun for the first time, and I cannot believe I let my life be deprived of beef chow fun for so long. Obviously, that is what I suggest you order at Shanghai, but I also really like their shrimp stuffed tofu hot pot. Shoutout to my sisters for introducing me to Shanghai and Jiyoung in particular for forcing me to order beef chow fun! Shanghai is doing takeout and delivery only at this time. Last time I went, they had plexiglass between the customers and employees for pickup. They also have online ordering available.
For their one year anniversary, Sushioki was generous (as they are always) and gave out free sushi burritos. That day, my life was changed forever. Their spicy tuna burrito might be my favorite, but in all honesty, every burrito I have had at Sushioki has been satisfying. I tell everyone who asks (and everyone who doesn’t ask) that their spicy tuna nachos are one of the few life changing foods I have had. You can order via their app which also has a built-in rewards program and sends you limited-time deals. If you want to read my extended thoughts about Sushioki, go check out my Yelp review.
Now with two locations in Durham (9th street and Southpoint), ZenFish is the best poke place in the area (if someone tells you otherwise, don’t trust that person). If you have never been to ZenFish or had poke, I highly suggest getting a regular bowl and spicy tuna, house tuna, and ahi tuna (you can swap out house or ahi for salmon). I basically add all the toppings except edamame and cucumbers. If you don’t like spicy, skip the jalapeños and the gingers. I love the combination of spicy house sauce and truffle ponzu sauce. There are vegetarian, gluten-free, and keto options. ZenFish has online ordering for all three locations, and the 9th street locations offers delivery.
I was very stringent with this list, but there are so many places in Durham I love, so I had to mention some that I think you should check out despite them not being top 10 (which is arbitrary and made up by me). My other Durham favorites include: Accordion Club (breakfast burritos), Geer Street Garden (get the pile), Grub Durham (great, affordable brunch), Eastcut Sandwich (sandwiches!!!), Hutchins Garage (very good pizza), Ko Kyu (fun sandwiches), M Kokko (the ramen is probably my favorite), Pie Pushers (get their breakfast pizza), and Sister Liu’s Dumplings (best dumplings!).