Graduation Guide: Where to eat in Durham

Graduation Guide: Where to eat in Durham

Need help during graduation weekend? College Town has you covered. Here's where to eat in Durham. Congrats, Duke and N.C. Central grads!

Above, one of the small plates at Mateo. Photo by Juli Leonard for the News & Observer.

What better way is there to celebrate graduation than food?

Durham is no stranger to great meals (even if Vogue was a little late to the bandwagon) and there’s still plenty of time to eat them during graduation weekend. Especially when your parents are in town, and especially when they’re picking up the tab.

What makes Durham’s food scene so great is the huge range of eating experiences it offers. Downtown, you’ll find an upscale melting pot of cuisines local and foreign. Tucked into the suburbs of Bull City,  there are cozier restaurants that will blow your mind with authentic flavors and dishes.

Graduating elsewhere? Here’s where to eat in Raleigh and Chapel Hill.

Downtown Durham

If you’re looking to dress up and make a reservation, look no further than downtown Durham. These are some classic spots with menus guaranteed to satisfy picky eaters, whether they be your younger siblings or yourself. Some places to check out are Rue Cler for classic French cuisine cooked with local ingredients.

Mothers and Sons

Squid ink tonnarelli at Mothers and Sons. Photo by Juli Leonard for the News & Observer.

There’s also Mothers and Sons Trattoria, where you’ll find seasonably responsible Italian food. If you’re really just looking for pizza, then Pizzeria Toro might be a better bet.

Pizzeria Toro

Pizzeria Toro. Photo by Harry Lynch for the News & Observer.

Mateo is a tapas restaurant. Need I say more? (Well, maybe: Tapas means small plates in Spanish. You get to order a ton and share it all.)

If you’re not feeling like cuisine from Europe, then M Sushi won’t disappoint. This is not the type of sushi you order in.

Elsewhere in Durham

These restaurants may not be where the action is happening, but that doesn’t mean they’re not creating their own.


Guglhupf. Photo by Pascal Monmoine Photography for the News & Observer.

Guglhupf is a classic German eatery with killer brunch and dinner menus. For morning meals, the Muesli will leave you wanting more. (If you haven’t had Muesli before, it’s like a better version of oatmeal). Their dinner is vegan friendly — a nice surprise for a German place — and expands beyond the typical Bratwurst and huge beer selection. Their mussels, for example, are cooked in a fresh mushroom broth with garlic and basil.

Nana’s is a more American restaurant with a fully seasonable menu. It’ll be hard to decide what to get, since you’ll probably want everything. This is a great place for sharing dishes.

And then there’s Parizade, where it will be equally hard choosing what to eat. My advice? You can never go wrong with roasted Brussels sprouts.

Where to eat the little meals

Eating out can get exhausting, especially when you’re functioning as a group. If you’re looking for some low-key meals that won’t require a suit jacket, check out Old Havana Sandwich Shop and La Cacerola.

Both of these eateries hold a special place in my heart, particularly because their chefs’ heritage shines so brightly through their food. Old Havana Sandwich Shop offers Cuban sandwiches and tapas with pride. They frequently bring the Durham community together over historic Cuban recipes through ticketed dinner events.

La Cacerola is more humble and less frequented by students than the Sandwich Shop, but their Honduran dishes will blow your mind. They wide array of fresh fruit juices are a great pick-me-up in the May heat, too.

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Julia Donheiser

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  • […] The magazine shouts out Duke (noting that James Duke renamed it in 1924 after his dad, Washington Duke) but leaves out N.C. Central. (Boo.) They suggest visitors stay at the 21c Museum Hotel and eat at M Sushi or Nanasteak. (Duke contributor Julia Donheiser likes M Sushi, too, and has some other Durham food suggestions.) […]


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