Located in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, Durham is an evolving city. Best known as the home to Duke University, Durham has been experiencing growth, transition, and change in recent years—all in hopes of revitalizing the area. Revitalization can come with many hardships and ramifications, such as displacement and branding issues. The simultaneous discomforts and opportunities of a quickly growing city can produce some uncertainties, and with so many people relocating to Durham, many natives of the city are concerned about Durham becoming unfamiliar, or even, straying from its roots.
While the rebranding of Durham, NC prompts many complicated conversations, the city itself has both old and new businesses that deserve recognition and attention. In celebration of Durham’s rich history, here a few local businesses that strive to keep Durham a mecca of artistry, history, diversity, and growth.
Opening in 2009, just as Durham was beginning to become a hot-spot for new development, the Beyù Caffè is a coffee shop, restaurant, bar, and live jazz club. Located on Five Points, this restaurant is a representation of strong community ties. The owner hopes to bring people of all races, backgrounds, and experiences together, with its Southern comfort food, rich ties to Durham’s history, and eclectic role as a great location for food, drinks, and music. With its exposed brick walls and artistic murals, Beyù Caffè is both cozy, inviting, and upbeat.
Mateo Bar de Tapas
Housed in the old Book Exchange building and very close to Five Points, Mateo Bar de Tapas is a lovely place to grab drinks and small plates. Chef Matthew Kelly combines Spanish cuisine with ingredients and dishes of popular Southern fare, offering dishes with North Carolina favorites such as fried chicken, NC clams, and crabs. While, admittedly, I did leave hungry, the drinks were great and the food was fantastic [as an appetizer, not a real meal]. Even more, the atmosphere is a blend of preserved architecture and modern aesthetic.
Parker and Otis
A restaurant and gift shop combination (think fancy Cracker Barrel) located in historic downtown Durham, Parker and Otis serves breakfast and lunch, seven days a week. Staying true to their North Carolina heritage, Parker and Otis use locally-sourced products from cities such as Hillsborough and Julian, NC. In their gift shop, they sell other North Carolina goodies from shops based in Wilmington and Winston-Salem—to name a few. The restaurant serves a Southern/New American cuisine fusion.
Saltbox Seafood Joint
Seafood in an urban area has some interesting flare, and at Saltbox Seafood, Chef Ricky Moore highlights the importance of local, fresh seafood—which is hard to come by when you’re not on the coast. Inspired by waterside seafood shacks, Chef Moore has created a popular seafood joint that intersects coastal Carolina culture with the Triangle lifestyle. The availability of seafood and shellfish does depend on the fishermen’s catch, which means that the menu changes daily. These changes are handwritten on a chalkboard everyday. If you’re a displaced coastal native, Saltbox Seafood Joint is just the meal you need in the Triangle.
While these are just a few suggestions of restaurants to check out in Durham, these places highlight the spirit of North Carolina and its rich essence, history, and diversity.