Loading your recommendations…

Bull City Staples: Legacy Durham Businesses

Estimated Read Time:
4 minutes

A new renaissance is brewing in Durham, but that beauty has been blossoming in business well before this recent resurgence.

Posted By Ashley Strahm

From early tobacco mills to Black Wall Street, Durham's entrepreneurial spirit has never wavered. Durham business owners believe in the potential of the Bull City, and have planted family-owned pharmacies, pioneering insurance companies, banks and more. Here, we celebrate just some of the longtime (15 years old or more!) inns, eateries, and shops in our community that you can enjoy on your next adventure.

Backyard Pit BBQ

Since 2007, Backyard Pit BBQ has been a community fixture for feeding its patrons delicious barbeque and for serving the area by employing people reentering society after incarceration. National Geographic and Yahoo! Travel have featured it.

Blue Corn Cafe

A Ninth Street staple for over 20 years, "Chef Antonio enjoys fusing the flavors of his native country Mexico with authentic flavors from all over the Caribbean and South America."

Bullock's Bar-B-Cue

Bullock's has been smoking and pulling pork since 1952, and is a draw for locals, celebrities, and barbecue lovers everywhere.

Bull City Running

Kim Chapman and Jason Page opened Bull City Running in 2008 as the hub of the local running community. Their focus on customer service, thoughtful advice and quality products keep their customers returning year after year.

Chicken Hut

Have you even had fried chicken 'till you've come to Chicken Hut? This is the epicenter of soul food, serving mac and cheese, collards, and the good stuff for over sixty years.

Currents Cafeteria

For more than five decades, Deborah Craig and Sook Rha have made this hole-in-the-wall stop a place you can enjoy all the Southern classics.


Since 1978, Devine’s has been a foundational Brightleaf Square district staple and Durham restaurant. Sports games, live music, entertainment and great eats and beverages mean great times.


Elmo’s Diner has been a local Durham favorite for more than twenty years, with the vast majority of visitors coming back over, and over again for classic, tried-and-true diner food and a family-friendly atmosphere.

The Federal

This Main Street mainstay just celebrated is 15th anniversary. As the story goes, "in March of 2004, after three guys got together and saw a need for a solid neighborhood bar that celebrated Durham." Over a decade and a half later, they're still going strong.

Foster's Market

In 1990, Sara Foster and her husband, Peter Sellers moved to Durham, North Carolina and opened Foster’s Market, offering seasonal prepared foods to eat in or take out, specialty grocery items, locally roasted coffee and select wines. This local gathering place is a favorite of locals and visitors alike, with eclectic indoor and outdoor spaces.

Guglhupf Bakery, Cafe & Biergarten

Established in 1998, this bakery, cafe and biergarten touts its innovation while serving contemporary cuisine with a nod to its southern German roots, and emphasizing local and seasonal ingredients, pushing cultural influences to modern, progressive limits.

Hamilton Hill

Hamilton Hill has been creating beautiful, timeless, unique pieces of jewelry since 2001, taking up residence in the refurbished mills of Brightleaf Square.

JC's Kitchen

Around 1997, what used to be Parker’s restaurant was converted into a place called Lee’s. A year later, the place was refashioned as J.C.’s ... "Where the food is anointed, you won't be disappointed." Visit for that good, Southern cooking, and stay for the storied history.


Linda McGill started Jewelsmith in 1976 with a vision of creating artistic, handcrafted custom jewelry that could be passed from generation to generation.

King's Sandwich Shop

Clad in concrete red and white, King's has been serving up some of Durham's best hot dogs, burgers, fries and shakes since 1942.


What started as a recognizable vintage van in 2005 is now a beloved family-friendly spot for Mexican-style pops and a wide variety of ice cream flavors. The spot has expanded to include "Sundries," a shop filled with locally made food items and gifts.

Morehead Manor Bed and Breakfast

Owned by Daniel and Monica Edwards, Morehead Manor Bed and Breakfast opened to the public back in 1997 as a staple of African American excellence in hospitality. Each of the four spacious guest rooms have a private bath, and the inn serves complimentary beverages, homemade desserts, and a full breakfast each morning.

Morehead Manor Bed & Breakfast, Durham, NC.

Morehead Manor Bed & Breakfast. Photo: Discover Durham


Durham bid farewell to Nana's, chef Scott Howell's beloved community staple in 2018. Five years later, prolific chef Matt Kelly has taken the helm with plans to resurrect the legendary restaurant.

Ninth Street Bakery

This beloved staple has been serving those beautiful bread and pastry smells since 1981!


Founded in 1984, this casual, Eastern-style barbecue caterer offers fried chicken, hush puppies, Brunswick stew, and other North Carolina classics.


Founded more than 30 years ago, Parizade is the flagship restaurant in legendary restauranteur Giorgios Bakatsias' still-growing legacy of businesses. Diners flock to enjoy this staple's signature service and Mediterranean flavors, and devotees especially look forward to holiday brunch buffets.

The dining room at Parizade in Durham, NC.

Parizade. Photo: Devin Raines / Parizade

Parker and Otis

Lovingly named "PandO" by locals, this stalwart has moved from the Brightleaf District to American Tobacco Campus and remains a trusted source for cookbooks, Durham-themed gifts, specialty food items, a great wine selection and beloved, borderline-addictive sandwich and coffee menus.

The Pinhook

Operating "since 4eva" (2008), The Pinhook is an LGBTQ-friendly bar and venue for music and creative events. Look for touring musical acts, drag shows and "Yolo Karaoke" nights, among many others, at this downtown staple.

Pulcinella's Italian Restaurant

Open since 1994, the owners of Pulcinella's believe that their customers return as regulars because of the professional and friendly staff, excellent service, delicious food, and reasonable prices. This Southern Italian restaurant has been voted best Italian restaurant in Durham five times.

Only Burger

Since 2008, "The only burger you'll ever want!" has gained devoted followers from its food truck to its Shannon Road brick-and-mortar. With numerous titles to Indy Week's Triangle's Best Burger, the quality and simplicity speak for themselves.

Since 1976, this locally owned, independent bookstore has been the source of a diverse array of reading material, thought-provoking speakers and thrilling discourse ... as well as the occasional kitten!

Shanghai Chinese Restaurant

This restaurant has been up and running since the late 1980s, boasting the same ownership for the last 15 years. Chef Ah Lack Wong aims to provide his customers with not only Americanized Chinese food, but also authentic Cantonese cuisine to those who want a little taste of China.

Super Taqueria and La Superior

In 2001, Rosalia Flores opened Super Taqueria on North Roxboro Road. a Mexican immigrant, Flores said that nobody would rent property to her so she secured a loan from the Mechanics and Farmers Bank, a Black-owned bank, and built the restaurant herself. Her food made the restaurant such a success that just four years later, she expanded to open a large supermarket, La Superior, which includes a panaderia, taqueria and tortilleria where shoppers can buy hot, fresh tortillas right off the press.


Toast has been serving the downtown lunch crowd hot and cold Italian-style sandwiches, salads, homemade soups and crostini with a friendly smile since 2008. Owner Kelli Cotter is behind the register most days, and you'll know you've achieved 'local' status when she remembers you by name.

Trinkets to make you smile, shoes to step lightly in, postcards to send to loved ones ... you'll find it all at this shop tucked between shops on bustling Ninth Street, offering brilliant boutique finds since 1982.

Vert & Vogue

Downtown boutique Vert & Vogue was founded in 2008 over founders Ryan and Nadira Hurley's mutual love of fashion. They met in a Paris boutique and were inspired by independent designers' mindfully-made designs. Now a B Corporation, the shop's immaculate selection and top-notch service are bolstered by its commitment to conscious sourcing.

The Washington Duke Inn first opened its doors in 1988 to serve the communities of Duke University and Durham. The hotel is named for industrialist and philanthropist Washington Duke (1820-1905), who would go on to found one of the earliest entrepreneurial ventures in the Bull City — the American Tobacco Company. The Inn features beautiful terraces, an amazing golf course, and meeting, conference, and wedding spaces.

Long live these flavors and wares of Durham!

About the Author

Ashley Strahm

Jersey roots, Durham fruits. Lover of all things edible, egalitarian and true. Find me clad in Birkenstocks, seeking Bull City Beautiful stories by trail, wheel and spoke.