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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.

Blue Corn Cafe

A Ninth Street staple for more than 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.

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 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 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.

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.

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.


After bidding farewell nine months ago, ostensibly for good, owner and chef Scott Howell decided to reopen beloved community staple Nana’s, one of Durham’s most influential restaurants over the past two decades.

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 caterers offering fried chicken, hush puppies, Brunswick stew, and other North Carolina classics.

Patterson's Mill Country Store

Take Home NC History at Patterson's Mill Patterson's Mill Country Store
Photo by @Michael Gillman Photography

This shop and historical museum is full of treasures. The Patterson's Mill Country Store has been open since 1973, but the memorabilia and artifacts displayed in the aisles and on the walls are a tribute to the original 1870s Patterson & Company Store.

Pulcinella Italian Restaurant

Open since 1994, the owners of Pulcinelle 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.

The Regulator Bookshop

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.

Vaguely Reminiscent

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.

Washington Duke Inn

The Washington Duke Inn first opened its doors in 1988 to serve both the communities of both 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, and 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.