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Durham Hidden Gems You Should Discover

Estimated Read Time:
5 minutes

It’s not hard to find top-notch food, entertainment, and retail in Durham. But if you’re looking for the hidden gems — tucked away eateries, boutiques, and outdoor sanctuaries — you'll have to dig a little deeper.

Posted By Discover Durham Staff

Get ready to expand your Bull City horizons and explore new-to-you retail, entertainment, restaurants, and outdoor spots. We polled our staff and scoured comments from our loyal @DurhamNC social media followers and the r/bullcity subreddit users to learn their favorite secret-spot restaurants, not-so-obvious stellar finds, and one-of-a-kind finds (did you know that we have a tuba museum?) so that you can discover Durham's most beloved, authentic experiences on your next adventure.

Banh’s Cuisine

If it’s cash-only you know it’s good. This hole-in-the-wall restaurant on Ninth Street offers fresh flavors from Vietnam and China, and nearly everything on the menu is under $10. Go on a Wednesday or Saturday for expanded Vietnamese offerings.


Welcome to... Jurassic Par- well, not quite. But there is a 77-ft long fiberglass dinosaur along Ellerbee Creek Trail. You know it’s a hidden gem when it says “Durham’s hidden dinosaur” on Google Maps. The sauropod was even featured in Atlas Obscura.

Bull City Running Co. Store

If you've been wondering where to get that ‘RUN DRM’ swag, you've come to the right place. Voted best running store in the Triangle by Indy Week, this retailer is “dedicated to building a community of runners and walkers”.

La Cacerola Taqueria

La Cacerola Taqueria is a Honduran restaurant near the Walltown neighborhood. “We take everyone we know to La Cacerola,” wrote Reddit user Smokeahontas. “Get the guacamole and the pickled vegetables!”

Chicken Hut

It might be controversial to say one of the oldest restaurants in Durham is a hidden gem, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t know about the Chicken Hut.

Located on Fayetteville Street, this cash-only, 60-year-old soul food restaurant is known for its mouthwatering fried chicken. You can also find barbecue, collards, and more Southern staples depending on the day of the week.

Crafts and Drafts NC

This woman-founded venture was the passion project of Virginia George, who left a tech job to bring her dream to fruition. This D.I.Y. bar endeavors to "bring communities together through creative exploration and continuous learning." Here, you can get a craft set or bring your own to share a drink and a creative experience with friends or family. Kids are invited too!

Dulce Cafe and Gelato

Located in south Durham at Sutton Station, this delectable spot earned this Yelp review: "Oh. My. God. So delicious. Why did I wait so long?? Their BLAT (bacon lettuce AVOCADO toast) is to die for. Their cobb salad? Perfection. All of their breakfast items also look amazing. And their portion sizes are VERY generous. Nothing to complain about here."

Dulce Cafe and Gelato 

The Green Room

Looking for an old-school pool hall? Check out The Green Room on Broad Street. They have billiards, shuffleboard, darts, foosball, and beer. There’s a common misconception that this is the same pool hall that was featured in the movie “Bull Durham.” The one that was featured in the film was across the street, but the current location has the same vibes.

Home Plate Restaurant

Open since 1995, Home Plate Restaurant serves cafeteria-style Southern cooking with a variety of entrees and sides.

King's Red & White

King's Red & White has been a family-owned fixture of Durham since 1956. This market has a fantastic butcher shop along with a ton of local products and amazing service.

The Mad Popper

Pop on over to The Mad Popper, Durham's local gourmet popcorn shop. They pop fresh popcorn daily and cover it in over 40 different flavors ranging from sweet to deliciously savory.

The Mad Popper-1 

Mediterranean Grill and Grocery

The falafel will melt in your mouth here. Hidden away in the Parkwood neighborhood since 2014, this spot is owned by three men who are committed to made-from-scratch gyros, baklava, and other Mediterranean delicacies.

Melo Trattoria & Tapas

Here, there's drool-worthy Italian cuisine with Spanish influences tucked away in a strip mall. You'll find classics like Bolognese and spaghetti alla puttanesca, along with a globally inspired tapas menu.

Pop's Backdoor Pizza and Calzones

In a strip mall in South Durham, you'll find what some say is the best pizza in the Bull City. Our advice is to check out the lunch specials. You'll find some great deals.

Queen George's Ginger

Once you eat and drink your way through Durham, you're going to want to take something home with you to remember your trip. Look for Queen George's Ginger in specialty food stores like Parker & Otis, Bulldega or Sundries at LocoPops, or buy it from the source at Lil' Farm's stand at the Farmers' Market. Use it to stock your bar or bake and cook with it. The farm fresh ginger flavor will add a satisfying zing to any recipe.

Quickly Tea House

When owner Jackie Zhou moved to Durham, she... quickly started her search for great boba in the Bull City and decided to open her own shop. In addition to boba, you can get snacks like popcorn chicken and gyoza.

Rubies on Five Points

Rubies on Five Points is a must for any dive bar fan. Basking in a red glow, you can find quirky artwork, live music, dance parties and great drink specials.

Satellite Park

Next to the Duke Arts Annex on Gattis St, you'll find a unique art exhibit. Inside Durham's Burch Avenue Neighborhood, there were a bunch of decommissioned satellite dishes from Duke Tel Com department in the 90s. Instead of sending them to the scrap heap, organizers turned them into a work of art. Each satellite was painted by a different local artist. The park is open from dawn until dusk.

Sennett Hole

Although its official name is Sennett Hole, it’s more commonly known as Turtle Hole. It’s an almost 2-mile round trip through the woods from West Point on the Eno City Park so be prepared for a trek. This is also a destination you DO NOT want to get the directions for on Google Maps. Check out this map for directions to Turtle Hole.

For those of you who might be worried that we just spoiled your favorite secret swimming hole, fear not. People have been posting photos of Turtle Hole on Instagram for years.

Sister Liu's Kitchen

This tiny homestyle Chinese restaurant tucked into a shopping center next to Namu is a hidden gem in the truest sense of the word. It has earned national acclaim from Bon Appetit's Best New Restaurants list for its handmade dumplings, and remained a local favorite for its noodle bowls and "Chinese burgers."


You might've seen this spot while zooming along Chapel-Hill Blvd, and it's time you swung by. At Sitar, you'll find Indian cuisine with live music on Friday and Saturday nights. Gluten-free and vegan dishes are available, and they just opened up a new patio.

Thai Spoon

Tucked away in a shopping center, Thai Spoon serves classic Thai dishes. "So good, food is made to order, prices are reasonable," wrote Facebook user Liz Stabenow.

The Vince and Ethel Simonetti Historic Tuba Museum

Imagine: five rooms filled with 328 instruments procured from around the world by a passionate, knowledgeable couple. Come for the atmosphere, but stay for the vast expertise and storytelling about this musical behemoth invented in 1835. Vince joined the NC Symphony in the middle of the 20th century after discovering the tuba after playing trumpet as a younger musician. He and Ethel never looked back, and now, you get to reap the benefits of tubas everywhere.

Vince & Ethel Simonetti show off thier historic tuba collection in Durham, NC.

You might be thinking at this point, "Where do I even begin?" The good news is that you can't go wrong with any of these choices. But, what would be smart to decide first, is where to stay. Check out our 70+ lodging options, ranging from AAA Four Diamond properties and locally owned boutique hotels to convenient spots along major thoroughfares and other bed and breakfasts off the beaten path.

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Discover Durham Staff