Cinco de Mayo: Durham’s Mexican-owned Restaurants
Come hungry for classic Mexican dishes and regional favorites.
The Bull City’s diverse roots run deep, and the history, culture, and stories of our residents give Durham life. The Hispanic and Latino/a community in Durham has roots originating in 33 countries, each with distinct histories and languages. As we celebrate Cinco de Mayo, a day widely observed in the U.S., we want to honor the rich heritage of Mexican culture. If you’re visiting Durham or just wanting to get out and celebrate, wonderful. Let’s take a moment to explore the history of the holiday and check out some local Mexican-owned businesses that you can support.
Cinco de Mayo is not a holiday to mark Mexican Independence as pop culture might have you believe. It’s also not just a day to fill up on Mexican beer. Instead, it represents the powerful victory of an underdog and their unexpected win over European colonizers. It’s meant to commemorate the Battle of Puebla, which was fought between the Mexican and French armies in 1862. With half the numbers of their opponents, the Mexican Army won, proving their strength and sending a powerful message to the rest of the world.
This Cinco de Mayo, we can show our love for our neighbors in the South and in Durham by learning how Mexican culture has shaped the U.S. and by supporting local Mexican-owned businesses. Here’s a list of some of the Mexican immigrant-owned restaurants in Durham that we love.
2000 Avondale Dr. Durham, NC 27704
The Morales family opened up La Monarca Michoacana, a traditional paletería serving Mexican-style popsicles and ice cream, to bring a taste of their home in Mexico to Durham. Known for its consistency and fresh ingredients, La Monarca, a style of ice cream, is wildly popular throughout Mexico. This ice cream is made in-house with fruit and ingredients sourced from local vendors.
Head on over for a sweet treat or two, and enjoy flavors like Coco Bongo and Pina Colada Mimada. If you can’t decide between popsicles or ice cream, just get both.
748 9th St. Durham, NC 27705
Located on Ninth Street, Mi Calvillo is run by mother-daughter team Esmerelda and Valeria Lopez. The food you’ll get at Mi Calvillo is the same as Esmerelda’s hometown of Calvillo in Central Mexico.
Enjoy their wide selection of tacos and other entrees like gorditas, tortas, sopes, pozole, menudo, tacos, chicken flautas, enchiladas, quesadillas, and much more.
2842 N Roxboro St. Durham, NC 27704 | 3325 N Roxboro St. Durham, NC 27704
In 1990, Roselia Flores left Mexico and journeyed to California. Eight years later, she found herself in Durham with a dream.
In 2001, she was able to secure grants and a loan from Mechanics & Farmers bank, a historically Black-owned community bank, to open a restaurant that would help Latinos succeed and integrate into the greater Durham community. Super Taqueria, which continues to operate today, serves tacos and other authentic Mexican food. As Durham’s Hispanic population grew, so did Flores’ business. Years later, she opened La Superior, an expansive Latino grocery, bakery, meat shop, and tortilleria. You can visit both locations on Roxboro Street.
3411 University Dr. Durham, NC 27707
Marco Ginez Ramos is from the Puebla region in Mexico. He has more than eighteen years of experience in Mexican and Italian cuisine.
He opened Tacos Nacos, also known as Don Gallo, so Durhamites can enjoy good food and the flavors of Mexico. Head on over for authentic Mexican food which includes delicious homemade tortillas.
2013 Chapel Hill Road Durham, NC 27707
Areli Barrera de Grodski was born in Tijuana, Mexico. She moved to San Antonio as a child and then later wound up in Cherokee, NC. In 2011, Areli and her husband Leon moved to Durham with $75 in their bank account and hopes for a community-centered coffee shop that would reflect their values of inclusion, diversity, activism, and tradition. They started with a custom-made coffee bike and now have opened three successful coffee shops and a coffee roasting business.
For amazing coffee, hot chocolate, and churros, head to Cocoa Cinnamon’s third location in the Lakewood neighborhood. You will find nods to Areli’s Mexican background in the bilingual menus, signage, and brightly patterned decor and tile work.
2103 N Roxboro St. Durham, NC 27704
When you see the sign with a smiling chili pepper wearing a sombrero, you know you’ve made it to the right place for authentic Mexican food. Guanajuato has many different dishes from Mexican classics to regional favorites. Try their bistec encebollado, steak with onions, and menudo, a traditional Mexican soup. The menus are in Spanish, but they have an English version by request.
2301 N Roxboro St. Durham, NC 27704
The phrase “hidden gem” gets thrown around a lot, but Don Becerra Taqueria certainly qualifies. Javier Becerra moved to Durham from Michoacan, Mexico. In 2003, Javier opened a butcher shop and started serving sheep barbacoa tacos on Saturday mornings. His tacos were so popular that he opened a restaurant attached to the store.
Stop by the butcher shop and restaurant for tacos and a fresh cut of meat.
Next to Major the Bull in the heart of downtown, the fiberglass cow on the roof is easily the most iconic bovine in Durham. La Vaquita, also affectionately known as “The Cow Store,” is a source of amazing burritos, tacos, and more. The Rodriguez brothers, who own the taqueria, are from Veracruz, Mexico. They grew up in a family that loves cooking, and it shows.
If your favorite spot isn’t listed, it’s either because they didn’t meet the criteria for a Mexican-owned restaurant or we simply missed them. Know of another amazing Durham restaurant owned by someone from Mexico? Please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.