Hottest New Restaurants, Bars, and Bakeries in Durham
We got you on all the newest restaurant openings in Durham. Through a partnership with local favorite, Amber Watson of Bites of Bull City, a new season of treats awaits.
Winter is sometimes a slower season for restaurant openings but Durham’s expanding food scene has proved otherwise this year. This might be the longest recap yet, mentioning 18 new establishments to visit and order tasty treats like burgers, bowls, beer, baked goods, and brewed coffee. With so many new places to try this winter, it’s easier than ever to eat local for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night.
359 Blackwell St., Ste. 125
There’s been an influx of new openings at American Tobacco Campus (ATC) in recent months, including the highly anticipated addition of QueenBurger, owned by the folks behind Kingfisher Bar and Queeny’s on E. Chapel Hill St. Queen Burger’s menu is simple, and so are the ingredients, and that’s exactly what makes these smash burgers shine: farm-raised, grass-fed beef with local cheese, house-made pickles, and special sauce. For vegetarians, their smashed beet burger is a must. And who could resist those shoestring fries with the perfect amount of seasoning?
318 Blackwell St.
The space that previously housed Cuban Revolution at ATC has been revived as the exciting new location for Five Star Chinese Restaurant. Five Star has been open in Raleigh for over 20 years, so they know a thing or two about creating good vibes and a great menu! Like the Raleigh location, the interior space features street art, modern wallpaper and Asian art, and the menu is a mixture of traditional Asian dishes along with some featuring a modern twist. A new addition to the Durham location is a lunch menu available for dine-in or pickup for hungry daytime visitors to ATC. You can’t go wrong with their Heat Seeker Shrimp, Five Star Generals Chicken, and Crispy Sesame Beef, or an order of their new soup dumplings (xiao long bao). The cocktail menu features sake, Asian and local beer, wine, and cocktails.
The Waiting Room
300 Blackwell St., Ste. 100
The oldest commercial building in downtown Durham (the Old Bull Building) at ATC is now home to a cool new speakeasy-inspired cocktail bar, restaurant and lounge, The Waiting Room. Here, you’ll find a cocktail menu that’s front and center with signature creations, seasonal sips, and classic staples, paired with artisan small plates and desserts to enjoy while waiting for your night in downtown Durham to begin or end.
110 N. Corcoran St.
The corner of Corcoran Street is buzzing once again with the recent opening of La Mala — a modern Mexican cocktail bar. The owners, who also run La Santa Mexican Modern Mexican Food & Margarita Bar in Raleigh, wanted to bring a bit of their culture and hospitality to Durham, offering bar snacks featuring flavors from Mexican street food along with some of their own family recipes, and made-to-order drinks using freshly squeezed fruits and a large collection of high-quality tequilas.
706 Ramseur St.
For more great Mexican food and drinks, head over to the newest location of Mezcalito. This small North Carolina chain is all about providing the perfect blend of flavor and fun with Tex-Mex dishes like enchiladas, fajitas, seafood platters, tacos, and an extensive bar menu featuring a wide array of mezcal, tequila, and margaritas. The portions are huge and so are the drinks! The restaurant and bar boasts a bright and lively atmosphere along with a large outdoor patio — the perfect place to hang out with friends for a fun night out in Durham.
Sabor Latin Street Grill
105 West NC Hwy 54, Ste. 201
In South Durham, get a taste of fresh and delicious Latin American street food at the newest location of Sabor Latin Street Grill, a small, NC-based, regional chain that was first established in Charlotte in 2013. This fast-casual spot effectively blends the culture and cuisines of the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, and El Salvador with a menu featuring options like fresh-made arepas, gorditas, empanadas, quesadillas, tacos, and sides like plátanos, yuca fries, and guacamole.
3105 Shannon Rd., Ste. 103
The newest tenant at the UHill development, Bul Box, focuses on customizable and signature healthy boxes loaded with Asian flare and worldly flavors. This is their fifth location in the Triangle, proving this fast-casual trend is on the rise. It’s easy to see why with proteins like bulgogi beef, teriyaki and ginger chicken, poke, and tofu topped with flavorful and fresh ingredients like kimchi, pickled carrots, roasted veggies, spicy cucumber, and so much more.
Navigator Beverage Co.
3219 Watkins Rd, Ste. 200
When one bottle shop closes a door, another door opens. That’s the case for the space which was formerly Bottle 501 in the plaza conveniently located between Durham and Chapel Hill on 15-501. Navigator Beverage Co. is a brand-new neighborhood bottle shop and wine bar, serving 12 beers on draft, wine by the glass or bottle, as well a creative selection of non-alcoholic drinks and mocktails. The modern, airy, wood-toned atmosphere at Navigator is both sophisticated and comfortable — making it a great new hangout for unwinding or enjoying weekly events like music bingo!
108 E. Main St.
Looking for a place that combines your love of e-gaming with your love of local craft beer? Durham’s got that! Bad Machines Esports Bar is one of the first esports bars in North Carolina and features a full bar serving craft beer and cocktails influenced by favorite game characters. Order an “Old Man Logan” Marvel-inspired cocktail while watching exciting esporting events, including recorded live competitive exhibition matches on stage, or hanging out in the gamers lounge equipped with consoles (and some arcades), so you can kick back and play games of your own.
The Daily Beer Bar
108 E. Main St.
The best of both worlds can be found at the independently owned café/bar combo, The Daily Beer Bar, which is located in the same building as Bad Machines. This hip new spot has it all: coffee and breakfast pastries from local bakeries in the morning; salads, sandwiches, and snacks featuring local ingredients for lunch; and a rotating selection of craft beer, wine, and other drinks into the evening.
New World Café
701 W. Main Ste., Ste. 130
New World Café, which has expanded to the Bull City from Raleigh, is a cheery and health-conscious café in the newly renovated Chesterfield building, a corner location with a large patio that’s perfect for people-watching in downtown’s Brightleaf district. The menu features coffee sourced from Black & White Roaster and Counter Culture, along with nutritious acai bowls, avocado toast, locally baked pastries, and hearty breakfast and lunch sandwiches.
300 Morris St., Ste. 101
What makes 321 Coffee, which recently opened in Durham’s ID development, so admirable is its commitment to demonstrating the value of an inclusive business model — they truly embrace their tagline: “people-focused coffee.” This local coffee shop and roaster, which also has two locations in Raleigh, employs over 50 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their attention and care extends to the product as well — they partner with De La Finca Coffee Importers, which specializes in direct-trade relationships with coffee farmers in countries like Honduras and Colombia. 321 also recently shared exciting news that they will be opening their very own coffee roasting facility.
810 9th St., Ste. 130
A new Asian café and bakery, Wheat, has taken ownership of the large corner lot on 9th Street that was most recently occupied by Secrets Pho & Noodle Bar. The good news is that warm noodle bowls are a central part of Wheat’s menu as well. In this casual sit-down atmosphere, you can enjoy noodle soups with braised or spicy beef, pork belly, chicken gizzard, intestine, or seafood. And if you have room for dessert, try some of their delightful spongy and sweet baked goods like taro soufflé cheesecake, strawberry cake rolls, mousse cake, and egg tarts.
Bull City Sweet Shoppe
2022 Angier Ave.
This charming East Durham spot is your hub for sweet tooth satisfaction. Bull City Sweet Shoppe’s cakes, cake pops, cookies, pies, cotton candy, caramel apples, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and gourmet popcorn make great treats for a little self-indulgence, as well as gifts for family, friends, and coworkers. Most of the shoppe’s confections are made in-house; they also team up with other Black-owned local bakers, such as Royal Cheesecakes & Varieties, to add even more sugary splendor to the menu.
Salt N Cocoa
1125 NC-54, Ste. 204
What was formerly Sweet Charlie’s rolled ice cream shop in Hope Valley Commons has become Salt N Cocoa, a dessert shop and café with a similar theme. The casual modern vibe of the shop remains intact, along with the core of the menu, which focuses on Thai-style rolled ice cream. They’ve now added organic coffee, soft serve ice cream, and Asian treats like made-to-order taiyaki: fish-shaped waffles with your choice of filling like red bean, custard, or Nutella.
Ashleigh Bakes Daily
3117 Guess Rd., Ste. E
A true hidden gem, this homemade, small-batch cookie company is located in an adorable shed-café behind Crafts & Drafts in North Durham. This one-woman operation is a dream come true for local minority owner, Ashleigh Ratchford, who grew her business and reputation over time with support from the local community. And it’s easy to see why they rallied around her — the cookies are irresistible, soft and chunky, filled with bits of cookies, chocolate chips, and sprinkles. She also plans to bake and sell other seasonal and special desserts like homemade brownies and fruit cobbler.
Bull City Bake Shop
3604 Witherspoon Blvd., Ste. 109
Sweet treats are all the rage these days! Another new, minority and female-owned bakeshop opened recently in the Patterson Place Plaza. With friendly service and scratch-made treats like caramel apple cinnamon rolls, filled cupcakes, rich brownies, creative cookies, and even a nod to Durham’s history with their signature “Black Wallstreet Cake:” dark chocolate cake, raspberry filling, chocolate buttercream, topped with ganache and whipped cream, you’ll want to make Bull City Bake Shop a regular stop while out running errands or shopping at nearby stores.
Lady Bird Tacos
347 W. Main St.
A pop-up taqueria stationed outside The Remedy Room in downtown Durham is serving up Austin-style breakfast tacos in the mornings and Los Angeles/Michoacán-style tacos and other offerings like birria fries at night. Lady Bird’s main owners are Mexican and hail from Texas and California; they are bringing a true taste of the Southwest and West Coast to the streets of Durham, and the word is out! The taco cart is open for breakfast tacos 8 a.m.-noon, and lunch and dinner tacos from noon-midnight, Monday-Friday. They hope to open a brick-and-mortar spot in the future.
What could be better than starting off the new year by visiting all the new restaurants, bake shops, and bars that have recently popped up? Proof that 2023 is off to a stellar start.