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Hottest New Durham Restaurants – Summer 2023 Update

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.

Durham’s weather isn’t the only thing heating up around here—our city’s food scene has welcomed some seriously hot new bars and restaurants this season. Well-known Triangle chefs and restauranteurs expanded their portfolio, a food truck turned into an instant storefront sensation and a new dog-friendly rooftop bar and lounge are just a few of the latest.

The Velvet Hippo

119 Orange St.

On weekends, you don’t have to leave Fido behind when visiting this new neighborhood bar downtown. The Velvet Hippo, an homage to the owner’s love of dogs, offers a breezy rooftop oasis with a view, glistening signature cocktails, boozy slushes, draft IPAs, small bites and fun events like karaoke. “Yappy Hours” are Saturday and Sunday, 12-6 p.m. Since dogs are not permitted indoors, they get their very own VIP staircase. Star treatment for all!

Lonerider Distillery & Taproom

708 Ramseur St.

Lonerider’s unconventional taproom and distillery is the brainchild of owners Sumit Vohra and Chris Mielke, who wondered what would happen if a craft brewery expanded into the “Wild West” of the spirits market. With award-winning cask-aged bourbons and spirits at a spacious indoor/outdoor distillery taproom in the heart of Durham, it definitely seems to be working.

Szechuan Mansion Hotpot

746 Ninth St.

Attention hotpot fans: A Cary favorite has expanded, opening a second location close to Duke. A warm and welcoming interior features rows of hotpot tables where you can share an interactive dining experience with a group or on a date—each person dips and cooks their own thinly sliced meat, chopped vegetables and seafood in a delicious, seasoned broth. This location also has a few tables outside. And for even more filling and flavorful Szechuan dishes, check out their take-out menu with appetizers, soups, spicy dry and boiled pots and traditional Szechuan desserts.

Twisted Ladder

8 Davis Dr.

This bright, airy, casual, counter-service café is new to Research Triangle Park (RTP), and features handcrafted bowls, salads, sandwiches, toasts, smoothies and sweet treats. It’s a perfect location for business lunch meetings, catching up with a friend, or grabbing a happy hour beer before heading home.

Isaac’s Bagels

1003 W. Chapel Hill St.

This bagel popup started three years ago as a pandemic pivot and became so popular it earned itself a permanent spot in the Bull City breakfast scene. When the brick-and-mortar opened, a line formed down the street, so it’s safe to say people are excited to be eating Issacs’s on the regular. It’s easy to see why, with fully loaded bagels in classic flavors and more adventurous kinds like fiery Szechuan chili, scratch made whipped cream cheese, along with breakfast sandwiches that will continue to expand on the menu, and opened-faced sandwiches with toppings like lox, tomatoes, ricotta and jam.


905 W. Main St., Unit 21B

It’s nice to see local restaurants reviving vacant spaces in Brightleaf Square, including Nikos, the latest to open by Giorgio’s Hospitality Group. This lively Mediterranean eatery includes a cozy patio nestled along the historic brick street. It pays homage to Giorgio Bakatsia’s history here—a revival of one of his former restaurants, Niko’s Greek Taverna, which was in this area many years ago. Delicious small meze and larger plates embracing ancient flavors from Greece and its surrounding regions are perfect for sharing around a table with friends.

Chibanga’s Neighborhood Market

506 N. Mangum St., #103

More than your average convenience store, Chibanga’s is locally owned and carries local goods as well, like Mad Popper’s popcorn, Carolina Kettle Chips, and Everlou Coffee. You can also count on them to carry classic variety store must-haves, such as beer (including locals like Ponysaurus and Fullsteam), wine, soda, chips, cookies, and soon, local veggies and frozen meat from a local farm, and frozen hatch burritos from Gocciolina. They are also dog-friendly and always open to suggestions about what you’d like to see added to their shelves.

Meyer's Fine Food & Good Times Food Truck

Mobile Food Truck

Jewish-Southern fare—this is food truck cuisine we haven’t seen before, including loaded latkes, stuffed hushpuppies, Jewish burritos, bologna burgers and waffle dogs. Meyer’s mobile truck will open in August during Saturdays at Saxapahaw summer series, followed by Northgate Park’s Food Truck Rodeo. The truck is the prequel to local chef Joe Shwartz’s larger concept Max Jr.’s, a sausage bar and biergarten coming to Brightleaf Square fall 2023.

Torero's Mexican Restaurant

604 Fernway Dr.

Torero's Mexican Restaurant, a beloved, family-friendly Durham staple for authentic Mexican cuisine since 1993, reopened in the Warehouse District/West Village apartment building following a move from its original location on the corner of Main and Duke Street in the Brightleaf area. You’ll have to visit often to make your way through their huge menu with equally large portions.

Little Bull

810 N. Mangum St.

Chef Oscar Diaz refined his cooking skills at Alizé, a Michelin-starred French restaurant in Las Vegas, before making his mark in Raleigh at Jose and Sons and Cortez Seafood + Cocktail. Eager to bring his unique fusion of Mexican/American cuisine to Durham, he opened Little Bull in the former Jetplane Coffee space. It now boasts a homey bar serving seasonal cocktails, interesting dishes cooked over live fire, and a sleek, cozy outdoor patio that creates the perfect ambiance for a place that aims to offer diners something special.

Chef Oscar Diaz's Little Bull restaurant in Durham, NC.

Little Bull. Photo: Little Bull

Congress Bar & Café

471 S. Driver St.

East Durham is becoming an exciting hub for Black-owned businesses. The owner of Rofhiwa Book Café purchased a building blocks away, where they opened a beautiful bar and breakfast shop, Congress Café. This spot is a neighborhood hangout, both morning and night, where you can enjoy casual drinks and live music.

Mike D’s BBQ Smokehouse & Retail

455 S. Driver St.

Congress Café shares a magical courtyard between old brick buildings with Mike D’s BBQ Smokehouse and Retail, where you can grab platters of his award-winning smoked BBQ and sides, spices and rubs Wednesday-Sunday.

There’s still time to capture the final days of summer at all of these inviting restaurants and bars. Whether you’re looking for rooftop socializing, solitude in a quiet café, or a unique group dining experience, Durham doesn’t disappoint.

Coming Soon

Playa Bowls – Opening August 2023

744B Ninth St.

You don’t have to be at the beach to enjoy refreshing tropical vibes from this healthy eats franchise specializing in acai, pitaya, coconut bowls, smoothies, cold brews and cold press juices. Their fun and funky Ninth Street location will open soon.

Durham Beer Garden – Opening September 2023

812 N. Mangum St.

A laid-back, outdoor grassy oasis sits tucked away next to Little Bull restaurant and will soon become the spot for a fun beer garden, bottle shop and event space. Keep an eye out for updates on the Durham Beer Garden’s fall opening.

Common Market – Opening August/Sept 2023

1821 Green St.

This successful Charlotte-based deli, bar and bottle shop is ready to bring its funky charm to the Bull City very soon. The Common Market in Durham will be a split-level, food hall-type setting with the ground floor dedicated to an all-day bodega-style vegetarian and vegan-friendly deli and a local coffee and beloved Durham ice cream maker, The Parlour! The basement level will boast a bar and bottle shop with craft beer and wine and the market itself will sell snacks and small giftable retail items. Mixed seating styles and a wide array of offerings will make this Ninth Street spot a welcome addition to the area.

Bull City Confectionaries – Opening Sept. 2, 2023

1912 E. NC-54

What began over eight years ago as a way of simply sharing a bit of sweetness and gratitude with family, friends and teachers at her daughters’ school, became a full-fledged business for owner Nasira Abdur-Razzaq. Her mouth-watering mini bundt cakes come in flavors like Triple Strawberry, French Toast, Honey Bun Cake and Rainbow Confetti. With a grand opening planned for September 2, 2023, customers will soon be able to order and enjoy these Bull City bundts and other treats from a physical storefront location.

Other Recent Openings

Lula & Sadie's | 2022 Chapel Hill Rd.

What started out serving soulful Southern dishes at the Durham Food Hall is now operating a full-fledged restaurant and bar in the Lakewood neighborhood. For brunch, lunch and dinner, Lula and Sadie’s offers modern, seasonal twists on classics like chicken and dumplings, Nashville hot chicken sandwiches, “Louisiana” red beans and rice, and chicken and red velvet waffles. It’s great to see this historic eatery, which features a small rooftop patio, return to life led by local chef Harry Monds. Stay tuned for what they plan to offer in the adjacent space with a focus on takeout and delivery.

Durham Food Hall Updates | 530 Foster St., Ste. 1

Mango Indian Grill, run by the owners of CholaNad restaurant in Chapel Hill, Priya and Mathi Pothiyappan. Now you can get platters of dosa, tikka or channa masala, mango curry, or saag paneer over rice with two sides and naan for a filling lunch or dinner in downtown Durham.

Corner Yaki Here, you’ll find a menu of Asian-inspired dishes made with North Carolina ingredients, such as bao buns with roasted pork belly or Fox Farm and Forage mushrooms; dumplings with braised Firsthand Foods short ribs or Joyce Farms ground chicken, and bowls with teriyaki chicken or tofu.

Milklab specializes in organic boba milk tea and has two other locations in Durham. They offer a long list of beautiful and delicious drinks, including rose milk tea, Thai milk tea, matcha latte milk cap, strawberry milk cap, and fruit teas with mango, kiwi, and yuzu.

Leroy's Tacos | 900 Park Offices Dr.

Based on their popular status at Boxyard RTP, it’s clear the folks behind Lawrence Barbecue know a thing or two about smoked meats. After receiving a huge response from the local foodie community for their birria tacos, owner Jake Wood decided to go all-in and open up Leroy’s Tacos right next door, offering signature smoked brisket birria and quesabirria tacos, carne asada, and carnitas on the regular. This new concept has all the fun vibes in a nostalgic 90s-themed atmosphere.

Ekhaya | 406 Blackwell St., Ste. 100

Zweli and Leonardo Williams put Zimbabwean food on the map, earning recognition and accolades both locally and nationally for their flavorful food at Zweli’s Kitchen, which is currently in the process of relocating to Brightleaf Square. Their new restaurant, Ekhaya, at American Tobacco Campus, brings more amazing African eats to the area with Bantu-fusion small and large plates. Chef Zweli’s creative culinary twists, like traditional Boerewors sausage and sadza make a delightful pairing with a refreshing cocktail such as their African 75 made with Conniption Kinship Gin and frozen fruit.

Urban Noodle | 4104 Surles Ct., #4

Ramen has become a growing trend for good reason – nothing beats the comfort of a filling bowl of noodles swimming in a rich, creamy broth. Even in a fast-casual setting, Urban Noodle leaves a lasting impression thanks to the attention to special ingredients like the bone broth in the Tonkotsu ramen made from the chef’s family recipe, and the fact that they sear the pork belly on each order, adding just the right amount of char. You will also find an array of Asian-fusion items on the starters menu, like well-portioned steamed buns and kimchi fries. Their convenient location on NC Hwy 54 makes it an easy stop for those in RTP or commuting from Raleigh.

Glori | 101 W. Main St., Ste. LO2

Formerly home to an arcade, this basement-level space in the historic Kress building now gives off cool cocktail bar speakeasy vibes. Even though it’s now a sophisticated space, there’s still plenty of fun to be had with classy mixed drinks and special events like whiskey education classes. Reservations are recommended as they have a “no standing while drinking” rule.

Weldon Mills Distillery | 300 E. Main St., Ste. 001

For fans of fine whiskey, bourbon, vodka, gin and other spirits, Weldon Mills Distillery is a welcome addition to downtown Durham. With two original mill house locations in Weldon, NC, this distillery has a knack for merging old-world character and charm with modern-day vibes, including offering upscale cocktails, live events with music, and private guided tastings where patrons can explore the distilling process and learn the nuances of the spirits.

Liberty & Plenty Distillery | 609 Foster St., Ste. B

This woman-owned craft distillery opened its first Durham location in a beautiful industrial-style building overlooking the historic Durham Athletic Park. Their cocktail menu presents a unique take on the classic expressions of vodka, gins, rums and whiskies – with seasonal ingredients and the signature spirits produced on-site, giving them innovative twists. In this rustic and relaxing atmosphere, you’ll find live music, special tasting events and an outdoor patio.

Brunello Wine Bar | 123 Market St., Ste. A

Everyone loves a good comeback story. After a successful four years in operation, the pandemic forced Bar Brunello to close its doors in 2020, but a few years later, they’ve resurfaced in a prime location across from the lively CCB Plaza. Fans of the previous location will remember the list of wines by the glass or bottle which highlighted old-world wines as well as lesser-known regions and varietals. The opportunity to experience all-new flavor profiles has carried through to the new location as Brunello Wine Bar’s International Sommelier Guild-trained owner and wine director, Esteban Brunello, is passionate about sharing his knowledge and expertise in a welcoming setting.

Kale’s Kitchen | 2504 Fayetteville St.

Kale’s Kitchen is doing something right—this business specializes in catering, meal prep, and cooking classes, and anytime their pop-up restaurant opens, a long line weaves through the lobby and out the door! To stay in the know, follow them on social media where they announce when their pop-up will be open for walk-in service and what you’ll find on the menu. Expect hearty Southern plates with options like baked turkey wings, pot roast, salmon, shrimp; sides like mac and cheese, yams, green beans, and desserts like strawberry crunch cake.

Glasshouse Kitchen | 5 Laboratory Dr.

It’s exactly as it sounds—floor-to-ceiling window panes create a truly stunning, bright and spacious atmosphere at Glasshouse Kitchen located on Research Triangle Park's growing AgTech campus. With a focus on a seasonal, rotating menu for brunch, lunch and dinner, plates like steamed mussels, duck confit, unique pizzas with seasonal ingredients, and entrees like whole fried fish and carrot pasta are as beautiful as the restaurant itself. A marble bar gleams beneath a canopy of indoor greenery and a cozy courtyard with bocce courts and fire pits welcome casual diners gathering for drinks or waiting for a table.

YonderLust Cafe | 109 N. Gregson St.

Adventure enthusiasts and healthy eaters now have a perfect spot to hang out around Brightleaf Square. Yonderlust Café, which recently opened in a restored building along Gregson St., offers healthy salads, smoothies, juices, pressed sandwiches, Strong Arm Bakery products, tea and Joe Van Gogh coffee. The best part is that the remainder of the space is dedicated to selling outdoor gear and clothing, so you can shop while you sip.

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Amber Watson is the creator and writer of the local Durham food news blog, Bites of Bull City. For more, follow @bitesofbullcity.

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