Durham is quickly becoming known as one of the most popular “foodie destinations in the entire South” with good reason. The restaurant scene, especially in the Downtown Durham area, has exploded over the years, thanks to a few standout restaurants that have received national attention. Foodie travelers take note… These are the restaurants you will want to hit up on your next trip to the Bull City!

Check out our list of some of Downtown Durham’s most popular and highly celebrated local restaurants that you gotta experience for yourself:

Rue Cler

Rue Cler is a Parisian-style restaurant that opened its doors in 2006, so it is recognized as one of the major players in Durham’s foodie revolution. Its cuisine is inspired by French traditions, coupled with seasonal ingredients. Rue Cler is also well known by oenophiles everywhere for its wine list, which features many rare bottles.


Scratch is a popular Downtown Durham bakery that serves up delicious pies, as well as brunch and lunch items. The chef, Phoebe Lawless, works closely with local farmers to provide “real, honest, hand-crafted food.” Scratch has been featured in Vogue, Our State, Saveur, and Garden & Gun Magazine.

Dame’s Chicken & Waffles

There is almost always a crowd of people patiently waiting their turn to get a seat at Dame’s Chicken & Waffles! It serves up delicious southern comfort food that’s truly worth the wait. Fortunately, founders Damion “Dame” Moore and Randy Wadsworth are spreading the love all around North Carolina. Since finding success in Downtown Durham, they also opened a Cary location and a Greensboro location of Dame’s Chicken & Waffles.

Saltbox Seafood Joint

Enjoy fresh seafood straight from the Carolina coast right here in Downtown Durham! Saltbox Seafood Joint is a small stand that features seasonal seafood delights such as catfish, trout, oysters, shrimp, and more. It’s been featured in Vogue, Travel & Leisure, and Garden & Gun!


Mateo is an award-winning tapas bar that opened its doors in 2012. It quickly became popular among locals and visitors alike. The menu features small plates inspired by the flavors of Spain. The dishes are designed to be shared. It also features a Spanish wine list and one of the largest selections of sherry in the country.

Pompieri Pizza

Pompieri Pizza is a Neapolitan-style pizza restaurant lauded by locals. Its food is sourced from local farmers whenever possible, and there is a hydroponic garden right inside the restaurant! For a truly unique experience, plan to go on Sunday for one of its famous Family Dinners, featuring experimental pizzas, salads, sides, and gelato!

Counting House

Counting House is a fine dining restaurant located in Downtown Durham’s 21c Museum Hotel. Enjoy gourmet food among unique art installations! Counting House was named as one of 2016’s Best New Restaurants in the News & Observer and has also been featured in Food & Wine Magazine.

The foodie landscape is continuously evolving in Downtown Durham. Just last year, a new Ethiopian restaurant arrived on the scene, Goorsha. Also, Saint James, a new seafood restaurant, and The Pie Hole, a famous Los Angeles establishment opened in Downtown Durham. We can’t wait to see what these restaurants add to the Durham food scene!

So what are some of your favorite restaurants around Downtown Durham? Please be sure to hit us up on Twitter @919BlogNC or visit our Facebook page at FB.com/919Blog and let us know! We would love to hear from ya.

This post was created in collaboration with the Downtown Durham Blog editorial team and 919 Blog contributor Amy Howard for exclusive digital publication via TBN