Over the recent years, the city of Durham has exploded in popularity and is experiencing a full-blown renaissance. The downtown area, especially, got a complete makeover and steadily continues to evolve. Though there are lots of cool new restaurants to experience in Durham, there are also lots of gems, hidden amongst older strip malls and smaller shopping areas tucked away that have definitely seen their better days. It may be easy to just pass by these restaurants since they do not look like much on the outside, but they are beloved by many of the Bull City’s locals and not to be missed by foodies if you are looking for an authentic experience.

Check out these top ten most popular “hole in the wall” local restaurants in Durham:

Costa Azul Restaurant & Bar

Costa Azul Restaurant & Bar is a stand-alone Mexican restaurant that’s somewhat hidden. It’s located inside an old structure that might have been a residence at some point. However, inside is always a party! There’s always Latin music playing and a friendly staff to greet you.

Banh’s Cuisine

Banh’s Cuisine is located on 9th Street and has been feeding hungry Duke students for years! It serves up Chinese and Vietnamese dishes at an affordable price. It also has daily specials, so be sure to ask about them when you visit.

Pad Thai

Pad Thai is a no-frills That restaurant that is incredibly popular with the locals. Try the Red Curry Curry Chicken and wash it down with some delicious bubble tea!

Jamaica Jamaica

Jamaica Jamaica is a small restaurant located in a strip mall off of Highway 54. It serves up Caribbean food cafeteria-style. Try the Brown Stew Chicken!

Taqueria La Vaquita

Taqueria La Vaquita is a hidden taco stand off of Chapel Hill Road. If you venture out to find it, just look for the cow on the roof!  Here you will find some of the best Mexican food in town. Try the pastor and the chorizo tacos!

Saigon Grill

Saigon Grill is located in a small, nondescript building off of North Roxboro Road. It serves up authentic, delicious Vietnamese dishes including Pho and  Banh Mi.

Wimpy’s Grill

Wimpy’s Grill is another well-kept secret in Durham. This small grill serves up breakfast and lunch. It features enormous buttermilk biscuits and the best burgers in town at great prices!  FYI, this place is cash-only, so be sure you have some on you before you venture out to try Wimpy’s Grill!

The Cosmic Cantina

Looking for a late-night Mexican feast? The Cosmic Cantina claims to be the home of the “The Best Mexican Food on Planet,” and it’s open until 4 a.m. every night. The mole sauce is made in-house from an old family recipe, so be sure to try a mole burrito or mole platter.

Halgo European Deli

Halgo European Deli & Grocery is a hidden gem located off of South Alston Avenue. This European-style deli and grocery features a Polish kitchen with items such as Kasia’s Famous Pierogi, which is available with ten different fillings! After you enjoy lunch, shop for your own groceries to prepare a delicious meal at home.

El Chapin

El Chapin is located in a strip mall off of Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard. It’s easy to miss, but you should certainly make an effort to check it out. It serves up authentic Guatemalan cuisine and is beloved by locals. Popular menu items include the Pork Carne Adobada and the Garnachas.

Other popular and well-known “hole in the wall” restaurants in Durham include Twisted Noodles and Mi Peru. These restaurants remind us all to have an open mind and always keep your eyes open. That small, nondescript Chinese restaurant in an old strip mall might have some of the best Sichuan Twice Cooked Pork you’ve ever eaten. You just never know when or where you might find your favorite go-to spot for a fantastic meal, without dropping a ton of money!

So what are some of your favorite all-time hidden gems in 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