Produced by Bit & Grain
Icons of the South pepper the streets, kitchens and ballfields of Durham, North Carolina. From the faded hand-painted cigarette advertisements cast upon the brick walls of old tobacco processing plants now home to tech start-ups, to the scent of fried food that wafts out of decades old institutions and newly christened food trucks, to the crack-and-pop that echoes from the state of the art minor league baseball stadium filled with craft beer and traditional popcorn, the past sticks around in the ever-changing Bull City.
It’s no secret that Durham is a destination. Urban renewal, and the good and bad that comes with it, has dramatically changed Durham over the last 15 years, a city that personifies the complexities of the contemporary South. With an arts and culture scene nearly unrivaled in this state (see: Durham Performing Arts Center, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and American Dance Festival) and celebrated restaurants, beloved sports teams and public spaces, Durham can keep even the busiest traveler occupied. The Bull City is and continues to be a place to experience.
Downtown Durham has been in the media a lot recently as a travel destination, and for good reason. The city certainly isn’t short on recommendations. Bit & Grain figured it was time to share a few of our favorite places, old and new alike. Here’s to a day in the Bull City.
MORNING: fuel-up for a big day
Guglhupf Bakery, Cafe & Restaurant — 2706 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd.
This German-inspired restaurant has been around since 1998. Located on the outskirts of Durham, Guglhupf is a great reminder of the many creative, delicious eateries you can find outside the city center in strip malls and off the highway. On a sunny day, light streams through the windows of Guglhupf and sets a cozy scene to enjoy the delicious pastries from their bakery. Try a seasonal danish — like the passion fruit orange pictured here — and their cinnamon schnecke. These delicious, buttery, flaky pastries will not disappoint
MID-MORNING: get to movin' and seein'
Duke Gardens — 420 Anderson Street
Get moving after breakfast and head over to the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, a stunning landscaped 55-acre botanic garden that is an absolute vision in the spring and summer. With four distinct garden areas and over five miles of pathways, garden enthusiasts, walkers and sunbathers alike gather at what Duke University refers to as its crown jewel.
The Center for Documentary Studies — 1317 W. Pettigrew Street
Every house tells a story, but no Durham house tells as many as the one at the corner of Powe and West Pettigrew Streets, home to Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies (CDS). CDS is a creative hub for Duke University, documentary artists and continuing education students near and far. Established in 1989, CDS was the first institution in the country dedicated to the documentary arts, and many brilliant creative projects have been conceptualized in this historic home. CDS director Wesley Hogan says, “A core part of CDS’s mission is to connect university and off-campus communities and experiences through the documentary arts... CDS is passionate about being a vital link between Duke and Durham.” Stop by to check out the latest exhibit, take a short seminar or talk with the incredible staff.
Pauli Murray murals — see map here
The Face Up: Telling Stories of Community Life project, a collection of 14 public murals peppered throughout Durham, bring to life the city’s vibrant arts and social justice community. Six of those murals depict Pauli Murray, a visionary black queer activist who was, among other things, the first African American woman ordained in the Protestant Episcopal Church, a lawyer, cofounder of the National Organization of Woman, member of JFK’s Commission on the Status of Women and dear friend of Eleanor Roosevelt. Murray grew up in Durham and was chosen as a central figure in this project because of her commitment to social justice and civil rights. These murals, born out of a collaborative art project a decade ago, provide a real sense of place and Bull City history.
MID-DAY: fried food to the rescue
Chicken Hut — 3019 Fayetteville Street
Nestled south in an unassuming two story building off Fayetteville Street in south Durham, Chicken Hut is a neighborhood staple. Want some of best fried chicken you’ve ever had in your life? Slow-cooked savory southern vegetables? Tender beef ribs that literally fall of the bones? This is your spot. Fried chicken is the restaurant's staple, but the rest of the menu rotates daily. Family-owned for 68 years by Peggy and Claiborne Tapp III, Chicken Hut is traditional southern soul food at its best.
Saltbox Seafood Joint — 608 N Mangum Street
Looking for a novel take on fried food? Pop over to Saltbox Seafood Joint, a seafood stand that’s the brainchild of chef Ricky Moore. Chef Moore sources local seafood straight from North Carolina waters which means his menu rotates daily based on upon what’s being caught. The spicy, savory breading coupled with zesty slaw and to-die for hush-honeys (his take on hushpuppies) are all the rage in Durham. Open until the food runs out, hit up the Saltbox early — he often sells out by the end of the day!
AFTERNOON: explore & adventure
Central Park District — 501 Foster Street
Head over to Durham’s Central Park District to check out the old Durham Bulls stadium at the corner of Geer Street and Washington, the Pavilion — which hosts the city’s beloved Farmers’ Market (Saturday mornings only) and the dynamic Food Truck Rodeo. The district is adjacent to several small the parks with shaded lawns and gardens, perfect for kicking up your feet.
Cocoa Cinnamon — 420 West Geer Street
Once you’re done exploring head over to Cocoa Cinnamon, a fair trade coffee shop on the edge of the Central Park District. Grab a cup of coffee there (you’ll see Guglhupf pastries too!), and mosey around the next few blocks of Geer and Foster Street, peppered with eateries and breweries —like Fullsteam, Motorco and Geer Street Garden — and home to one of our favorite shops, Nomadic Trading Company.
Nomadic Trading Company — 619 Foster Street
Explore this spectacular store filled with exotic global antique home goods, including stacks of persian rugs, industrial light equipment and old public school desks and wares. Not to mention, the owner’s adorable dog who often bounces around the store on Saturday mornings. Beware, the Nomadic Trading Company isn’t always open on Saturdays, so call ahead or drop by to test your luck. If you’re truly on the hunt for an unforgettable addition to your home, call to schedule an appointment.
LATE AFTERNOON: mosey into the heart of downtown for shopping, viewing and sipping
Chet Miller — 118 W Parrish Street
Charming, colorful and cozy, Chet Miller, is a happy place to be. The shop is the second retail space curated by Jennings Brody, owner of Durham staple Parker and Otis. It’s filled to the brim with home goods (Pendleton blankets and mid-century inspired decor, candles, stationary, games) and unique items for men and women. Without a doubt, you’ll walk away with a gift for yourself or someone special.
The Carrack — 111 W Parrish Street
A gallery that embodies the progressive, forward thinking nature of the Durham arts, sits across the street from Chet Miller. Run by artist and arts educator Laura Ritchie, The Carrack is a no-commission community-supported alternative gallery space that hosts rotating exhibits every two weeks. The Carrack provides space for up-and-coming artists who may struggle to exhibit their work in more traditional, commission-driven galleries. Ritchie attributes much of The Carrack’s success to Durham’s “commitment to building a community that really values arts and culture and really values a wide range of voices being heard and seen really actively.”
The Durham Hotel — 315 E Chapel Hill Street
Durham’s newest hot spot, the Durham Hotel, a gorgeous renovated bank boutique hotel, is a must see. The Roof, a rooftop bar with an open air lounge, is the perfect place to be for golden hour. While taking in the city from above, enjoy a craft cocktail and perhaps a special culinary delight from James Beard Award-winning Chef Andrea Reusing.
EVENING: dinner and a nightcap
Bull City Burger and Brewery — 107 E Parrish Street
Keep it casual and head over to Bull City Burger and Brewery, a microbrewery and grill with delicious hotdogs, burgers and beer. The restaurant sources NC pasture-raised beef, works with local farmers and makes nearly every condiment in-house. With a commitment to sustainability, many materials used in the building’s construction were recycled goods and the lighting and kitchen equipment is energy efficient. Always lively and busy, owner Seth Gross says their mission is to “use food as a vehicle to educate, to shake things up and to provide an alternative to our community.” Right now, they are wrapping up Exotic Meat Month with burgers from wild game, like alligator, rabbit, and elk.
Surf Club — 703 Rigsbee Avenue
Before you turn in for the night, mosey your way back towards the Central Park District and wrap up your evening at Surf Club, a dimly lit no-frills, no-fuss neighborhood bar. Don’t expect a cocktail menu. Do expect friendly service, great beer on tap and bartenders ready and willing to make your favorite cocktail from memory. Plus, there are bocce courts. Enough said.