341 West Main Street, Durham, beyucaffe.com
Pronounced be you, the cafe is a coffee shop inside of a bar inside of a restaurant, all wrapped up into an unequivocally cool atmosphere. Beyú’s versatility is among its superpowers: You can stop by for a quick bite, coffee, a business meeting, to tinker on your computer (free WiFi!), whatever, but the breakfast menu (served until 4:30 p.m.) is always worth a glance. At just $5.50, the Bebop Breakfast Burrito (flour tortilla, eggs, cheddar, black beans, pico) is one of the best deals in downtown Durham.
Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant
220 Wolfe Street, Raleigh, bigedscitymarket.com
Big Ed’s has served legit, put-some-meat-on-your-bones Southern breakfast and lunch on its red-and-white checkered plastic tablecloths since 1989. Morning highlights include salty country ham with red-eye gravy, fatback biscuits, grits, and, for the brave, scrambled eggs with rose pork brains. Don’t want to head downtown? Check out Big Ed’s North, on Falls of Neuse Road in North Raleigh.
Bull and Bean Cafe
3710 Shannon Road, Durham, bullandbeancafe.com
An unassuming coffee shop and market in South Durham, Bull and Bean has become a breakfast go-to thanks to its massive sandwiches, loaded hashbrowns, and an array of (surprisingly delicious) health options, including acai and quinoa bowls. The coffee comes from Counter Culture, the bread comes from Guglhupf, and the lively atmosphere comes from young Hope Valley families.
19 East Martin Street, Raleigh, carrollskitchen.org
Carroll’s Kitchen’s devotees love its kolaches—soft, Central European-inspired filled pastries—and grab-and-go brunch options such as mushroom toast and butternut squash-blue-cheese quiche. Even better, the restaurant is a nonprofit that provides employment for women in crisis. Check out the second location in Morgan Street Food Hall, too.
776 Ninth Street, Durham; 200 North Greensboro Street, Carrboro; elmosdiner.com, elmosdinercarrboro.com
Elmo’s Diner is just that—a diner—and the menu is pretty much exactly what you’d expect (omelets, biscuits), though it has a few surprises, too (quiche Florentine, salmon cake and egg). Whatever you order, expect it to be good—and accompanied by a steady stream of coffee.
2694 Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard, Durham, fostersmarket.com
On weekday mornings, Foster’s offers excellent basics, such as an herb cheddar biscuit with eggs and cheese or house-made granola with Greek yogurt and fruit. On weekends, look for specials such as huevos rancheros, French toast, and pancakes. Peruse the small retail area up front for local jams, snacks, and other pantry staples.
Hope Valley Diner
3710 Shannon Road, Durham, hopevalleydiner.com
Like Elmo’s, this, too, is a straightforward diner with an extensive menu that features large portions of the usual suspects. Make sure to check the chalkboard for the daily specials: The crab cake benedict is rich and filling, but the true standout is the hashbrown casserole.
Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken
The recently rebranded Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken—née Rise Biscuits Donuts—started in Durham and then spread like kudzu across the Triangle and beyond, so it’s technically a chain, but it’s our chain, and it has none of the faceless mediocrity that word usually implies. Fresh, delicious biscuits, made daily, are piled with breakfast staples like eggs and sausage and, well, fried chicken, which, we’re told, is righteous.
State Farmers Market Restaurant
1240 Farmers Market Drive, Raleigh, realbiscuits.com
Don’t be deterred by the lines—the fluffy, buttery biscuits are worth the wait alone. (They’d better be, considering the restaurant’s URL.) You’ll find a lot of North Carolina products here, and you can’t beat the heaping helping of Southern hospitality.
Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen
1305 East Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, sunrisebiscuits.com
With lines of cars that stretch out the parking lot and oftentimes a half-mile down Franklin, this drive-up/walk-up joint serves hulking, flaky biscuits with a myriad of sandwich selections that can serve many purposes, from keeping the kids happy to calming a hungover stomach.
2018 Best of the Triangle Readers’ Picks, Best Breakfast:
Elmo’s Diner, Durham County
Elmo’s Diner, Orange and Chatham Counties
Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant, Wake County