17 Hours (and 44 Minutes) in Downtown Durham

(By Jeffrey C. Billman)

If Raleigh owes its existence to alcohol—specifically, a decree that the state capital be built near Isaac Hunter’s tavern—Durham owes its existence to that other quintessential American vice, tobacco. Monuments to this legacy permeate downtown: the Lucky Strike Water Tower that looms over the American Tobacco Campus; Brightleaf Square, named for the mild tobacco favored by Civil War soldiers; the former Liggett & Myers factory, now renovated into luxury apartments.

Tobacco’s heyday is gone, of course. So are the factories and mills that marked a robust manufacturing economy. Instead, downtown Durham has

Durham’s not really a big city, but it feels like one, just compressed into a smaller, friendlier, mostly affordable space. That won’t be the case for long, and it feels less and less the case every day. For better or worse, the world is catching on to the South’s best-kept secret. So enjoy it while it’s ours.

There’s no singular way to squeeze all of downtown into a perfect day. There are too many coffee shops, too many breakfast joints, too many quick lunch spots, upscale restaurants, bars, nightclubs, parks, arcades and axe-throwing places (why?), whatever, to fit into twenty-four hours, even if you had the stamina to go hard for twenty-four hours without passing out, which I—an overworked forty-year-old newspaper editor who gave up those drugs some years ago—most certainly do not. So consider the below itinerary an example of what is theoretically possible over the course of, say, almost eighteen hours in downtown Durham on an imaginary day in which I didn’t have to work and had nothing to do. Those things exist, right? 

7:00 a.m.: Al Mokha latte at Cocoa Cinnamon. 

7:30 a.m.: Breakfast at Dame’s. Eat too much. Feel gross. 

9:00 a.m.: Ride bike on the American Tobacco Trail. Feel sweaty and gross. 

11:30 a.m.: Take dogs to downtown dog park. Go home and shower. 

1:00 p.m.: Lunch at Ninth Street Bakery, or maybe Toast—whichever has the shortest line. 

1:30 p.m.: Pick-me-up coffee at The Oak House. 

2:00 p.m.: Pick-me-up coffee soda at The Durham. Leave quickly when I spot important local person, to avoid talking about work matters on my day off. Go home and rest. 

5:00 p.m.: Meet friends for a beer at The Fed. Summon willpower, avoid ordering nachos. 

6:00 p.m.: Meet other friends on The Durham rooftop for a cocktail at sunset. 

7:30 p.m.: Walk to The Carolina Theatre, catch a movie. 

9:15 p.m.: Post-movie pizza at Toro, naturally. 

10:30 p.m.: Post-pizza drink at Arcana. Get caught up in dance party. Be reminded by wife that I am not allowed to dance in public. 

12:00 a.m.: Stumble to Pinhook, pop in on punk band that I, an old person, have never heard of. Don’t stay long. 

12:24 a.m.: Stumble to Atomic Fern, order drink, feign interest in board game. Drink drink, want to go home. 

12:44 a.m.: Order Lyft. Pass out. Hurt for two days.

Landmark: The Lucky Strike Tower

Where to Get a Cup of Coffee: The Durham

Where to Visit with Friends: The Oak House

Where to Walk Your Dog: Anywhere

Where to Spend the Night: See “My Hotel Life.”


Durham Bulls Athletic Park

409 Blackwell Street, 919-687-6500, durhambulls.com

There’s no doubt the Bulls are an indelible Durham institution. They’ve got the movie, and they’re consistently among the best teams in the minors. The DBAP’s seats are packed for almost every home game. It’s the closest you can get to a major league experience without the budget-busting ticket prices (or the drive to D.C.). Hit the bull, win a steak. 

Note: We’ve highlighted our pick for the best of each category below. 


Allday Cafe

202 Corcoran Street (inside the Unscripted Hotel), 984-329-5000, unscriptedhotels.com

A coffee bar/restaurant on the boutique hotel’s ground floor (enter on the Parrish Street side), Allday offers an assortment of quick breakfast and lunch options. For vegetarians, it was one of the first in Durham to carry the coveted Impossible Burger. 


110 North Corcoran Street, 919-797-9599, bgood.com

At B.GOOD there’s no need to sacrifice health for happiness. Whether you order a salad or a burger and fries, each meal is made with the same seasonal, sustainable, and locally sourced ingredients. 

Beyú Caffè

341 West Main Street, 919-683-1058, 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. Stop by for breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, a business meeting, whatever. 

The Blue Note Grill

709 Washington Street, 919-401-1979, thebluenotegrill.com

A first-rate roots-music venue with a better-than-average beer selection, Blue Note really shines with its barbecue, especially the ribs.  

Bull City Burger and Brewery

107 East Parrish Street, 919-680-2333, bullcityburgerandbrewery.com

BCBB has some of the freshest meat patties in town. It makes almost everything in-house and works with local farmers to get produce; if tomatoes aren’t in season, you’re not getting any. The beer’s pretty great, too. 

Bull Mccabe’s Irish Pub

427 West Main Street, 919-682-3061, bullmccabesirishpub.com

Guinness, burgers, a soccer match on the telly, and a fun crowd to watch it with. If sitting inside isn’t your thing, the large yard affords plenty of space to sprawl out and drink away the day.


107 West Main Street, 919-973-0111, copadurham.com

In 2018, when Old Havana Sandwich Shop closed after seven years on East Main, it wasn’t for lack of business. Instead, owners Robert Copa Matos and Elizabeth Turnbull had their eyes on a new space a few blocks west and a new project, COPA, a small-plates restaurant rooted in farm-to-table concepts and focused on nineteenth-century Cuban recipes.

Counting House at 21C

111 North Corcoran Street, 919-956-6760, countinghousenc.com

When you’ve got time to kill on an overcast afternoon, wander by the 21c’s restaurant, order the grilled cheese sandwich and a house cocktail, then check out the art gallery upstairs—and the transparent bathroom stalls. (Lock the door.)

Cucciolo Osteria

601 West Main Street, Suite C, 984-243-8744, cucciolodurham.com

A newer kid on Durham’s restaurant block, Cucciolo has a small, simple menu centered on quality ingredients and preparation.  

Dame’s Chicken and Waffles

530 Foster Street, Suite 130, 919-682-9235, dameschickenwaffles.com

The longtime Dame’s location on Main closed so that the Southern comfort-food institution could move to a bigger space near Durham Central Park. The relocation took longer than expected—more than a year—but Dame’s finally reopened in March 2019. The namesake chicken and waffles and the mac ‘n’ cheese are the stuff of legend. 


415 East Chapel Hill Street, 919-251-9335, dashiramen.com

If ramen isn’t your thing, venture upstairs to Dashi’s izakaya to enjoy smaller plates while you sip sake. If ramen is your thing, you’re in luck. 

Dos Perros

200 North Mangum Street, 919-956-2750, dosperrosrestaurant.com

With locally sourced ingredients and an unpretentious air that suits both date night and an after-work snack, Dos Perros serves classic Mexican dishes paired with an extensive beer list and perhaps Durham’s best margaritas. 

The Federal

914 West Main Street, 919-680-8611, thefederal.net

The best thing about The Fed is its simplicity: You sit. You drink. You eat. You talk with friends. It’s inexpensive and consistently good. The nachos—this insane portion of chips, stacked with loads of sour cream and pico de gallo and melted cheese—are a necessity.  

Geer Street Garden

644 Foster Street, 919-688-2900, geerstreetgarden.com

Tucked away in a former Gulf gas station, Geer Street serves comfort food like grilled pimento cheese sandwiches and local-pasture-raised burgers. 


910 West Main Street, 919-588-4660, goorshadurham.com

In the Amharic language, goorsha is the act of feeding another person as an expression of love. On West Main, Goorsha is a place where you dig into Ethiopian specialties with your hands, mopping up lentils and sauces with delicious injera. 

Gonza Tacos Y Tequila

604 Fernway Avenue, 919-907-2656, gonzatacosytequila.com

Plan: Stop by for tacos, then follow them with a shot from Gonza’s wide selection of tequilas. Reality: Fill up on chips, queso, and guac, and wonder how those tacos are going to fit. 

Hutchins Garage

402 West Geer Street, 984-219-6578

Featuring New York-style and thicker-crusted Grandma-style pies, a quality beer list, and expertly crafted cocktails, Hutchins is also great for a pre-Motorco dinner or a lazy Sunday-afternoon indulgence.  

It’s a Southern Thing

605 West Main Street, 919-294-9632, itsasouthernthingdurham.com

As the name suggests, It’s a Southern Thing embraces all things South. Here, you’ll find everything from shrimp and grits to pulled pork, and po’ boys to barbecue chicken. 

Jack Tar & The Colonel’s Daughter

202 Corcoran Street, 929-682-5255, jacktar-durham.com

Chef Gray Brooks’s ode to the diner reimagines the classics through a sophisticated modern lens. 

James Joyce Irish Pub

912 West Main Street, 919-683-3022, jamesjoyceirishpub.com

It’s a real-deal, no-frills Irish pub. Get the fish and chips, obviously. 

J.C.’s Kitchen

706 East Main Street, 919-680-6227

J.C.’s (formerly Lee’s Kitchen) has been serving soul food, and food for souls—the “J.C.” stands for “Jesus Christ”—for more than a quarter-century, with meat-and-threes and collards, the much-coveted oxtail and fried okra.  


110 North Corcoran Street, 919-695-3027, juicekeys.com

With everything free of gluten, dairy, soy, and refined sugar, Juicekeys checks all of the health nut’s boxes.  

King’s Sandwich Shop

701 Foster Street, 919-682-0071, kingssandwichshop.com

Since 1942, King’s has served burgers, hot dogs, fries, and other lunchtime goodness near DCP. Splurge and get a milkshake.


110 East Parrish Street, 919-374-1118, littlerdurham.com

Littler lives up to its name—it seats only thirty-six people. But the dinner-only space makes up for its size with an evolving food and drink menu that has earned it a reputation as one of the best high-end restaurants around. Make reservations, obviously.

Lucky’s Delicatessen

105 West Chapel Hill Street, 919-864-8841, luckysdelinc.com

Not only does Lucky’s have fresh sandwiches—the eggplant parm is everything right with the world—but it also offers up-North deli staples like matzo ball soup and herbed gravlax. You’ll think you died and went to Jersey. 

Luna Rotisserie & Empanadas

112 West Main Street, 984-439-8702, lunarotisserie.com

Luna has some of the best empanadas around. But if you’re looking to shake your carnivorous ways, give the vegan chili-braised jackfruit patacon a try. 

M Kokko

311 Holland Street, Suite B, 919-908-9332, m-restaurants.com

The second restaurant in chef Michael Lee’s budding M-pire—and the first listed here—M Kokko does Korean fried chicken, as well as ramen and Korean classics like jjiajang men, in a side alley around the corner from Lee’s first spot, M Sushi (see below). 

M Pocha

101 East Chapel Hill Street, 919-294-9177, m-restaurants.com

Lee’s newest creation—if you look on his website, you’ll see he has plans for at least four more—M Pocha is sort of like a Korean take on a Japanese Izakaya. Basically, it’s Korean street food with drinks. Pocha comes from the word pojanmacha, which means “tented cart on wheels.” 

M Sushi

311 Holland Street, 919-908-9266, m-restaurants.com

The original M spot. The fish is fresh, the rolls are artfully prepared, and the nigiri is to die for. 

M Tempura

111 Orange Street, 919-748-3874, m-restaurants.com

You’ll leave smelling like a deep fryer, but you’ll have the best eggplant of your life. 

Mateo Bar de Tapas

109 West Chapel Hill Street, 919-530-8700, mateotapas.com

Matt Kelly’s Spanish tapas spot is always in the conversation for the best restaurant in Durham, and for good reason. Its small plates garner rave reviews (the patatas bravas are better than many you’ll have in Barcelona), its sangria is made with Cheerwine (!), and the ever-changing entrée blackboard always has something new and interesting. But the real reason to go: the pan con tomate.

Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom

900 West Main Street, 919-682-8978, maverickssmokehouse.com

Featuring Carolina, Memphis, and Texas barbecue, Maverick’s offers a laid-back atmosphere, good beer, and excellent fried chicken. 

Mothers & Sons Trattoria

107 West Chapel Hill Street, 919-294-8247, mothersandsonsnc.com

The first restaurant in the South to showcase handmade pasta, Mothers & Sons takes its inspiration from seasonal ingredients and Italian families. 


345 Blackwell Street, 919-282-1183, nanasteak.com

Next to DPAC, NanaSteak ranks among Durham’s premier steakhouses and features all the cuts that carnivores could ask for.

Neomonde Mediterranean

202 Corcoran Street, 919-680-1886, neomonde.com

Since the seventies, the Saleh family has been making Mediterranean fare for Raleigh; now they’ve brought their recipes to the Bull City. 

Ninth Street Bakery

136 East Chapel Hill Street, 919-688-5606, ninthstbakery.com

Don’t let the name fool you—it’s not on Ninth Street. But it is a hell of a bakery, cranking out top-notch breads, as well as cookies, pastries, and sandwiches for lunch.  

Parker & Otis

112 South Duke Street, 919-683-3200, parkerandotis.com

Lots of folks stop by P&O for sandwiches and salads, breakfast tacos and avocado toast, or just a cup of coffee. There’s also a huge array of gifts and impulse buys to peruse while you’re there. 

The Parlour

117 Market Street, 919-564-7999, theparlour.co

If you haven’t had The Parlour’s salted caramel ice cream, you haven’t lived. 

Parts & Labor at Motorco

723 Rigsbee Avenue, 919-901-0875, motorcomusic.com/eats

Adjacent to Motorco’s music venue, P&L does bar food right. Get the hipster poutine.

Pie Pushers

117 West Main Street, Suite A, 919-294-8408, piepushers.com

For years, Pie Pushers was one of Durham’s best-loved food trucks, so it makes sense that the brick-and-mortar is one of Durham’s best-loved pizza joints. 

Piedmont Restaurant

401 Foster Street, 919-683-1213, piedmontrestaurant.com

Piedmont’s intense focus on local ingredients shines through, both on its menu and in its cocktail program.  

The Pit

321 West Geer Street, 919-282-3748, thepit-durham.com

Like its Raleigh sister, this iteration of The Pit does whole hog barbecue in quintessential North Carolina fashion. You could make a meal of the hush puppies alone. 

Pizzeria Toro

105 East Chapel Hill Street, 919-908-6936, pizzeriatoro.com

For a town short on Italian heritage, Durham has a surfeit of good pizza. And Toro’s is among the best: thin, crisp pies baked in a wood-fired oven and topped with unusual-but-delicious ingredient pairings (hello, soft egg and oyster mushrooms), with a bit of chili oil for you to drizzle on top. 

Pompieri Pizza

102 City Hall Plaza, 919-973-1589, pompieripizza.com

Housed in a former fire station, Pompieri offers fresh pies with locally sourced ingredients that you cut with scissors. 

The Restaurant at The Durham

315 East Chapel Hill Street, 919-768-8831, thedurham.com/dining

As she does at Lantern in Chapel Hill, chef Andrea Reusing focuses on N.C. ingredients. The menu here changes frequently, but there are usually oysters, top-notch seafood, and dry-aged burgers to be had. 

Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken

401 Foster Street, Suite A, 984-439-2220, risebiscuitsdonuts.com

Like a few of the others, this Rise did away with donuts recently, part of a rebranding effort. The wide selection of biscuit sandwiches remains. 

Rose’s Noodles, Dumplings, and Sweets

121 North Gregson Street, 919-797-2233, rosesdurham.com

After operating for four years as a butcher’s market and pastry shop, owners Katie and Justin Meddis decided to do something different in 2017, converting their digs into a sit-down, twenty-seat East Asian-inspired eatery focused on local approaches and fresh ingredients. 

Rue Cler

401 East Chapel Hill Street, 919-682-8844, ruecler-durham.com

This Parisian neighborhood restaurant’s menu changes frequently, but the moules frites and beignets shouldn’t be missed.

Saltbox Seafood Joint

608 North Mangum Street, 919-908-8970, saltboxseafoodjoint.com

Last year, Saltbox proprietor Ricky Moore opened a second restaurant on 15-501, but the shack on Mangum remains, serving fresh, never frozen, regional seafood that’s quickly deep-fried until it’s gone. Order the hush honeys. 

Sugar Koi Ice Cream

905 West Main Street, #20H, 919-757-2399, sugarfishicecream.com

Sugar Koi features ice cream with a Thai twist—cones the shape of koi fish.

Taberna Tapas Bar

325 West Main Street, 919-797-1457, tabernatapas.com

Taberna offers small plates like bacon-wrapped dates and gambas ajillo, as well as a full array of paellas. Don’t sleep on the flan.

Thai@Main Street

317 West Main Street, 984-219-7444, thaiatmainstnc.com

A Thai restaurant on, um, Main Street, Thai@Main Street has well-priced curries and pad Thai and all of that good stuff. 

Toast Paninoteca

345 West Main Street, 919-683-2183, toast-fivepoints.com

The line fills out quickly after it opens, which is both annoying and a confirmation that Toast makes the best panini downtown. Try the Tuscan kale and ricotta salad with sweet and hot pickled peppers for something unexpected. 

The Viceroy

331 West Main Street, 919-797-0413, viceroydurham.com

Viceroy has some British fare, but it leans heavily on its Indian roots, having been born from an Indian food truck. Order the paneer.


106 Main

106 East Main Street, 919-593-0560, 106main.com

106 Main is a drinker’s bar, simple and unpretentious, with well-made cocktails, a good beer selection, and a friendly staff. Best of all, it’s almost never crowded. Come to think of it, forget we said anything. Stay away. 

Accordion Club

316 West Geer Street, facebook.com/accordionclubdurham

Accordion Club is a straightforward, affordable, comfortable neighborhood bar. There’s a solid draft list and a good assortment of bottles and cans, some of which are of the $2 Milwaukee variety. Also: Frito pie. 

Alley Twenty Six

320 East Chapel Hill Street, 984-439-2278, alleytwentysix.com

Featuring meticulously crafted—read: pricey, worth it—cocktails and small plates, Alley Twenty Six is where you take a date for that pre-dinner drink or nightcap. It also features a full kitchen that whips up dishes like the loaded-for-bare Alley Burger. 

Arcana Bar and Lounge

331 West Main Street, 919-973-1675, arcanadurham.com

Lightly but not overbearingly tarot-themed, with a collection of vaguely Victorian couches and lamps, Arcana is intimate and casual, with good bartenders, great drinks, and super-fun dance parties. It’s one of downtown’s often-overlooked treasures. 

The Atomic Fern

108 East Parrish Street, 919-908-8662, atomicfern.com

The Fern makes good, affordable drinks in a smallish space where you can play board games with friends. 

The Bar

711 Rigsbee Avenue, 984-244-7117, thebardurham.com

Durham’s premier LGBTQ bar has two distinct vibes: a neighborhood bar during the week and a full-on club on the weekends, with live DJs and plenty of dancing. Stop by for a drag show.

Bar Brunello

117 East Main Street, 919-294-4825, barbrunello.com

Everyone will tell you to try the orange-wine flight—and you should—but proprietor Esteban Brunello knows his way around a grape, and you should trust him whatever your taste buds lead. 

Bar Virgile

105 South Mangum Street, 919-973-3000, barvirgile.com

Nestled in a cozy space within eyeshot of DPAC, Bar Virgile makes some of the finest cocktails around. Its take on a boulevardier—like a negroni, but with whiskey instead of gin—ranks among the best we’ve had. 

Bull City Ciderworks

305 South Roxboro Street, 919-237-2357, bullcityciderworks.com

Durham’s premier cidery has a sprawling space both indoors and out that’s perfect for gathering with friends and sipping on an Off-Main. 

The Bullpen

359 Blackwell Street, #135, 919-744-3630, thebullpenatc.com

In the shadow of the DBAP, this taproom, created by the Bull Durham Beer Company, is ideal for a pre- or postgame brew—or just a night out to hit the Bullpen’s game room.  

Clouds Brewing

905 West Main Street, #22, 919-251-8096, cloudsbrewing.com

Clouds started in Raleigh, with a “downpour wall” that lets you sample a seemingly endless array of beer using an RFID wristband. The Durham location employs the same concept to offer access to forty-plus taps. 


347 West Main Street, 919-381-8389

Whiskey, beer, and high-backed booths that offer refuge from barroom noise—there’s a simple elegance in Criterion’s no-frills approach. 

Cocoa Cinnamon

420 West Geer Street, 919-697-8990, cocoacinnamon.com

Cocoa Cinnamon is more than a coffee shop, more than a place for an afternoon pick-me-up or a quick business meeting or study break. It’s something more akin to a work of art, with unique, smartly caffeinated concoctions crafted by helpful baristas. If you’re unsure what to order, try the Al Mokha, Cocoa Cinnamon’s version of a mocha latte, made with real chocolate and cinnamon from Sri Lanka. 

Devine’s Grill and Sports Bar

904 West Main Street, 919-682-0228, devinesdurham.com

Cheap beer, cheap booze, sports on the TV. Some bars try to be things. Devine’s does not.

Durty Bull Brewing Company

206 Broadway Street, #104, 919-688-2337, durtybull.com

Back when Stormy Daniels went on 60 Minutes to talk about her (alleged) affair with Donald Trump, Durty Bull made a special beer for the occasion—the “NDA IPA,” a hazy IPA pumped full of glitter. It was a joke, but it was also quite tasty. 

Fullsteam Brewery

726 Rigsbee Avenue, 919-682-2337, fullsteam.ag

Fullsteam focuses on local ingredients and a wide variety of styles—the standby Paycheck Pilsner, sure, but also the sweet potato lager. The taproom has a beer option for even the snobbiest of connoisseurs—or for those just starting to explore the world of craft beer.

Jeddah’s Tea

123 Market Street, Suite A, 919-973-3020, facebook.com/jeddahstea

Jeddah’s Tea focuses on teas from countries underrepresented in the American market, such as Somaliland and Senegal. If you haven’t found your go-to tea cafe, this might become your second home.


321 East Chapel Hill Street, 919-908-9429, kingfisherdurham.com

A new entry to the crowded craft-cocktail scene, Kingfisher uses produce from local farms to create innovative drinks. 

LouElla Wine Beer & Beverages

316 West Geer Street, Suite A, 919-973-2001, louelladurham.com

Next door to Accordion, LouElla is a neighborhood wine bar and bottle shop, drawing on selections from family-operated producers. 

The Patio: Pool & Lounge

202 North Corcoran Street (at the Unscripted Hotel), 984-329-9500, unscriptedhotels.com

On a bright, late spring day, when it’s warm but not quite hot and there’s not a cloud in the sky, lounge around the outdoor pool on the third floor of the Unscripted Hotel, basking in the sun, cocktail in hand, watching the sunbathers and swimmers. Ahhhh. 

The PickleBack, 704 Rigsbee Avenue

919-251-8206, facebook.com/the-pickleback

Dinner, drinks, dancing—that pretty much sums it up. 

Ponysaurus Brewing Company

219 Hood Street, 844-369-7669, ponysaurusbrewing.com

The taproom offers not just a bar with Ponysaurus beers (get the Scottish ale), but also a gorgeous outdoor setting with picnic tables and grills and, usually, a few pups to love on.  

Pour Taproom

202 North Corcoran Street, 919-251-8985, durham.pourtaproom.com

Go to the counter, let them swipe your card, get a wristband, grab a glass, and pick one of the dozens of drafts on the wall. Hold your wristband up to the tap, where it will register how many ounces you’ve had—the beers are charged by the ounce to your card—then pour. Don’t go all-in on a pint. That’s no fun. Sample a wide variety. Then drop your wristband at the counter, and they’ll run your card. 

Shooters II

827 West Morgan Street, 919-680-0428

It’s the only eighteen-and-up club in town. It’s a half-mile from Duke’s east campus. It has beer pong. Guess the clientele. 

Social Games & Brews

1007 West Main Street, 919-666-7555, socialdurham.com

If you’re looking for some Skee-Ball with your cocktail, this is the right place to go. The Social also hosts trivia and open-mic nights. 

Surf Club

703 Rigsbee Avenue, 919-294-9661

You’re probably going to run into someone you know. That’s just how Surf Club is. There’s lots of outdoor space for brisk autumn evenings, and good whiskey drinks to go with them. 

The Oak House

126 West Main Street, 919-339-1383, oakhousedurham.com

The Oak House’s first Triangle location, which opened in 2019, is a coffee shop, with espresso and locally sourced beans and pastries and free Wi-Fi, but it’s more than that. It also serves craft beer, wine, cider, and, as soon as the licensing gets sorted, whiskey. 

West End Wine Bar + West End Billiards and Bocce

601 West Main Street, 919-381-4228 and 919-717-3915, westendwinebar.com

The wine bar offers more than just the area’s largest selection of wines by the glass, but craft beers and cocktails, too. The billiards portion has six pool tables, as well as bocce and shuffleboard and a regulation-size basketball hoop. All of this at the same address. Cool, huh?


Area Modern

101 West Chapel Hill Street, 919-908-8755, areamod.com

Area Mod sells affordable, sophisticated, N.C.-upholstered furniture with lifetime guarantees. If you can’t find that perfect something, you can custom order it.  

Beer Durham

404 Hunt Street, #110, 919-680-0770, beerdurham.com

Not feeling the bar scene? No worries. Stop by Beer Durham any day of the week and pick up a growler of your favorite brew.

Bulldega Urban Market

129 West Parrish Street, 919-294-9715, bulldega.com

Styled after bigger-city bodegas, Bulldega offers the convenience of a grocery store with the products of a farmers market. With its recent relocation into One City Center, Bulldega has added a salad bar and expanded its selection of grab-and-goes. 

Bullseye Bicycle

102 Morris Street, 919-438-3883, bullseyebicycle.com

Bullseye offers a variety of brands and a helpful staff that can help you pick out your next set of wheels.

Carolina Soul

117 East Main Street, 919-908-6620, carolinasoul.com

You don’t need to dig deep to find gems here. Carolina Soul has about ten thousand albums and 45s on hand. It specializes in soul, sure, but it also has plenty of jazz and funk, as well as a respectable rock selection. If you’re not looking to drop serious coin, check out the dollar bins. 

Chet Miller

118 West Parrish Street, 919-683-3201, chetmillershop.com

For fans of Parker & Otis, Chet Miller offers a lot of the same options, minus the sandwiches. Whether you’re buying a gift for your grandma or your significant other, Chet Miller has got something just right.

Dolly’s Vintage

213 West Main Street, 919-682-1471

There’s plenty of rad, eclectic vintage clothing here—recent discovery: 1970s men’s polyester button-ups, disco-style—but Dolly’s really shines as a gift shop, with a wide array of, well, stuff for just about anyone: jewelry, party wigs, socks, cards, retro aprons, original Kit-Cat Clocks, you get the idea. 


319 West Main Street, 919-688-5747, theexotique.com

More than just an international clothing store, Exotique highlights both local and international artists as well as handmade goods.

Fifi’s Fine Resale Apparel

1000 West Main Street, 919-806-3434, fifisconsignmentboutique.com

Want brand-name women’s clothing and accessories—Jimmy Choo, Louis Vitton, J Crew, Dolce&Gabbana, etc.—at a price that won’t bounce your rent check? Check Fifi’s before you go anywhere else. 


905 West Main Street, #20G, 919-797-0456, indiodurham.com

Not only can you buy locally made pottery at Indio, but you can also learn how to make pottery at one of the store’s weekly craft workshops. 

Letters Bookshop

313 West Main Street, 919-973-2573, lettersbookshop.com

Letters offers a wide variety of books—and some pretty great discounts, too. Bibliophiles should join the shop’s Same Page Club.

Little Shop of Horror

506 North Mangum Street, #103, 919-688-1237, facebook.com/littleshopofhorrordurham

Specializing in horror—broadening the genre to include psychological thrillers and true crime—Little Shop sells new and used books, DVDs, and VHS tapes, as well as t-shirts, poster reprints, jewelry, and more. 

The Other End of the Leash

1000 West Main Street, 919-908-1887, otherendoftheleashdurham.com

We could say a lot of things about The Other End of the Leash, but the short version is this: TOETL loves your dog almost as much as you do, and they have just about everything your furry companion’s heart desires. 

Morgan Imports

113 South Gregson Street, 919-688-1150, morganimports.com

A gift and home furnishing store, Morgan Imports offers all manner of N.C.-focused tees and paraphernalia for proud locals or out-of-town visitors, bath and beauty products, Christmas ornaments, games, jewelry, kitchen accessories, garden chimes, beds, futons—just a lot of stuff, really. 

Public Hardware

505 North Mangum Street, 919-688-4321, publichardware.com

It seems inevitable that, in the not-so-distant future, this one-story shop on Mangum will be torn down and turned into luxury midrise lofts. Maybe the developer will name the building “Public Hardware,” for “history.” (Indeed, Public Hardware’s original building, on Parrish Street, is no more.) But until that day comes, downtown Durham will be home to the city’s oldest hardware store, a family-run operation that’s been in the same family since 1924, and a place where you’ll find what you’re looking for. 

Seven Stars Cycles

104 West Parrish Street, 919-675-2435, sevenstarscycles.com

Seven Stars sets itself apart from other bike shops with its affordable rentals. They’ll help fix your bicycle and upgrade your ride when you’re ready for a change.

Tre Bella Boutique and Bridal Store

124 East Main Street, 919-323-7167, trebellaweddings.com

Tre Bella started as a home-operated florist shop in 2003, then added a high-end bridal store in 2008, and in 2014, found a permanent home in a forty-five-hundred-square-foot building on Main, where the bridal shop combines with a women’s boutique that offers smart fashion at a variety of price points. 

Vert & Vogue

353 West Main Street, 919-797-2767, vertandvogue.com

Vert & Vogue has everything from high-quality denim to chic apparel to housewares and skincare products.

Wentworth & Leggett Books

905 West Main Street, #20D, 919-688-5311, wentworthleggettbooks.com

This antique-book store has been in Brightleaf Square for almost four decades. You’ll find extensive sections on the Civil War, African-American culture, and Durham and North Carolina history, among other things. 

The ZEN Succulent

121 Market Street, #203, 919-480-1762, thezensucculent.com

Recently relocated from Parrish Street to a spot adjacent to The Durham Hotel, ZEN’s flagship is a terrarium and plant-craft business run by a mother and daughter team.


American Tobacco Campus

300 Blackwell Street, #104, 919-433-1566, americantobaccocampus.com

The ATC exemplifies how you can reimagine the past—and was a catalyst for downtown’s resurgence. Former warehouses now hold restaurants, a movie theater, and the local public radio station, while also playing host to tech companies. The ballpark and performing arts center are a quick walk away. 

American Tobacco Trail

Access at Blackwell Street and Morehead Avenue

Starting at the southern edge of downtown, the ATT offers twenty-two miles of trails—mostly paved, though some gravel—connecting Durham, Wake, and Chatham Counties. The 11.4-mile Durham portion is ideal for a morning jog or an afternoon bike ride. Stop on the bridge over I-40 and wave hello to everyone stuck in traffic. 

The Carolina Theatre

309 West Morgan Street, 919-560-3030, carolinatheatre.org

This city-owned historic theater hosts the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and features an art-house cinema. It also brings comedians and concerts to the Triangle in a more intimate atmosphere than DPAC.

Durham Central Park

501 Foster Street, 919-794-8194, durhamcentralpark.org

From food truck rodeos to the weekly farmers market to jazz shows to open-air movie nights, DCP has something for everyone. 

Durham Fruit & Produce Company

305 South Dillard Street, durhamfruit.com

In a warehouse that—you guessed it—used to house a fruit company, the Fruit features more than twenty thousand square feet of eclectic, roughshod postindustrial performance space for adventurous artists and viewers. 

Durham Performing Arts Center

123 Vivian Street, 919-680-2787, dpacnc.com

DPAC brings Broadway to the Bull City, hosting top-rated shows as well as concerts and comedy performances. 

Empower Dance Studio

109 West Parrish Street, 984-377-2017, empowerdancestudio.com

At Empower, dancers from all backgrounds and ages help each other thrive both in and outside of the studio. The studio offers ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop, and creative movement classes with options for beginners and advanced dancers.

Living Arts Collective

410 West Geer Street, 919-907-1164, livingartscollective.com

The Living Arts Collective strives to create a collaborative community of artists from every discipline, offering live music, dance socials, visual arts workshops, and more.

Motorco Music Hall

723 Rigsbee Avenue, 919-901-0875, motorcomusic.com

Motorco is downtown’s premier concert hall, showcasing everything from punk bands to community choruses, the kind of place where you can catch Charley Crockett one night and Ted Leo and Titus Andronicus the next. 

Museum of Durham History

500 West Main Street, 919-246-9993, museumofdurhamhistory.org

Stashed in a former bus station, this treasure trove takes a different spin on Durham history, offering exhibits both inside and outside of the building—creating a museum without walls.

NC Escape Room

119 Orange Street, Suite #101, 919-888-5155, ncescape.com

Boasting that it offers the “most immersive escape room in Durham,” NC Escape Room has everything from a brewery heist to an alien escape. 

NorthStar Church of the Arts

220 West Geer Street, northstardurham.com

Founded by the Bull City royalty of the Freelon family (including the late world-famous architect Phil, the Grammy-winning singer Nnenna, and the hip-hop artist/burgeoning politician Pierce), NorthStar hasn’t been around long, but it’s already a pillar of the city’s arts scene. Here, you’ll find concerts, readings, theater performances, and more, all with a strong focus on African American culture. More than a venue, it’s a safe space and refuge for diverse Durhamites. It also hosts secular Sunday services pertaining to the arts and community.

The Pinhook

117 West Main Street, 984-244-7243, thepinhook.com

This little venue does more than host shows; it’s also home to open mics, open jams, trivia, and Illegal dance parties. More important, it puts together some of the best concerts in Durham, while also serving great drinks.

Quarter Horse Bar & Arcade

108 South Mangum Street, 919-973-1717, quarterhorsearcade.com

You drink and play classic arcade games and pinball—like you’re a kid again, only intoxicated.  

Urban Axes

619 Foster Street, 984-377-3697, urbanaxes.com/durham

Somewhere, someone decided that it would be a good idea to have a venue where you could drink a bunch of beer and throw axes, for fun. It’s been a year or so since this thing opened, and so far as we know, no one has been seriously injured. 

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