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NYer Going to Durham, Suggestions?

Can anyone suggest and good BBQ joints in the Durham area? aside from Dillard's and Bullock's? Any others that you might suggest? Doesn't have to be BBQ, but would prefer something that I can't get in the apple.

How about a good breakfast place...

any fruits particularly good in early January?

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  1. This is a hotly debated subject but IMHO you can't go wrong with Allen and Son on 86 north of Chapel Hill. Just take 40 westbound to 86 and head north about a mile, or take 85 west to 86 and head south about 5 miles. It's right by the railroad tracks on the west side of the street.

    1. In general, I don't rank myself among those who love Eastern NC BBQ, but I agree that Allen & Sons is better than either you mentioned.

      B-fast? meh. If this tells you anything, we end up at Cracker Barrel as often as anywhere else when we don't make it ourselves.

      As for fruit in January, it gets cold here as well. Not a whole lot growing here that time of year.

      What you can get here that is way better than anything I remember getting in Manhattan (at least when I lived there in the early 90s) is Mexican. There are some very solid Taquerias to be had. I like Super Taqueria on Roxboro, others have their favorites.

      To be honest, as was revealed in the recent post asking what Raleigh was "known for", people coming from the big cities looking to get down with some good ol' southern food may be a tad disappointed.

      We're sort caught in the middle as a significant percentage of the local population are transplants. I feel that the high-end owner/operator food is good and typically a hell of a lot cheaper than what you might find in NYC, which is nice. Of course, it's not like you have dozens upon dozens of options.

      At the same time, it's not some sleepy little burg with cute little fried chicken joints on what few corners there are.

      When my friends from out of the area visit, I'm more inclined to simply take them to the places that serve good food rather than try to find something distinctly "Durham"

      A quick list...(in no particular order)

      Super Taqueria
      Guglhupf (great German bakery)
      Rue Cler (cool new bistro downtown)
      Merrit Store (actually in Chapel Hill for a great BLT)
      Driade (also in CH world class Cappucino)

      Lastly...If you want a tasting menu that would cost you at least double in the big city, give me a call.

      1. there's a place called grayson's cafe, and they serve a good breakfast with more options than most places. it is kinda hidden, but it's worth the search. the chef went to the c.i.a., but the prices aren't overwhelming as one might expect. they only serve b/f on the weekends, though. check it out: www.graysonscafe.com

        the other breakfast spot i like is elmo's diner. they have a basic breakfast menu, but some of their specials are great. there's a baked french toast special that's cinnamon-apple and cream cheese stuffed french toast... it sounds terrible, but the cream cheese is baked into the french toast so it's rich, and not heavy as it may sound. it's almost like eating a french toast bread pudding... definitely worth a stop if they're serving this item...

        los comales is a taqueria right down from the super taqueria and it is much better. everyone that listened to my suggestion on an earlier post replied with much better reviews than super... super is like the walmart of taquerias, so the food is much more bland than at los comales, which is also on roxboro, but closer to where it crosses i-85.

        guglhupf is a definite stop, as detlefchef noted.

        and i just need a little favor to ask you... when you come down, do you think you can bring a good chinese cook who wants to make a killing in the triangle? there's a niche here, but nobody to fill the void.

        1 Reply
        1. re: MOOKIECOOKIE

          FWIW, I've eaten at both comales and super a number of times and actually prefer Super. From California, I've practically lived on tacos my whole life and have tried nearly every possible meat at nearly every taqueria in Durham. Two trips to comales were both fine enough but at least one of the meats served was somewhat dry and flavorless. On top of that, the service has always been quite slow. Apparently others have had better experiences and I'm not saying the place is bad. However, a stretch of about 6 straight visits to Super where my wife and I looked at each other and said, "Wow, this place is better and better everytime we come here" has done enough to make it my favorite.

          I like Super because they're always consistant. I've had single tacos at other places that I prefered but have also been served oddly seasoned, butchered, or cooked crap in a poorly made tortilla that fell apart in my hands. I like to pull for "the little guy" but it's also nice to know that you're going to get something really good every time. When I've got more time to kill, I may go the spot on Club and Roxboro and get a chicharones con nopales taco just in case it's good that day. When I'm hungry and don't want to screw around, I head for Super because they've never let me down.

          Due to the recent support for comales, I almost tried to convince my wife that we go there rather than Super this past weekend but was glad I didn't. My beef cheek huarrache (while not as good as their sopes) was outstanding and my wife's al pastor burrito was insanely satisfying and came with a huge chunk of ripe avo on the side. The agua frescas are also quite good. We typically get the horrachata. It's a shame that one of their garnish bars was taken to the other location up the street, but they still have some damned tasty pickles and all the salsas are good.

          Wal-Mart? Hardly.

          I should also qualify my support of Guglhupf being mainly for the bakery. I've actually never been thrilled with any b-fast I've had there. Over-cooked omelets, stale bread of all things, and I forget the other thing. Not felony level stuff, mind you, but not on par with the beautiful pastries they serve next door. The stollen (should be coming out anytime now) is freaking amazing!

        2. For breakfast, Guglhupf is great. If you're looking for a southern breakfast, go to Elmo's, not Mama Dip's. the food is pretty bad, and the service could use work, too. I hear Big Ed's in Raleigh serves a good breakfast, but I haven't been there.

          I urge you to try Locopops on Hillsborough in Durham--a literal popsicle stand. Not sure how interested you'll be in popsicles in January, but they're really good, and if you're going to be in Durham anyway...

          Also, as far as bbq goes, you don't want to trust the opinion of a vegetarian/pescatarian like me, but I like the BBQ Joint in Chapel Hill because they have a pretty diverse, well-executed menu with vegetarian choices. (it's not much for atmosphere, though)

          2 Replies
          1. re: rcsimm

            Hey, I'm a veg-piscatarian too, which BBQ place in Chapel Hill do you mean?
            I'll go!

            1. re: Rory

              the BBQ Joint at 630 Weaver Dairy Road. I've had their catfish and some veggie sandwich (eggplant muffuletta?), and I think they occasionally have crab cakes. Haven't been for a while, and now I want to go back!

          2. Also, for breakfast, I want to plug Citrus in Chapel Hill again. slightly upscale, elegant room--not your typical greasy spoon breakfast menu.

            1. I have to agree that los Comales is better than Super Taqueria, but hey, Super is not THAT bad. The first time I went (on a Saturday) it was very good - hardly the Walmart of taquerias. Jim Leff - cofounder of this very site - really loved El Paraiso - on Alston (near the corner of Main) - we tried to go in the afternoon, but it was crazy loud - two guys were shooting pool. My friends commented that it was like walking into a place in Oaxaca. Another time without kids in tow...
              You really should try one of the Mexican places. I second the motion to get a popsicle at Locopops - they do use fresh, local ingredients when they can. Mango chile and mojito are two standard favorites.
              I have heard great things about the newly opened Piedmont in downtown Durham. Local with lots of class, but not too uppity - neither in style nor in price.
              People may disagree, but I think the Q-shack is pretty decent (if you are not in the mood to drive out to Allen and Sons - be forwarned - no alcohol at Allan & Sons, not a beer in sight)- they have some good southern sides: fried okra, mac & cheese, hushpuppies.
              Guglhupf is unique. I suspect there is no German bakery like it in the city. I think the food is just okay, but in all fairness, it has been a while since I have eaten there. Breakfasts are great.

              6 Replies
              1. re: suse

                Wow, you went into El Paraiso? You and Jim Leff are braver than my wife and I. We went by there, took one look, and continued on to Rue Cler. And we're not softies either-- matter of fact, my wife is half Mexican and we have traveled extensively in the Yucatan.

                Put in another vote for Comales from me, although Super is very good too. It's kinda like arguing about whether a BMW or Mercedes is better.

                1. re: suse

                  Oooh. What is Piedmont? I tried googling and got nothing. Can you compare it to any other place in Durham? Any info would be great. Thanks in advance.

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    Piedmont is a brand new restaurant in downtown Durham - just opened - I haven't been there personally, but a friend just went and really liked it. It was opened by the guy who used to cook at the Federal when it was in its heyday. It's apparently near Central Park - wedged between two galleries near where the new Farmer's Market is going in. I'll report back as soon as I've eaten there myself, but it sounds very promising. My friend described it as "fresh, creative, not overpriced." That works for me.

                    1. re: suse

                      suse - just curious as to what you meant about the Federal "when it was in its heyday." I don't live in Durham and only make it to the Fed twice a year or so...I am very curious as to why you say this.

                      To be clear, I have no personal stake or agenda with the Federal. I'm just nosy...

                      1. re: peetoteeto

                        I like the Federal, but I only recently discovered it. Several people have told me that it was particularly good when Chef X (who just opened Piedmont)was cooking there in the beginning. So I'm basing my comments strictly on 2nd hand information.

                      2. re: suse

                        Thanks so much for the info. I finally found the website, thanks to another discussion, and it looks wonderful. Speaking of the Federal, you might want to try Milltown in Carrboro, I think it has the same owners. Good bar/comfort food in a fairly funky setting and an amazing beer list. Lots of Belgian stuff.

                  2. hey thanks for all of the suggestions...

                    i have heard good things about Wilbur's BBQ. Is it worth the ride?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Yaxpac

                      WRT Wilber's. I think that if you're serious about Q a trip to Goldsboro (60 miles from Raleigh) is well worth it. It's seriously good Q. As long as you're heading that way, check out Skylight Inn in Ayden. Many feel that Skylight is the best Q in the state. There are outlet malls in Smithfield which is on the way to Goldsboro, if you need to be able to persuade others to make the trip with you. They're right off I95.

                      1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                        nice...thanks for he info Tom. Funny, b/c my buddy that I am visiting is Tom and he is from Raleigh

                      2. re: Yaxpac

                        Wilber's is very good but I like Allen & Son even better. Their meat is smokier, which I prefer.

                      3. i guess i got a little carried away with the walmart comment... last time i went to super the salsa bar had two options of sauce and limes. it was probably just an off day from the information you've conveyed, but i hadn't been since the removal of the 20-item spread i had come to expect.

                        i would be a liar if i said i don't like it, because i did eat there for years without complaint. i've found the service to be a little slower at los comales, but never disruptive, and they tend to cater to me a little better and it feels more welcoming. but everyone has different tastes and experiences. but super isn't walmart, i just didn't recover from the shock of my last experience, and i explained it in my head as a "price rollback"

                        1. Allen & Sons for bbq gets a big ol' Meh from me. Having grown up near Lexington and all it's bbq bounty, Allen's is a little greasy.

                          If you're willing to make the trip to Greensboro, you can find good bbq at Stameys, High Point at Kepleys (in the quonset hut, not Kepley's Barn), and Lexington at Lexington BBQ #1.

                          Wilbur's is a bit far for a daytrip, doable, but you'll eat up (pun intended) the whole day in the car. However, you might see a Stealth Bomber making a landing apprach as Wilbur's is next door to Seymour Johnson.

                          If you're visiting before Christmas and are staying with friends, try to visit the Carrboro Farmer's market for seasonal produce as well as locally produced cheeses and meat. There are several farms offering their own bulk sausage (pork) that's excellent.

                          1. BBQ--Allen and Son in Chapel Hill
                            Breakfast--Brig's at the Park on Hwy 55 in Durham

                            1. Whoever said "not Dips" is correct. After all the hype we went and were severely disappointed. Get into A Southern Season in Chapel Hill and bring your credit cards.

                              1. I actually like the Q Shack, where 15-501 and University come together, but I wouldn't consider them to be making NC-style BBQ. Their brisket is by far the best in the area, and their sides are good if somewhat limited in variety. (Try the fried okra which is the best I've had.)

                                I actually like Foster's market for breakfast (on 15-501 business), but their options are very limited. I find myself eating at Elmo's on 9th more than I'd like and a lot of what's on their menu is not worth eating.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: AmyNC

                                  Their brisket used to be the best in the area. That distinction now belongs to Rub's in Morrisville, IMHO. While both have great flavor, I have found Rub's brisket to be far more moist and tender than Q Shack's.

                                2. Allen & Sons on Highway 86 in Chapel Hill is a great stereotypical Eastern North Carolina barbeque joint. The desserts are made fresh by the family and the barbeque is pit cooked, and the ice tea is served in mason jars. Nicely priced and definitely something you will not find in NYC. One of my top five restaurants.

                                  1. I've also had some nice tacos at the El Paraiso. Outward appearance is a little off, and it really helps with both ordering and paying if you know some Spanish. Intrepidness was rewarded with some kinda delicious though.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: FuzzyT

                                      how bout a good meat and 3 place?

                                      1. re: Yaxpac

                                        We ended up going to Wilbur's. Man, that is some good BBQ.

                                        1. re: Yaxpac

                                          Wilbur's is definitely great easternNC style! Good choice. I think Allen & Sons is too finely chopped and mushy. If you ever get the chance, I can't recommend B's BBQ in Greenville enough. Its tiny, dirty and delicious. The 'que there doesn't have too much cartilage or connective tissues so it's fairly "clean" but it is moist, smoky, and perfectly seasoned. Their grilled chicken rocks also. Perfectly crispy skin over moist meat without any adornment other than easternNC style sauce. Slow cooked perfection.