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Feb 19, 2008 05:44 PM

Durham, North Carolina

Heading to Durham this weekend and interested in several places to eat lunch and dinner. Could someone suggest a few options. I am pretty plain sticking to american food...might consider good tex/mex. Thanks in advance!

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  1. AnotherThyme in Brightleaf Square is pretty good. The chef there focuses on foods that go great with seasonings and herbs. I had an awesome lamb tenderloin on parmesan polenta the other night. Lots of mint, thyme, etc. It's a really good dish. The wine list is serviceable and their hummus for a starter is a steal. Service is attentive, too.
    Tex/Mex is lacking right now in this area. Taco trucks and the like are about it. I'd stick to conventional fare

    3 Replies
    1. re: hungryphillip

      Really? Not 6 months ago Gourmet had a featured article on the exploding Mexican food scene in Durham and how it was now among the best in the country.

      On OP's question, a burger at Federal (if you want to sit) or Wimpy's (if you don't) are good options for lunch.

      Tons of other conversations on the board should give you plenty to fill your weekend.

      1. re: hungryphillip

        lm1424, just search.

        We have TONS of TexMex. Rodeo, Torrero's, Cosmic, Blue Corn all the places that aren't very good. And, of course, our Mexican food is amazing.

        1. re: hungryphillip

          I live in Los Angeles, which you can assume as pretty good mexican food. However, I just finished working in Durham for the last 6 weeks and I had some of the best mexican food of my life. I don't know much about Tex/Mex but the tacos, burritos, etc. that I had in Durham pleased my Mexican co-workers to their toes! Try the Cosmic Cantina - open til 3am with liquor - just off of 9th Street above a dance studio. Out of the way but so worth it!

        2. It would be worth the extra few miles to go to Fiesta Grill on Highway 54 west of Chapel Hill/Carrboro. You can google Fiesta Grill and probably read some independent reviews on it as well - it has been very well received, and has been mentioned in a few magazines.

          I particularly recommend their soups, their homemade mole sauce, and their 2 homemade tomatillo hot sauces.

          AnotherThyme is a Durham "institution", i.e., it has been there long enough to have had good years and bad years, but overall I have enjoyed it in the past 30 years.

          Magnolia Grill is a world famous restaurant in Durham. I find it over-crowded and overloud, but the food is world class. You'll need reservations and it is expensive (for this area).

          If "american" food includes Seafood, you can try Fishmongers in Durham for good no frills seafood for Lunch, and/or you can go to Squids in Chapel Hill for Dinner.

          Some of the best "mexican" food (not Tex-Mex) in the area is in fact in Tacquerias and on Trucks in and around Durham; but I doubt you'd like it given your stated limitations.

          1 Reply
          1. re: fussycouple

            Re: Magnolia Grill - not only is it over-loud, expensive but I literally had my waiter waive me off of some dishes I was interested in. When does that happen in the supposed "#11 of Gourmet's 50 best restaurants in America"? Too boot, they are absolute nazis about their reservations system. They actually WON'T confirm a reservation the day before (you have to call them) if you have anything but a 919 area code? And the food, honestly, was not as good as other places I went in Durham.

          2. What about Watts Grocery? That's the place in Durham that I'd like to try.

            1 Reply
            1. re: cackalackie

              Watts Grocery is delicious, and is also relatively cheap if you go at lunch. If you are going for lunch on a weekday, make a reservation in advance (or call 10 minutes ahead to get your name on the wait list). They serve a brunch menu on the weekend, which includes a really tasty cheese grits bowl with your choice of 4 toppings. Service can sometimes be slow, particularly on weekends.

            2. There are a number of restaurants on Ninth Street near Duke University. You could just try walking down the street and see what looks good. I like George's Garage, and last year we went to Metro 8 Steakhouse for our anniversary. We were quite pleased with both the food and the service. I've heard good things about International Delights, but I've not tried it myself.


              There's also the American Tobacco District area in downtown Durham - another walkable place where you can just stop in at a place that interests you, though there aren't as many places as on Ninth St. Tyler's has a wonderful selection of beers - but I'd stay away from the burgers, the buns they use are not very good. They do make very good salads, and their seasonal menu is pretty good too.

              The Symposium Cafe is pretty good also, and if you just want pizza, there's also the Mellow Mushroom.

              1. The Federal is a good rec for lunch or dinner, especially if you like to linger over a beer or glass of wine. It's on Main Street, next door to the James Joyce (Irish pub) and across the street from Brightleaf Square. Since you sound like a meat-n-potatoes kind of guy, I also recommend Elmo's Diner (9th Street) for breakfast or lunch (or dinner) - casual, wide-ranging menu, solid and tasty and friendly.

                6 Replies
                1. re: dubedo

                  I'd have to disagree about Elmo's. I know it has it's fans but I can't say I've ever had an even remotely acceptable meal there.

                  The Federal, in the other hand, is a great choice. Its menu choices are not frou-frou at all. If they have the Italian sandwich at lunch it's worth ordering. The burgers go without saying.

                  1. re: rockycat

                    i agree with both of rockycat's points, with one caveat-- the service at the Federal is so surly, it's bordering on combative. Not even a kickass burger like theirs is worth the attitude, as far as I'm concerned. I believe if you do a search on them, you'll discover a post some time ago from ChapelWill that echoes this sentiment. As an alternative to Fishmongers', I'd recommend Blu Seafood at the intersection of 9th and Markham for simple, fresh preparations. Would definitely also note TheRoy's reference to the earlier deleted posts. Piedmont is my fave restaurant in Durham; Rue Cler is excellent as well--3 course $25 prix fixe, which is pretty cool; and would definitely second (or 3rd) the recs for Watts Grocery's lunch. And reiterate that you should stay the hell away from Elmo's.
                    Insofar as TexMex, BryanZ has it pretty much nailed-- TexMex options are lacking at best. Authentic Mexican taqueria fare, however, is some of the best I've had anywhere in the US. In particular El Superior, Los Comales, and Taqueria Mirandas get my vote.

                    1. re: tacostacoseverywhere

                      I eat at Federal at least once a month and never found the service to be either surly or combative, or have I ever received any attitude from a server. The Service at times can be on the slow side but the servers have always been nice too me.

                      1. re: chazzer

                        My experience has been the same as chazzer, and I have been there half a dozen times.

                        Professional service? Not really, but never surly. (Though I wish they served Surly beer but we can't get that in NC.)

                        1. re: brentk

                          Hey, maybe I should give it another try... I do miss the burger! I am an unsavory character, so maybe that was the problem... *grin*

                      2. re: tacostacoseverywhere

                        We just ate at the Federal the other night for the first time in a while. The food was great, the prices fair and the service was actually very friendly. Perhaps the wait staff has been encouraged to be a bit more friendly lately or maybe they just don't like the looks of you , TTE. Juuuust kidding, of course! I know there's a no-smoking section in the back, but I do wish the whole place were smoke-free just because I like the vibe in the front room best. One day....I figure North Carolina will be the last place on the planet to cave in to the smoke-free laws.