Best Bites of the Bull City: Volume 1
Bites of Bull City is thrilled to launch a new series on the blog, “Best Bites of the Bull City,” where we ask fellow bloggers, chefs, and community members to tell us about their favorite bites from Durham! A very special thanks to the first guests in this series, Sarah Krueger and John Huisman (who also provided images for this post)!
You may recognize Sarah Krueger from TV – she’s the Durham reporter for WRAL-TV. Sarah fell in love with Durham while getting her undergraduate degree at Duke. She lived in New York City for two years, but is so glad to be back.
“I really enjoy working in Durham, but I also enjoy living here and spending pretty much all of my free time here, too. My husband and I love going for runs on the American Tobacco Trail, checking out the new restaurants, and going to as many Durham concerts, festivals, and events as we can,” she says. “There’s always something exciting going on here, and always something delicious to eat. Over my seven years living in the Bull City, I’ve had a chance to try a lot of it (but my work is never done!).”
John Huisman, otherwise known as the Triangle Explorer, started his popular local lifestyle blog seven years ago as a creative outlet to share his pictures and thoughts about local culture in the Triangle. “I live in Raleigh, but I enjoy exploring all over the Triangle. I have a particular interest in local breweries, coffee shops, and food trucks,” he shares. “My parents were small business owners, so growing up, I developed a strong connection to locally owned businesses and work hard to support them any way I can.” You can follow his adventures on Twitter and Instagram, too.
We asked Sarah and John to tell us a little bit about their best bites from the Bull City, and here’s what they had to say…
Breakfast or Brunch
Sarah: I love going to the Disco Brunch at the Durham Hotel. It’s a great place to go with a big group of friends and enjoy a Sunday afternoon. The vibe in the dining room is so retro cool. My go-to is the Sea Island Pea Cake Sandwich. It’s great, and so are the fries that come with it.
John: My go-to spot for breakfast in Durham is Monuts. They make some awesome breakfast sandwiches, but of course, the biggest attraction for me is their scratch made donuts and unique flavor combinations. I still dream about a blueberry cabernet donut I had there once. Their coffee service is quite nice too and features locally roasted beans from Counter Culture Coffee.
Sarah: I fell in love with Toast in college, and it has not disappointed me once to this day. I have to admit, in the dozens of times I’ve been there – I almost always get the same thing: The three cheese panini, and the soup of the day! (Their salad needs a shout out, too. The dressing is great – and you can buy it by the bottle.)
John: I have a soft spot for great pizza and Pie Pushers makes a NY style pizza just the way I like it. With a crust that is slightly crispy but still a little floppy with the perfect amount of cheese and sauce. I used to track down their food truck, but now that they have a brick and mortar location above the Pinhook, it’s quickly becoming my go-to spot for lunch while in Durham.
Sarah: Oval Park Grille is one of my favorite dinner spots in Durham. The food is always top quality, and the chef’s dishes have some of the most unique yet awesome combinations. The grilled cheese is crazy good – filled with beets, apples, avocado, horseradish and provolone. Sometimes, I’ll order the “chef’s selection of vegetables” and let them surprise me – because I know everything they do will be delicious. (Also, in case y’all haven’t guessed by now – I’m vegetarian).
John: I know it isn’t fancy, but I never turn down a chance to have dinner at Bull City Burger and Brewery. They have what I consider to be the best burgers in the Triangle. They are always fresh and cooked perfectly. The fries are killer too. Bull City Burger is also a hidden gem when it comes to the beer they brew. They don’t get enough recognition for what I think is some of the best local beer in the area. I also love how they have large communal tables in addition to seating at the bar, which is where you will usually find me sampling beers to pair with my burger.
Sarah: A carrot cake cupcake from The Cupcake Bar. They even have mini cupcakes – so you don’t have to feel bad!
John: Rose’s Meat Market & Sweet Shop is where I go to satisfy my sweet tooth. I love the husband and wife team making up the butcher / bakery combo of the shop. The baked goods there are divine. I recommend trying the salted caramel bread pudding and German chocolate cupcakes. During the summer I recommend grabbing some of their homemade ice cream sandwiches.
Coffee Shop / Café
Sarah: Cocoa Cinnamon II (on Hillsborough Rd). Soy lattes, most days and “The Dr. Durham” if I really want to treat myself!
John: Cocoa Cinnamon is my favorite coffee spot in Durham. Both of their locations are great and offer a nice combination of indoor and outdoor seating. There is always a nice community vibe in the shop and the drinks are delicious. Sometimes I will switch it up and get one of their decadent sipping chocolates, but my go-to coffee drink there is the “Dr. Durham” – a cappuccino with housemade vanilla, ginger, maca, and black lava sea salt.
Sarah: Drinks at The Durham Hotel rooftop is a great way to soak in our wonderful city.
John: There are a lot of great places to grab a cocktail in Durham, but I’m more of a beer drinker. My favorite spot to grab a pint is Ponysaurus. They always have a nice selection of beers on tap, you can find a food truck parked there almost every night of the week, and they have very cool outdoor seating.
Sarah: Geer Street Garden has a really cool outdoor patio that’s great for all seasons. The picnic tables and string lights give it such a friendly, casual vibe. Start with the pimento cheese. Pro tip: Ask what the specials are; they vary from Italian to Mexican to Chinese food, and they’re always great.
John: Rooftop seating at the Durham Hotel is the place I tell everyone to visit to enjoy a cocktail outside. You’ll get great views of the sunset over downtown Durham and if you are lucky, there may even be some live music to enjoy.
Special occasion restaurant
Sarah: Piedmont. Their menu changes often – but whatever their vegetarian entrée is, I order it, and love it!
John: Piedmont doesn’t have to be a place just for special occasions, but it is such a nice experience that I like to save it for special nights out celebrating or a “date night.” Much of the food is locally sourced and the flavor profiles featured on the menu always introduce me to something new. They also have a killer brunch!
Best bang for your buck
Sarah: Mediterranean Grill and Grocery in South Durham. Greek food may just be my favorite of all, so thank you to a friend who told me about this place. Falafel, hummus, and I’m set. I’m also grateful to one of my Spanish professors at Duke who introduced me to La Vaquita. I get the vegetable fajitas. And definitely try the salsa!
John: Nana Taco is my favorite place to grab an inexpensive, but great meal for under $10. The tacos are fresh and delicious and they have $5 margaritas ever day!
Restaurants to Try in 2017
Sarah: I’ve never been to Nana’s but have always heard wonderful things. Hopefully this year I’ll find a reason to go! I’ve also been meaning to go to Littler for months. I always enjoyed going to Monuts when it was in that space, and I’m excited to see how the owners of Littler were able to transform it. I also look forward to trying the Jack Tar Diner once it opens – if it’s run by the people of Pizzeria Toro, I have no doubt it will be awesome.
John: There are so many great restaurants in Durham, I just haven’t had the chance to pay them all a visit yet – it speaks to just how many options there are in the Bull City. Three restaurants I look forward to trying in 2017 are Pizzareia Toro (I love pizza!) Picnic (I hear they have great barbecue) and Alley Twenty Six (known for awesome cocktails and now featuring an expanded kitchen menu).