Best Bites of the Bull City: Volume 5
Our next “Best Bites” series features picks from two prominent Durham chefs who are also a proud part of this community and culinary visionaries with impressive resumes.
The first is Chef Scott Howell of Nana’s, which has been open for 25 years and is consistently voted one of the best restaurants in Durham. He and his wife, Aubrey Zinaich Howell, also own NanaTaco, NanaSteak and Bar Virgile. Needless to say, they know a thing or two about good food!
Scott Howell: In the morning, I frequent Foster’s Market and get the country sausage with a couple eggs easy over grits, toast, fresh O.J. and coffee. My wife, Aubrey, and I usually frequent places because the food is amazing and because we love the people who own and run it. Foster’s owner, Sara, and I have been friends for 30+ years and she’s an amazing chef.
John May: On the weekends, I love Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant on Guess Road for amazing dim sum. I’ve been eating here for years and still love the pork sui mai, steamed broccoli with oyster sauce, fried pork dumplings and green peppers stuffed with shrimp. It’s amazingly good..there’s a reason it’s always busy on Sundays.
Scott Howell: My wife and I eat at M Sushi for dinner whenever we can. We almost always get the tasting menu and the Kama. Every time we go, we remark that it isn’t just one of the top restaurants in Durham, it’s definitely one of the top restaurants in the Triangle. The food is flawless, the service is great, and the space is really welcoming. We can’t wait to see what Chef Lee does next!
John May: Even though I live downtown, I love to eat dinner at home. I like going to Pizzeria Toro or Viceroy so that I can grab a drink at the bar while I wait for the food, then take it home to enjoy. I get a Fuller’s at Viceroy, a few orders of garlic naan, and something off the special’s board. At Toro, it’s usually mozzarella pie, the potato pizza, a kale salad, and a Negroni while I wait.
Scott Howell: My favorite sweet item in Durham are the “Shattered Cookies” from Loaf bakery.
John May: I live two blocks from the Five Points area in downtown Durham and The Cupcake Bar is one of my favorite spots. On a day off, when I go to Bulldega to get stuff for dinner, I hit the Cupcake Bar and grab some minis to bring home for dessert. My wife and I love the Mexican chocolate as well as the lemon flavors.
Scott Howell: For coffee, I head to one of Cocoa Cinnamon’s (now three) locations where I get the Dr. Durham. I go to Cocoa Cinnamon because the coffee, cocoa, and service is amazing, but also because I really believe in what Areli and Leon are doing for the community. It’s all about the human and personal connection.
John May: The coffee shop at the Durham Hotel is possibly my favorite in the area. They make straightforward good coffee, teas, pour overs and espresso based drinks. My usual is a cappuccino, cheese toast, and some Wi-Fi usage.
Scott Howell: I know I shouldn’t name my own place, but I love Bar Virgile. Aubrey get’s the Pina Colada in season.
John May: I like my neighborhood bar, Ramblers, which is located on the bottom floor of the parking garage on Fuller Street in West Village. There are six drafts available and always really good craft beers from around the area or highlighting some of the best brews around the country. The selections are always interesting; they rarely repeat offerings, and I always know the majority of the people there. It’s the closest things to “Cheers” that we have around! And the bar is extremely dog friendly.
Scott Howell: When choosing a nice place to dine outdoors, I would recommend Vin Rouge for the seafood tower.
John May: I dine outside at Saltbox whenever I have the time. I love the convenience of the outdoor dining here because I want to be able to eat the food as quickly as possible and at its best quality. I usually go with something like mullet or croakers (usually fried), some Hush-Honeys and lemon punch. Typically, the punch does not last long enough for me to enjoy it with the food. If they say “the punch is on point today,” ORDER TWO OF THEM.
Scott Howell: For a change from my own restaurant, NanaSteak, I would go back to my favorite from above, and say M Sushi for special occasions.
John May: Piedmont is great for a nice night out, but when I’m off work and get a date night with my wife, we go to M Sushi as well. We love to serve raw fish at Piedmont, which stems from my love of eating raw fish. Chef Lee sources some of the best product available and always serves it with respect. The staff is wonderful and engaging. For me, it’s one of the best sushi bar dining experiences you can have, and I really enjoy that for special occasions.
Best Bang for your Buck
Durham Restaurants to try this Year
Scott Howell: I’m looking forward to trying the Jack Tar Diner that Gray and Cara Stacy are opening in the Unscripted Hotel. Also, Ricky Moore’s new place located near Nana’s restaurant, and Matt Kelly’s new restaurant, Saint James, in the old Fishmonger’s spot. I hear that maybe Chef Lee is opening a Korean barbecue spot soon and can’t wait for that too.
John May: I’ve been to Littler before, but it was more of a late night thing, so I want to try it out more completely. I love to cook and eat adventurously, which is something Littler does well. I would also like to try out what Chef Carrie Schleiffer is doing up at Alley Twenty Six between the interesting food options and fun cocktails they feature. I’m also very excited to check out what’s going on at Rose’s now that they’ve reopened. I’m very excited for Saint James seafood to open this year as well.