This is part two of a two-part series.
Inspired by “Southern Living” naming Durham, North Carolina, the Tastiest Town in the South, I wanted to highlight a few other locations for good eats when in the Bull City. Let’s check out the Ninth Street District!
How to get there: If you’re already downtown exploring Durham’s other culinary and cultural delights, hop on the Bull City Connector, a free bus line that runs along Main Street to link downtown to the Duke campus. If you’re driving in, get off the Durham Freeway (SR 147) at exit 14 and go one block north on Swift Avenue to Main Street. Turn left onto Main, go one block farther, and you have arrived at Ninth Street.
But back up a step. Did you see that cute café at the corner of Swift and Main? That’s The Mad Hatter Bake Shop, offering a menu of wraps, sandwiches, salads, and specialties like vegetarian chili, homemade soups and grilled salmon with olive tapenade. But who cares about lunch when there’s a bakery case full of treats that are as pretty as they are delicious? (Carrot cake should count as a vegetable; that’s all I’m saying.) It can be hard to get a table at peak meal times, so plan your visit accordingly.
To continue our tour, and burn a few calories, walk a block east back to Ninth Street, just past Duke University’s east campus. Along this street is a little bit of everything — funky boutiques, an independent book shop, a garden shop and just about every kind of food you can imagine, some of it priced and styled for university students on the go. Think tacos, falafel, Vietnamese noodle bowls, Philly cheese steaks, pizza, bagels and the like.
At The Blue Corn Café, take your taste buds on a tour of Latin and South America, with the occasional detour to the Caribbean, by sampling a variety of the chef/owner’s creative fusion fare, crafted from fresh and organic ingredients. Offering flavorful dishes like paella, picadillo and fajitas, this cozy café has been a locals’ favorite for more than 15 years.
At the corner of Hillsborough Road and Ninth Street sits Vin Rouge, an intimate, casually elegant French bistro with a menu of Provencal classics such as trout amandine, steak tartare and bouillabaisse, plus a wine list dedicated to French labels. When the weather is warm, the garden courtyard is the perfect place to dine.
Just west of Ninth Street, on the ground floor of the Erwin Square office building, is Parizade, a fixture on the Durham dining scene for more than 20 years. Contemporary Mediterranean-inspired cuisine is crafted in a setting that’s a curious mix of elegant and funky. Vines of twinkle lights, vibrant paintings, hammered copper accents and an open kitchen rival the flair presented on the menu of fresh seafood, robust pastas and creative vegetarian dishes.
Looking for something crowd-pleasing and kid-friendly? Head to Elmo’s Diner at the north end of Ninth Street. Enjoy hearty comfort foods like meatloaf, spaghetti or chicken and dumplings, along with eclectic selections like chicken fajitas, vegetarian burritos and the grilled hummus and veggie sandwich. Breakfast is served all day, and the pancakes and waffles are made from scratch. Kids have a menu just for them, and they can color a picture of Elmo Duck for display on the diner’s wall.
Here’s hoping this brief tour of the Ninth Street District’s dining scene made you hungry!
How about you, readers? What are some of your go-to Durham restaurants for good eats?