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Review of Taste Carolina Restaurant Tour and Restaurants: Durham, North Carolina

durham 11Having a day or two to ourselves recently in the Raleigh – Durham area meant we were going to be searching for some restaurants. To get a jump start on the task, and really get a quick feeling for the downtown Durham restaurant scene, we booked a three hour restaurant walking tour with Taste Carolina. This type of tour can be a great way to see an area, get a feel for some of the restaurants and identify locations you might like to return to. We accomplished all of those things.

Since we were here to visit our daughter and son-in-law they were with us, and we met Dean, our tour guide, at the Alizarin Gallery, located at 119 West Main Street in Durham. We’ll start by saying the gallery itself is beautiful, and there was one painting we really wanted to buy and ship home. We did not however, being unusually sensible since it was rather pricey. Anyway, if you like art and are in the area we suggest you stop in.

Dean started with some history of the area, especially the evolution of the Duke Family and Lucky Strike cigarettes. There is a lot of history here, and we’d like to explore more of it in the future. As a city Durham is in the beginning stages of a renaissance, with lots of new construction as well as restoration of older buildings. With a renaissance come restaurants, and we stopped by five. There were actually six on the tour, but it was getting late and we opted to have a drink at the 21C Museum Hotel instead of taking the last tour stop. The 21C is also worth a visit, as the hotel has a great bar, a nice looking restaurant (The Counting House) and an art museum on the third floor.

durham 13Our first stop was Old Havana, located on the ground floor of an old building with high ceilings and an open, airy feel. The theme here is, of course, Cuban. Lots of tapas and sandwich combinations are offered, along with fried plantains, beans and rice and other Cuban staples. It’s lively. We had a sampling of the classic Havana sandwich as well as some of the fried plantains. The plantain was deliciously chewy, and the sandwich was outstanding with tender pork. Pork is a specialty

The dining area at Old Havana

The dining area at Old Havana

here. We have to mention the aromas, which hit you when you walk in and start your saliva flowing immediately. This space smells great. We would definitely stop in again based on this experience. You can get beer and wine as well. It’s very casual with open seating. Old Havana is open for lunch Tuesday through Sunday, and for dinner on Friday and Saturday. Here is their info:

Old Havana

310 East Main Street, Durham NC

919-667-9525

Dining area at Bull City

Dining area at Bull City

Next up was Bull City Burger and Brewery, a burger specializing brew pub just a few blocks up from Old Havana. Here the focus is on serving great food while taking care of planet earth. Bull City is a “B” Corporation, meaning they worry about the three Ps as a business entity: people, planet and profit. It’s not a money making machine above all else. Almost everything is made on premises, and that means everything. About the only exception is the ketchup, which is Heinz All Natural due to the crazy amount of effort it takes to make it yourself. If you do visit and happen to meet the owner, Seth, be prepared for a bit of a sermon. To Seth the

Self serve fine wine at the Bull City Enomatic

Self serve fine wine at the Enomatic

way he operates Bull City is much more than a simple philosophy, it seems more like religion, and he’ll come right out and tell you that. He uses nothing but locally sourced foods and pasture raised grass fed beef. There are no exceptions. If you’d like the long version of why – just ask him. We agree with him on principle, and the beef was very flavorful, lean and really stood out among the other ingredients on the bun rather than getting overwhelmed. It was good, very good. Lew thought the veggie burger was really outstanding.  We would also definitely return here in the future. Right next door they also have a pizza place, and that calls for future trials. Bull City is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner. Particulars are:

Bull City Burger and Brewery

107 East Parrish Road, Durham NC

919-680-2333
Bull City Burger and Brewery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

The Sausage and Fennel Pizza at Toro

The Sausage and Fennel Pizza at Toro

We switched to a pizza theme at our next stop, Pizzeria Toro. They have a large open oven in the back of the main restaurant space, with stacks of wood at the ready. As with all the restaurants on this trip Pizzeria Toro is a small, neighborhood establishment with a good feeling and a single, open dining area. There is a bar to one side with a separate entry/exit door. We sampled two different pizzas and had a glass of Lambrusco. The pizza was OK, but we were gathered off to the side in the bar, and didn’t really get enough of an impression for the place to render an informed opinion. A return trip would be a necessity before recommending it.

Pizzeria Toro – 105 E. Chapel Hill Street, Durham NC – 919-908-6936

durham 3Across the street was Toast, another small restaurant with a fairly eclectic menu. We sampled a

An eclectic menu at Toast

An eclectic menu at Toast

goat cheese crostini and a potato leek soup. I thought the soup was delicious, and could have eaten a bowl of it. Once again though we did not get enough of a taste to really make up our minds one way or another.

Toast – 345 W. Main Street, Durham NC – 919-683-2183

We finished our tour at stop five, which was The Parlour, an ice cream shop serving up delicious ice cream. We had only one sample, a small sundae of mint cookies and cream with a small dollop of whipped cream. This was one of the best ice creams we had ever tasted, and that was a unanimous opinion. I would definitely return here to try some other flavors.

The Parlour – 117 Market Street, Durham NC – 919-564-7999

We all thought the tour was worthwhile and enjoyable. All the restaurants we visited had the same vibe, kind of like a Cambridge, MA or Greenwich Village minimalist, farm to table eclectic feeling.  Dean is very knowledgeable about the area as well as the food and beverage scene. If you’re looking for an easy way to get your culinary bearings in either Durham or nearby Raleigh you should check the tour company out at:

Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours

www.Tastecarolina.net

919-237-2254

A votre sante!

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