The 10 Best Food Spots in Durham Ranked

By Brandon Sasserson on January 17, 2020

There is an abundance of quality places to eat (aside from dinning halls) when you are a student at the University of New Hampshire, so much so that it is almost a hassle to choose between them on any given occasion. So, I decided to put together a ranked list of the ten best food spots in Durham. While many are packed in downtown Durham, some food joints are scattered on different borders of the academic campus, but all of the restaurants listed are within walking distance or an extremely short drive for students.

It was difficult to decipher amongst the wide variety of restaurants in search of the best food in Durham, and it was even more challenging to assign my favorite ten into ranked order. For example, it was hard for me to disqualify The Spot and The Juicery from my selections, but I felt I had to because of their minimal food menu. Both places are terrific for smoothies and yogurt bowls, but I really wanted to focus on the grub. I wanted to find the best food in Durham; the kind of delicious cuisine that is so good, you could care less what it does to your waistline.

10. Wildcat Pizza

Out of the three non-chain pizza spots in Durham, Wildcat Pizza has the densest menu and succeeds with their high variety most consistently across the board. Including burgers, subs, wraps, pasta, salads, soups and desserts, Wildcat Pizza thrives in delivering on all sections of the menu. Their pizza is superb, always covered in fresh toppings and they have a dazzling selection of specialty pizzas. Wildcat Pizza also has the most well-prepared and delicious calzones in comparison to any other option in Durham. They also have great weekly deals, delivery and an up-to-date, easy-to-use online order system.

9. Big Bean

Big Bean has just recently opened a location in Durham and it has been a hit so far this school year. The location includes two sides: a cafe as well as a restaurant plus a bar section. This place’s delicious offerings of both breakfast and lunch fare can be paired with an endless mug, which you pick out of an assortment of different mugs, each decorated with different colors and designs at the restaurant side. In combination with the refillable $2.50 mug, their menu mostly consists of low prices. Big Bean’s duality as a cafe and a sit-down restaurant along with its favorable environment and menu surely put it in the top ten, despite its recent arrival.

8. The Works 

Similar to my last pick, the Works is a cafe that offers coffee, breakfast all day and lunch. However, their lunch menu is much larger than their competitor’s and they stay open until 5 pm rather than 2 pm. Their sizable lunch menu includes a variety of sandwiches and panini as well as Quinoa Bowls, which are delectably layered with various tasty vegetables and grains with salmon, chicken or bacon. The breakfast selection is fairly comparable to Big Bean but The Works also sells fresh New York-style bagels that are kept on display.

7. Thai Smile 2

With the first location opening in Plymouth, NH, Thai Smile 2 has been open in Durham for a few years. Their abundant menu includes all kinds of curry, rice and noodle dishes, as well as seafood, duck and more. The food spot offers affordable and sizable combinations that are surely saliva inspiring. Thai Smile 2′s food is always hot and yummy for the customer and this food spot definitely offers some of the best food in Durham.

6. Young’s Restaurant

Front and center in Durham’s downtown strip, Young’s Restaurant prides itself on providing great service in a cozy environment. Young’s Restaurant is mainly geared towards breakfast with mouthwatering omelets, dripping eggs Benedict, fluffy french toast, and more. The kitchen consistently hits with high-quality meals, all while using locally grown ingredients. Their lunch menu is certainly limited but their tremendous breakfast options more than make up for it. For 20 years, Young’s Restaurant and Coffee Shop has been a staple food spot for UNH students and visiting family.

5. Pauly’s Pockets

Pauly’s Pockets is a Mediterranean food spot located on Main St. that specializes in Falafel and pocket sandwiches. Not only are the sandwiches delicious and sizable, but they are also extremely low-cost. Aside from their chief dishes, Pauly’s Pockets also offers two types of fries, Mozzarella Sticks and Chicken Fingers for the less experimental eater. In addition, they are the only food spot that serves the yummy dessert, baklava, which I think everyone should try. Pauly’s Pockets has pleased many customers with fresh, flavorsome Mediterranean quick-bites since opening in Durham several years ago.

4. Bamee

This is another Thai food spot that UNH students are lucky to have nearby. Bamee’s slogan, “Lets slurp and burp,” represents their keen focus on making top-quality soups. Bamee is able to edge out Thai Smile 2 due to its superior menu and food presentation. Their meats are arguably more flavorful and textured, and Bamee also offers a greater selection of starters and sides. Some local favorites are the Spicy Crispy Chicken dish and the Roasted Duck Noodle Soup. You should surely stop by Bamse even if you are a newbie to Thai food.

3. Franz’s Food

Another quick-bite spot, Franz’s Food’s wholesome menu is not only whimsical with playful selection names and descriptions but is also extremely affordable. Breakfast is served all day and students would suffer without Franz’s stellar breakfast sandwiches, like the “Scrambolo,” which includes three eggs scrambled with cheddar, onions, bacon, and salsa all wrapped in a grilled tortilla. Their Coney Island hot dogs are also a major highlight of the menu and they are fiercely flavorsome. Their burgers, deli sandwiches, salads, and vegetarian options also include first-rate food.

2. Durham House of Pizza + JP’s Grill

DHOP certainly makes the best pizzas in Durham. Whether you get a specialty pizza for dinner or a few casual midnight slices after a bar night, DHOP always satisfies. Nonetheless, the lack of options aside from pizza and calzones hindered DHOP against Durham’s alternative options such as Wildcat Pizza and Village Pizza. However, since JP’s Grill’s opening in early 2019, which is under the same ownership as DHOP, food-goers have anything they could ever want from the pair of restaurants. JP’s deli sandwiches are arguably the best in Durham, and they deliver on their headlined roast beef. Side-by-side on Main St., DHOP and JP’s Grill offers a wide diversity of mouthwatering American fare.

1. Hop + Grind

Hop + Grind opened in Durham just a few years ago and has been a hit for college students ever since. Their wide selection of juicy craft burgers are made of beef, pork, chicken along with vegetarian options, and made with a radical choice topping. They also offer a mouthwatering arsenal of different types of fries and other sides such as Truffle Shuffle and Nacho Libre. In addition, Hop + Grind makes their own sodas from scratch and offers a vast selection of craft beers. The inside of the restaurant is almost as unorthodox as the menu with wacky decorations and an abundance of color. It seems there is no cap to Hop + Grind’s creativity when it comes to food. Due to their unique and memorable options, and their resulting deliciousness, Hop + Grind is the best food spot in Durham.

Brandon Sasserson is an English + Business Management Dual Major at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH. He has written content for Study Breaks, Blog Shark Tank, and TheGamer. Aside from college related topics, Brandon also likes to write about Hip-Hop, Sports, Film, Television and Literature.

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