Durham, NC, USA

A snapshot of what was great in Durham when I left in December 2018. It is a lovely city, looked down upon by its neighbors, cherished by its citizens. I had the great pleasure of living there from 2014-2018, a time of growth and revitalization, a truly American experience.


Saltbox Seafood Joint

The best seafood place in the world, if you ask me. Fresh fish delivered daily from the coast, heavily (and heavenly) seasoned, perfectly fried and served in a potato bun (the best kind of bun) with zingy slaw. Get the roll, not the plate. On your second visit, get the fried oyster roll. My favorite thing in the world.

Heavenly Buffaloes (on W. Markham Avenue)

They make really good hot wings in this shed on a parking lot. Get the sweet potato waffle fries on the side, and make it a real American experience with a beer in a brown paper bag.

Chicken Hut

This is a very traditional “soul food” place, probably hasn’t changed for fifty years, and their fried chicken really is very, very good. Get it with a side of mac and cheese and collard greens.

Vin Rouge

The French bistro I wish every city had. Nothing fancy, just very good food. They used to have a cheap fixed price menu and one-dollar-oysters on Tuesdays, not sure if they still do.


I have never eaten as many oysters as during my time in Durham. That might seem surprising since Durham isn’t exactly a coastal town, but the Atlantic is only a couple of hours away and North Carolina has a large number of oyster farms, making oysters cheap and plentiful. It would not be uncommon to find $1 oysters. I would go to Locals Seafood in the Durham Food Hall. It opened after we left, but Locals were my go-to fishmonger.


The Green Room

Divy pool hall. Good selection of craft beer, always heavy metal on the playlist and Walking Dead on the TV. You can bring your own food.

Dain’s Place

A quintessential American neighborhood bar, frequented by everything from families to firemen. Perfect for after-work beer-drinking. The burgers are alright, the tater tots are great.

Sam’s Quik Shop

Bottle shop located in a former gas station, staffed by heavy metal/bike delivery-types. It feels like a leftover from the 90’s alternative scene, in a good way.

Fast food chains

Cook Out

Honestly the only burger you need. They are all over North Carolina, they are cheap, they are fast. I like their “Cheddar Style” hamburger. If you don’t go for a special, you have to specify everything you want inside, otherwise you’ll end up with just the meat. The milkshakes are great as well, even if on the heavy side.

Rise Biscuits

For some reason biscuits, fluffy buttermilk buns, have not made it to Europe, and I don’t know why. They are good at places like Bojangles, but this local chain is even better.


Motorco / Parts & Labor

Motorco usually have the bigger alternative rock names. In the summer their bar Parts & Labor has a really nice outdoor area, great for going with bigger groups, and you can get decent late night bar food.


The only punk place in town, including terrible attitude. They do have great shows though, and I saw the best Jens Lekman show of my life at The Pinhook, for which I will be forever grateful.

Accordion Club

Around the corner from Motorco, this little cozy bar gets a honorable mention thanks to their Frito Pies: a small bag of Fritos chips doused with chili con carne. The perfect bar snack.

Nasher Museum of Art

Museum on the Duke Campus. They usually have interesting exhibitions.


Sarah P. Duke Gardens

The best place to go for an afternoon stroll in Durham.

Occoneechee Mountain

Nice for a weekend hike. Good views, a bit of uphill hiking.

Eno River

Closer than Occoneechee, while still a lovely hike.

The Research Triangle

Chapel Hill/Carrboro

Chapel Hill is much more of a college town than Durham. The main street goes right through the UNC campus, and wherever you look there are undergrad students and shops catering to them. Further down the street Chapel Hill fades away and Carrboro takes over, with more of a quaint artsy vibe.

Sunrise Biscuits, Caffé Driade

On Saturdays we would drive to Chapel Hill to go to the Farmer’s Market. On the way we would stop at Sunrise Biscuit and get the best biscuits I have ever had, Ida would get the biscuit with a piece of fried chicken, I would get it with eggs, bacon and tomato. Afterwards we would get a cup of coffee at Caffé Driade, a little artsy coffee place in the woods.


The biggest city in the Triangle. There are nice things to do, but I never spent much time there. If you happen to be into country music (I am), they do have more shows than Durham/Chapel Hill. Raleigh was one of the hot spots of the 90’s alt-country scene, with bands such as Whiskeytown calling the city home.

Eastern North Carolina

The Atlantic coast is a three hour drive from Durham. In-between there is not much to see, unless you are into barbecue. The coast is surrounded by the Outer Banks, a group of barrier islands. The beaches are nice, and the remoteness of some of the islands is quite astonishing.


Eastern North Carolina is known for whole hog barbecue, where a whole hog (it’s in the name …) is slowly roasted over embers for up to 24 hours, before being “pulled” and mixed with a vinegary hot sauce. Whole hog barbecue is very rare to find outside of Eastern N.C. The most iconic whole hog barbecue joint is Skylight Inn in Ayden, the “capital of barbecue”.

Western North Carolina


Driving west from Durham you end up in Asheville, a lovely city in the Appalachians. This is where the rich retire and the hip relocate to enjoy the fresh air and stunning scenery, while still having access to good food and craft beers. There are more than 50 breweries in the city. Go to 12 Bones for very good ribs (Obama likes them as well), Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar for a faux-European bookstore meets coffee house meets champagne bar and Burial Beer for craft beer

Blue Ridge Parkway

From Asheville you have easy access to to the Blue Ridge Parkway, a national parkway driving along the Appalachians.