Durham foodies can take pride in their hometown’s recent win of “The Tastiest Town in the South.”
Southern Living magazine placed Durham in their “Top 10 Tastiest Towns in the South” list alongside other notable destinations, such as Miami and New Orleans, in January. After a six-week long national voting process, Durham earned the title of “The Tastiest Town in the South” over Memphis, who was also a close contestant for the win. The honor shows how Durham’s burgeoning food scene has garnered mass attention.
“It is an exciting but not unexpected validation of the real growth of the food scene in Durham,” said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president of public affairs and government relations and chairman of the Durham Chamber of Commerce. “We are certainly proud, but we are not surprised.”
Durham’s rise to the number one spot is a testament to how much the people of Durham care about good food, Schoenfeld said. He added that there has been a lot of emphasis on solidifying Durham as a city known for good food in recent years. For example, Bon Appetit magazine named Durham-Chapel Hill America’s Foodiest Small Town in 2008.
Such titles have attracted people to Durham who are interested in the city’s diverse food scene, Schoenfeld said.
“Our unique food culture has become a great driver for tourism,” he said. “It adds a very special and certainly tasty component to an already wonderful city.”
Leon Grodski Barrera, owner of local coffee shop Cocoa Cinnamon, said the Durham food culture is very conducive to supporting new and unique restaurants.
Cocoa Cinnamon—which features coffee, chocolate, a tea lounge and a mobile coffee-serving bike unit—is very different from the typical coffee shop, Grodski Barrera said. He added that it takes a specific type of city to support restaurants like his.
“It really shows how much Durhamites support their community by how hard they voted to get us the number one spot,” Grodski Barrera said. “We have options in this city that you wouldn’t get anywhere else in the country.”
Senior Ashley Alman, an intern in the INDY Week Food section, said that she has used her time living off-campus to explore many of the local restaurants that Durham has to offer. Although Durham’s small-town feel might not have the breadth of options that many larger cities have, the city’s “hidden treasures” made it a clear winner for Southern Living’s top spot, she said.
“Durham is totally deserving of the recognition,” Alman said. “It has so much to offer. I am so grateful that I have really branched out to experience more of it in the past year.”
The recognition will also further the support local businesses already receive from the Durham community, said Alan Phillips, manager of Amelia Café.
“This recognition is awesome,” Phillips said. “It can’t be anything but good for all of the restaurants in Durham.”