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Where to eat to survive Family Weekend

cameron cravings

In case your parents aren’t as prompt in informing you of the happenings of the Duke Parents Facebook page as my mom is, this weekend is Family Weekend. It promises to be a full two to three days of awkward introductions, waiting in lines, and neglecting your homework. Exciting, no?

One of the most challenging parts of having family visit is trying to decide where to eat. Durham has dozens of wonderful restaurants, and no matter what vibe you’re looking for, I’m sure there is a place that’s perfect for your family. If you’re having a hard time deciding, here are a few of my suggestions, free of charge. You’re welcome.

Burger Bach: Beef from New Zealand? Burgers with several vegetable toppings your dad has never heard of? Blueberry chipotle bbq sauce? It’s time to show your parents how foodie and intellectual you have become in the first seven weeks of college. Are these the best burgers in Durham? Maybe, maybe not. But are they the most interesting burgers in Durham? Absolutely. 

The menu alone provides several dozen conversation topics that steer clear of any questions you’d rather avoid entirely. When they ask about grades, or the drinking scene on campus, or if you watched the Democratic debates last week, just invite the waiter over to explain the whole imported-beef thing again. It’ll blow their minds.

Elmo’s Diner: Freshman year my grandparents came to visit. They told me we could go anywhere, eat anything, and I took them to Elmo’s. Last spring, two friends from New Jersey came to Durham for a concert. I dared to take them, people who hail from the diner capital of the world, to Elmo’s. 

And let me tell you, Elmo’s holds up. There’s something on the menu for everyone (even your vegan-but-still-eats-eggs sister). Breakfast for dinner? To quote Old El Paso, “Porque no los dos?” Anything you want to eat, Elmo’s has: it’s basically the Room of Requirement of Durham eateries.

Gonza Tacos y Tequila: Oh, I get it. You’re a fun family. How about going to a place with strong drinks, good food, and Mexican wrestler masks looking down from every angle? Chips and salsa are free and limitless. Limitless! It’ll be loud enough that you can pretend you didn’t hear your parents trying to roll their r’s when they order. 

Your sister will put their star-shaped paper lanterns on her Instagram story; your parents can give Gonza five stars on the basis of their black beans alone; everyone can take a bizarre family photo under their neon outdoor sign. Fun!

Pompieri Pizza: If you really want to confuse your parents, bring them to Pompieri. So we just sit at this long table next to … strangers? And the drinks come in Mason jars? Why is everything vaguely firefighter-themed? Just wait until the food comes and your mom has to cut her pizza with kitchen scissors. 

If restaurants can be placed on the D&D alignment chart, Pompieri is definitely chaotic good, in the best way. Everyone will have a great time, once your parents get over the novelty of the scissors situation and actually try the pizza.

The Parlour: By far the biggest perk of having family visit is the free food. Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to swindle as much out of the weekend as you can, and at the Parlour you can certainly do some damage. Thank you, I will have a brownie sundae that costs more than the federal hourly minimum wage. Why yes, I would like to order three different flavors, and I absolutely do want it all in a waffle cone. 

The Parlour offers some of the best ice cream around, but who among us can regularly afford such a luxury? During Family Weekend, that all goes out the window. They even have dairy-free options for your vegan-but-still-eats-eggs sister, so truly the whole fam can join the fun. It’s time to go all out.

Cookout: If you’re like me, your parents are too far away to actually be able to come for Family Weekend, so it’s just a regular weekend. Except that all weekend, your friends are hanging out with their families so you are entirely abandoned, neglected by everyone you hold dear and destined to be alone for all eternity. 

Before you spiral down this rabbithole too far, go to Cookout with your similarly-lonely friends: sugar and deep-fried carbohydrates will always give your weary soul the respite it needs. Wallow all you want (I recommend listening to “All Too Well” on repeat), but at the end of the day, nothing puts the I’m-going-to-die-alone demons at bay like a milkshake with friends.

Gretchen Wright is a Trinity senior who loves her vegan-but-still-eats-eggs sister very much. Her column, "Cameron cravings", runs on alternate Thursdays.

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