The Best Cafes & Sweet Shops in Durham

Enjoying a locally brewed iced coffee.

During my time at Fuqua, I noticed that two key items became exceedingly popular to students — coffee and sweets. Durham offers a lot of unique dining and drinking options that you won’t find anywhere else. In addition to well-known chains like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, Durham boasts some great cafes and bakeries to satisfy almost any sweet craving you may have. For new students, I’d like to tell you about a few of my favorite places to find the best coffee and sweets that are close to school, and don’t break the bank.

Cocoa Cinnamon

A newer establishment in Durham, Cocoa Cinnamon focuses on exotic, diverse offerings from all around the world. In addition to specialty coffee drinks, Cocoa Cinnamon also offers sipping chocolate, tea, and even beer/wine — among all these drinks, you are sure to find something to quench your thirst. Some of these offerings are made right here in Durham or from places a little farther away like South America and the Middle East. Whether you need a midday pick-me-up espresso, or some chai tea to accompany your afternoon of studying, Cocoa Cinnamon has a warm, “welcome home” ambiance that will make you want to stay for hours on end. (This could also be due to the comfy couches — but I’ll leave that up to you to find out).

mug

Cute mugs at Cocoa Cinnamon.

Cocoa Cinnamon also offers artisan pastries, one of my favorites being the chocolate lavender cheesecake. They also sell specialty items including equipment to brew coffee or tea at home. Cocoa Cinnamon has also started a community coffee program that allows other customers to contribute to a fund dedicated to buying coffee for those who cannot afford it.

As a side note, Cocoa Cinnamon is located downtown, extremely close to a popular trivia spot for Fuqua students — Fullsteam Brewery. Fullsteam was founded by a Fuqua MBA, so be sure to check it out on Thursday nights!

raspberry tart

Amelia Cafe's Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Tart.

Amelia Café

If you’re in the mood for a standard caffeine boost and a variety of desserts, Amelia Café is the place for you. In addition to coffee, Amelia’s offers one of my absolute favorite desserts — gelato. Strawberry, hazelnut, chocolate … they’re all there. And they are absolutely divine. Amelia’s also offers other desserts such as jumbo éclairs, fruit tarts, chocolate roulade cakes, crepes, and many more. Amelia Café is located off of Main Street, in Brightleaf Square, close to one of my favorite boutiques, Vert and Voque — specializing in American-made and organic clothing. There’s no better way to wind down after a serious shopping session than with one of Amelia’s chocolate pralines.

cookies

Mad Hatter offers a variety of cookies, even Duke cookies ... perfect for game nights.

Mad Hatter Bake Shop and Café

Conveniently located next to Whole Foods (near East Campus), Mad Hatter offers a wide range of coffee drinks and baked goods for the masses to devour. In addition to cappuccinos, espressos, and a multitude of specialty coffee drinks, Mad Hatter has a full-fledged bakery. Yes, that means cookies and cakes galore. (Note: on the bottom row, Mad Hatter’s shows some of its Duke pride with some signature D sugar cookies). Outside of the sweets, the café also has a full menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So if you are ever looking for a special birthday cake for one of your classmates, or some delectable snacks for your next team meeting, Mad Hatter is equipped and eager to cater to your every sweet need.

menu board

There's no shortage of options at Parker and Otis.

Parker and Otis

I cannot say enough good things about Parker and Otis, which is located downtown. I was first introduced to it last summer, before I started the MMS program, by a very dear teacher from high school. We met for lunch and I was blown away by the diverse types of sandwiches and salads that Parker and Otis served its customers. But after returning time after time, I’ve also spent a great deal of time at the sweets counter — ogling at the truffles and bon bons. There is even a row of pick-your-own candy — perfect for when you want to bring some candy to class with you. These exciting treats are all in addition to the extremely fast and efficient coffee counter where you can feed your need for caffeine to your heart’s content. I’m also a big fan of all of the cooking/kitchen supplies that Parker and Otis has to offer. They have an expansive retail space, with products ranging anywhere from bath and body goods all the way down to stationary.

Lily Shabani

More posts from Lily Shabani

MMS, Class of 2013. Find out more about me...

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One Response to The Best Cafes & Sweet Shops in Durham

  1. Satrap says:

    Hi Lily,

    Just wanted to congratulate you as you have been chosen as one of our Top Student Bloggers. You can see it here: http://surveysatrap.com/top-student-bloggers-award-winners/

    Please feel free to share the page with others. Other have linked to it from their blog, feel free to do that if you wish.

    Once again congrats and I wish you success with your education and your life.

    Regards,
    Satrap

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