Since time is such a precious commodity in business school, meals occasionally translate to brief pit stops for sustenance rather than a chance to savor high quality, creative cuisine with classmates, family, and friends. Over my first three months at Fuqua, I have managed to dispose of what little disposable income I have at restaurants throughout Durham’s vibrant foodie scene.
Here are five meals, in no particular order, that have fed the body and nurtured the soul:
1. NanaTaco: Crispy Pork Belly Tacos
About 15 minutes south of campus, NanaTaco is a popular haunt of Fuquans in search of high-quality, modern Mexican fare in a casual setting. NanaTaco’s recipe for success is simple—fresh ingredients prepared well and served quickly. While you can choose between about a dozen proteins for your taco, I invariably opt for the study in contrasts that is the crispy local pork belly—crunchy and flavorful on the outside, but rich and unctuous on the inside. When paired with an order of their cotija-topped Mexican street corn and a Michelada (a tomato-based beer cocktail for those so inclined), NanaTaco can transport you to another world.
2. M Sushi: Sushi and Sashimi
If you don’t associate the center of North Carolina with top-notch sushi, you haven’t visited M Sushi. Set in sleek, subterranean digs in downtown Durham, M Sushi pairs the freshest of fish available with the simplest of preparations. Inventive small plates can be great for groups, while the grand omakase (chef’s tasting menu) will please the most particular and adventurous of sushi purists. Afterward, stop by the rooftop patio of the Durham Hotel next door for a nightcap and a panoramic view of the Bull City.
3. Guglhupf: Pancakes
Arrive early or expect a wait at this German-influenced café, bakery, and restaurant about 10 minutes away from campus. While some customers come for the schnitzel or homemade bratwurst, our family spends Sunday mornings on Guglhupf’s outdoor patio eating the best pancakes in The Triangle area. Light and airy, their pancakes are always moist in the middle and full of flavor, even before our three-year-old pours the entire cup of syrup on the plate.
4. KoKyu Na’Mean: Belly Banh
Tucked away in an otherwise nondescript strip mall, Na’Mean (a brick-and-mortar spinoff of the popular KoKyu food truck) offers modern, innovative takes on the traditional sandwich. During the week, lunchtime loyals queue up early to enjoy oversized portions amid graffiti-stained walls and affable service. The sandwich shop’s reimagining of the meatball hero includes ancho chili sauce and lime crema, and their grilled cheese gets a Korean twist thanks to spicy red kimchi and ssamjang dip. While playfulness permeates the standard menu and the daily specials, I recommend one of their simpler offerings: the Belly Banh. In this version of the Vietnamese Banh Mi, Na’Mean stuffs crusty bread with crisp, pickled vegetables, huge slices of tender pork, and homemade chili sauce.
5. Durham Food Truck Rodeo: A Little Bit of Everything
While we may be pushing the limits of what constitutes a meal, the massive Food Truck Rodeo in Durham’s Central Park is an absolute must-visit. A few Sundays every year, several dozen food trucks descend into Durham’s downtown and set up shop. Hundreds of visitors walk the streets, listen to music, and test the capacities of their stomachs. During October’s iteration, we sampled lobster rolls, tostones (fried plantains), spicy pork dumplings, ice cream, and more. No Durham experience more perfectly encapsulates the incredible diversity of cuisines in the Triangle. You will not go hungry.