(Updated January 2015) As a previous season subscriber to Durham Performing Arts Center's (DPAC) Broadway series, I've gotten to know the area really well when it comes to restaurants. Between the DPAC and the Durham Bulls, this revived neighborhood can get really busy, which is actually a great thing! With all the people flowing through the area, new restaurants and bars have popped up to take care of those hungry folks. Great eating options ranging from Mexican nouveau, casual Italian sandwiches, gourmet burgers and seasonal urban chic. So if you're headed out to catch a show or game, there's plenty of great food options within walking distance of DPAC on Mangum Street.
And if none of the restaurants near Mangum Street suit your fancy, please check out my other DPAC dining posts below!
With most shows starting at 7:30 to 8:00 pm and ending at after 10pm you can certainly do dinner after the show but I for one, would find it hard to enjoy things with a rumbling tummy. And while you've got some uber-convenient restaurant options right at the American Tobacco Campus (Tyler's, Tobacco Road Sports, Mellow Mushroom, Cuban Revolution), I prefer to grab a bite away from the main DPAC drag. Mellow Mushroom is a favorite of mine but from what I've seen it can be jam-packed in Durham. I can't imagine what it's like before a popular show like Wicked. Tyler's has decent pub grub but it's not a great option for a night at the theater in my opinion. You might be better off just doing beer and cocktails here. And Cuban Revolution?! Online reviews have been ALL OVER the place for this restaurant with regards to food and service so I'd prefer to avoid it for a big night out.
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So what's my strategy for the DPAC? While season ticket holders get free private parking, I prefer to just head on over to Main Street between 5 - 6pm. You're allowed one hour of parking until 6pm when it becomes free for the evening. So at 5pm there are typically free spaces (possibly with meters) that you can park in all night. If Main Street is full, try Chapel Hill Street or Parrish Street. It's rare when I can't find something within a couple of blocks near Main Street. As a bonus, you avoid traffic jams in a parking structure on the way home.
Once you've found a space, you've got some great restaurants within four blocks of Main Street and Mangum: Revolution, Dos Perros, Toast, Piedmont and Rue Cler (on the map in red)! The easiest option is also probably the most expensive: Revolution. It's a pretty little spot, very urban and chic with a seasonal menu and mere blocks away from DPAC. Step inside and you'll feel like you could be in any major city, this place is fancy!
On theater nights, Revolution will get booked out so certainly make a reservation. Otherwise a seat at the fancy bar may be an alternative option. They serve the full menu and it's a great place for small plates and classic cocktails. The dinner choices range from ahi poke to mussels, paparadelle to diver scallops. Very seasonal and curious menu, I'm sure the descriptions will get your tummy rumbling and service is on point. Revolution is definitely a place to impress your date and get the night started off with a bang!
Further north you'll find Dos Perros, a fairly new nuevo latino-Mexican restaurant. On one side you'll find a cozy bar area and the other, a very simple bare-bones dining room. But make no mistake about Dos Perros, it's all about more unusual Mexican dishes from a variety of regions of the country. I've tried out their chicken mole poblano and empanadas, good stuff! Sitting at the bar with a cocktail and some appetizers is a great way to get your evening started. The restaurant is still finding its way with the menu but I think Dos Perros is a fine option for Mexican and the ambiance is cool and casual.
The Piedmont is a Durham restaurant that's been around for a while but be aware, if the last time you dined here was before 2014, the restaurant is under new ownership and chef, all for the better. I've had a chance to eat at the Piedmont twice under Chef Ben Adams and both visits were excellent! (Note, Chef Gregory Gettles has replace Ben Adams)
Ingredients are locally sourced and feature a deft hand around simply prepared but also simply delicious dishes. Roast duck, risotto, spice-crusted flounder, I'm pretty certain you'll have a great meal in a slightly casual but upscale setting. Definitely a better choice for DPAC dining in the area.
Another good dining choice would be Rue Cler, a solid French bistro with great service. They've also got a very affordable ($30) three course prix fixe menu, perfect for theater night. Mix and match from the seasonal menu or from the a la carte portion to your heart's content. Recently I had a lovely lentil soup, braised asparagus and steak frites with bearnaise sauce as my prix fixe meal. Just keep the stiletto's at home for ease of walking since Rue Cler is a bit further away off of Mangum Street!
And don't forget about Bull City Burger & Brewery and the new Pompieri Pizza, two casual spots! Bull City Burger & Brewery spins out fresh beer brewed on the premises along with top-notch gourmet burgers. Most everything is made in-house at Bull City Burger, the owner Seth, is very fussy about the quality of his wares. He has also opened up the new Pompieri Pizza located right down the street which does thin-crust Neapolitan pizzas with great local ingredients.
Order in back at the counter, grab a soda or beer and they bring you your individual pie with shears! Snip away a slice that's perfectly sized, the pizza crust is perfect here. I've tried their pork belly pie and name-sake Pompieri pie, both were excellent.
In the end it all just depends on your mood: fancy and frilly or tasty and simple! Getting in for an early dinner around DPAC is typically not that hard unless there's something very popular showing. But in all honesty, sometimes I'm just in the mood for some small plates and apps before hitting the show. It can be a bit easier than doing a full, three course meal if you're pressed for time. Just don't go to the DPAC hungry because outside of some cookies, gelato, candied nuts and adult beverages, you won't find much to tide you over for three hours! And it's really hard to enjoy a show when you're famished, take advantage of the great dining options in the area, bon appetit!
Best Restaurants around DPAC- Mangum Street