Durham is home to many top-notch Latin American and Caribbean restaurants, from taquerias and vegan restaurants, to upscale tapas bars and everything in between. We asked Toriano Fredericks, a foodie, writer, and proprietor of Boricua Soul food truck, to suggest his five favorite authentic Latin American and Caribbean haunts.
Read on for a tour of Durham's south-of-the-border inspired food scene, and when you're in Durham keep an eye out for Toriano's Boricua Soul Food Truck.
When you step off of Main Street and open the door to Old Havana Sandwich Shop you will feel like you are immediately transported to the island nation of Cuba. The whole experience is finely curated by Cuban native Roberto Copa Matos, with the music playing and artwork on the walls setting the tone for a menu filled with Cuban classics and a few inspired newcomers. Owners Roberto and his wife Elizabeth have opened up a farm in Hillsborough named Terra Sacra (meaning Sacred Earth) to source locally grown and raised produce and pigs.
What I get: White Bean Soup. The fact that I crave a soup when I visit a sandwich shop should say something about how good the soup is especially since this place receives praise far and wide for their sandwiches. The white bean and pork soup, also called Caldo Gallego, is made using a multi-step process featuring a house-made stock and local pasture-raised pork. The outcome is a rich, layered flavor that won't be soon forgotten.
It would be possible to drive by this place 100 times and never realize the culinary greatness taking place there, but once you are aware, it's nearly impossible to drive past it without pulling over to satisfy a craving for Latin American flavors. The automatic doors to La Superior slide open to a grocery store with aisles filled with various items found in a local Latin American supermarket. Once you navigate through a couple of aisles, the store opens up into a mini food market fit to satisfy any sweet or savory craving.
What I get: The first time I saw a Chicken Torta emerge from the pickup window I knew I needed one. The sandwich is simple, fresh, and flavorful. The soft bread, avocado, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and seasoned chicken make for a fantastic sandwich.
When you pull into the cramped driveway-style parking lot of Alpaca you immediately get a sense that you are about to be involved in something special. That wafting smell of chicken fat making contact with hot charcoal beckons you inside. Directly behind the cash register there is a busy kitchen featuring an oven rotating whole chickens over charcoal fired flames.
What I get: It's hard to come here and see those beautiful birds spinning and not order one. I go with the half chicken, yucca fries, and green beans as a side. The flavor and tenderness of the chicken is unmatched and will have you coming back for more.
To satisfy my hankering for Jamaican eats I head down to Jamaica Jamaica. This is a no-frills, cafeteria-style joint with heaping servings that fully test the breaking strength of the styrofoam containers they are served in.
What I get: The menu features standard Jamaican fare and I usually go with the jerk chicken platter. For sides, get the peas and rice but top it with the sauce from the curry chicken. For your second side, throw in some cabbage so you can tell mom you ate some veggies.
Chef and owner Shawn Stokes spent a decade traveling Latin America. Luna is a testament to the impact his time south of the border had on his palate. The menu is packed with wood-fired rotisserie meats along with Latin American favorites like empanadas and arepas.
What I get: The Patacon Pisao with Chili-Braised Meyer Local Harvest Beef Brisket. Luna really knocks this South American dish out of the park. The twice fried and flattened plantains stand in as a perfect bun to the Jicama Kale Slaw, tender brisket, and chili-lime mayo. Sure, the menu may seem to have too many adjectives and seem a bit trendy to be considered "authentic," but the Patacon Pisao will have you saying otherwise.
We asked Durham's loyal Facebook fans and Bull City Reddit users to reveal their favorite secret-spot restaurants. read more