In January, Durham and its food scene were catapulted again into the national spotlight by inclusion on Southern Living magazine’s list of the Top 10 Tastiest Towns in the South. It shared company with culinary mega-star destinations like New Orleans, Charleston, and Miami. The publishing of this list initiated the magazine’s annual national voting process to name The Tastiest Town in the South.
That town is Durham, North Carolina.
Toward the end of the six week process, according to the leader-board on the magazine’s website voting page, what emerged was a spirited and friendly bout between Durham and the nearest competitor on the list, Memphis. At three times the size of Durham, the odds were in Memphis’ favor, but Durham did what Durham does…stayed true to its convictions and reigned victorious.
Durham is no stranger to great accolades, and the community is proud to add this one to the list. “Durham is regularly recognized for its creativity, openness, diversity, and quality of life. We've always had a terrific food scene here, and this is a great honor to have everyone else stand up and agree that we are the Tastiest Town in the South,” says Shelly Green, president of the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB), the organization that spearheaded the promotion of this competition. “This is validation of what we've been saying for a long time!”
Visitors to Durham spent a total of more than $780 million last year, and more than $200 million was spent on food and beverages. Durham’s culinary identity is an important part of the brand that the community has, and is a major component of what Durham promotes to visitors. “Whenever possible, we connect the ideas of ‘visiting Durham,’ and ‘great food,’” says Sam Poley, DCVB’s director of marketing and communications. “This is a message we share as often as possible because Durham’s culinary community is an amazing asset to visitors, and is a major reason to come and explore here.”
Durham has more than seven hundred restaurants, many of which have achieved a status DCVB calls Celebrated Cuisine. This elite group of restaurants has been regionally or nationally reviewed, not part of a chain, independently-owned, and noted for unique regional cuisine or a custom menu designed by a Durham chef. There are 52 restaurants in Durham that have achieved this status, all of which are listed online. “Being listed as a Celebrated Cuisine restaurant is nice feather in the cap of a chef and restaurateur, and a visitor convenience to help them identify places of interest when planning a trip here," Poley says.
The announcement was made April 9 at the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau. Jennifer Cole, Southern Living’s travel and features editor, came in for the announcement. “The South has a new culinary capital—Durham, N.C.,” Cole says. “With beer and pizzas made from seasonally minded local ingredients, to pies and even coffee elevated to an art form, the city's artisans are taking Southern cooking to new heights." She adds, “The South's culinary scene has become richer and more diverse than ever. Whether you’re a native or a tourist, there's an endless variety of dishes, restaurants and local flavors to discover across our region.”
The announcement will be in the May print edition of the magazine which will be on stands on April 19. DCVB plans to incorporate this honor, as it does the many others the community receives, into its marketing messaging throughout the upcoming year.