durham’s original fine dining restaurant

written by the Offline team | photos by @lindaeatsworld

The Need-to-Know

What: Expertly-crafted fare from one of Durham’s foremost food pioneers

Where: 2514 University Drive, Durham, NC 27707

When: Tues – Sat, 5-10p 

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Why we love them:

  • Durham’s OG classic fine dining restaurant is open again after nearly a year and it’s a bucket-list must-try. Note: “fine dining” ≠ stuffy. 
  • The Chef and owner is an eight-time nominated James Beard semifinalist and the mastermind behind Bar Virgile, Nana Steak, and the restaurant formerly known at Nanataco.
  • They serve dinner Tuesday-Sunday. 
  • Their menu rotates seasonally and focuses on simple, high-quality, ingredients.

Nana’s 101

Hope you’ve got a special occasion coming up (if not, this Offer definitely counts) because, after an all-too-long hiatus, Nana’s is back, baby. For nearly one dark year, we somehow survived without their creamy risotto, curated wine list, and old school charm. 

Nana’s was nothing short of a game-changer when it opened in the early ’90s, playing a pivotal role in Durham’s transformation into a certified food city. For years, it was the uncontested champion of Durham’s fine dining scene but after 20+ years, Nana’s shuttered their doors indefinitely, much to the sad surprise of its loyal fans.  

For those longtime Nana-devotees, their recent return is a welcome reunion and, for the uninitiated, it’s a second chance at hitting one of Durham’s classic bucket-list restaurants.

Owned and operated by eight-time nominated James Beard semifinalist, Scott Howell (also the mastermind behind Bar Virgile, Nana Steak, and the restaurant formerly known at Nanataco), this iconic spot serves up a fresh, ingredient-forward menu that’s constantly evolving with the seasons. But forget the idea that this is exclusively a suit and tie spot. Come as you are—their goal is to make you feel welcome and provide you with an unparalleled dining experience. 

Nana’s is a quiet, surprisingly unstuffy spot where you can reconnect with your dinner-mate over a solid bottle of wine and some expertly-crafted, uncomplicated food—a must-try dining experience for any Durham enthusiast.

What to order

Because their menu rotates regularly, it’s hard to tell you exactly what to get but, with a world-class chef at the helm, the truth is you really can’t go wrong. With French, Italian, and Southern influence, these dishes are dependable and uncomplicated in the best way possible. 

All of their offerings rely on high-quality ingredients (and not “screwing them up,” as Howell explains). When you first sit down, you’ll be greeted with old-school bread service. Everything is homemade (dinner rolls included) so feel free to set aside your low-carb life for a night and enjoy.

They feature a variety of appetizers, ranging from fresh pasta to seasonal salads. If you’re keeping an eye out for that special dish that will have the whole table clamoring for your plate, don’t miss the risotto, which is a menu staple featuring seasonal ingredients and is a fan favorite.

In terms of entrees, there’s usually 3-4 fresh (and often locally-sourced) fish dishes, as well as a few heavy-hitters for carnivores. All of their proteins are cooked to perfection, including their Pork Chop (served with Buttermilk Spaetzle, Butter Bean Succotash, Pea Tendrils, and Porcini Cream when we visited), which is infamously tender and juicy. 

Be sure you save room for dessert too! Their Creme Brulee is outta this world.

They’ve also got a full bar with a few draft brews and specialty cocktails, but where they really shine is their wine list—sit back and split a bottle if you’re feelin’ fancy. 

Pro Tips

  • Reservations are highly recommended, especially if you’re coming on a weekend! 
  • Not feeling the whole “white tablecloth” vibe? Snag a seat in the bar area, where it’s first-come, first-serve and you can order off the whole menu—sans formality. 
  • Dietary restrictions? Want something prepped a little differently? Just ask and these guys will happily accommodate.
  • Ask your waiter what to order. They’ve got a direct line into the kitchen and can tell you what the Chef has been raving most about that day.