Durham Named The South Tastiest Town: 5 Tastemakers React

April 9, 2013 | By | Comments (3)

For weeks, everyone has been asking us, “Who is going to win Tastiest Town in the South?” It was tough for us to keep our lips sealed, and this morning we could finally make the big reveal: you voted, and it’s Durham, North Carolina.

Since we kept things top-secret until this morning’s announcement in Durham, the official word was a surprise to the town’s tastemakers — till today. We contacted several of them today to get their reactions:

Photo by Robbie Caponetto

Photo by Robbie Caponetto

Sean Lilly Wilson, Owner of Fullsteam Brewery:

“This honor is the culmination of decades of hard work, starting with pioneers like Ben and Karen Barker at Magnolia Grill, where I got my start as a waiter 20 years ago. We also have to acknowledge Sara Foster and Scott Howell. Without them Durham wouldn’t be what it is today.

Durham relishes the role of being the snappy underdog. It’s nice to get attention for our innovation and that we’ve kept our authenticity.”

Ben Barker, who along with his wife Karen, co-founded Magnolia Grill:

“What took you so long?” he said. “With all due respect to the sister communities of the Triangle, in the past five years Durham has really exploding. People are dong things with such integrity–from the sourcing of the ingredients to the execution. Even though it’s a 35 mile drive from our house in Chapel Hill, we still drive to Durham to eat.

In some ways it’s still a burgeoning food community, but it’s only going to grow as it continues to attract cooks who develop friendships and healthy competition–competition in the best sense of the word.”

Matt Kelly, Owner and Chef at Mateo:

“We are so stoked. I mean, it’s just awesome. To me, being named ‘Tastiest Town’  involves a lot more than restaurants –it’s farmers markets, it’s people growing things in their backyards, it’s people having a real love of cooking– both at their home and going out to restaurants. Durham is a very strong community and this honor extends beyond restaurants. It’s a reflection of the entire town.”

Kim Ionescu, Coffee Buyer and Sustainability Manager, Counter Culture Coffee:

“We’ve always told people that it’s the food culture in Durham that has allowed us to become a nationally recognized coffee company. Our residents get it–they care about where their food, and their coffee comes from.”

Amy Tornquist, Owner and Chef, Watts Grocery:

“Durham is like a culinary teenager in comparison to cities like New Orleans or Charleston, which have longer histories as food destinations. Compared to them we’re in our adolescence, so it’s great go get this recognition.  25 years ago when I cooked here it was difficult to get herbs like tarragon. Now we have everything there.

Just last week I had a guy in who was moving from Brooklyn–a chef–asking me where to eat. There are no shortage of places. I will add: we’re growing so much as a food town we need more talented chefs. Come on down!”


  1. Linda Lee

    I think you missed the boat on this one. Asheville has Durham beat by far!!

    April 16, 2013 at 6:22 pm
  2. Red Bud, Yellow Snow, Spring Fever, Front Yard Farms & The Tastiest Town in the South | NCHomesbyLarryT

    […] Durham Named The South Tastiest Town: 5 Tastemakers React (thedailysouth.southernliving.com) […]

    April 11, 2013 at 3:29 pm
  3. Michelle

    I think there might be a typo– there is no way Chapel Hill is 35 miles from Durham. I think they probably meant to say 35 MINUTES.

    April 11, 2013 at 11:06 am

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