Bona Fide Sandwich Co. will officially open March 7 and I got a first look at the space and the sandwiches.
Matt Fox and Dean James are the team behind the beloved Hillsborough eateries: The Wooden Nickel Pub, LaPlace and Hillsborough BBQ Co. Bona Fide, located at 104 N. Churton St. across from The Wooden Nickel and La Place, is the duo’s next investment in the burgeoning downtown Hillsborough food scene.
“Durham is beginning to realize that it’s only 10 to 15 minutes away,” said James, reflecting on the influx of visitors to Hillsborough from the Triangle’s bigger population centers.
With only counter service available (as well as delivery), James plans on Bona Fide’s customers taking advantage of Hillsborough’s open space and walkability. “Ayr Mount is around the corner. There are benches along the street,” James said. “That’s our seating.”
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Bona Fide has developed several local partnerships. They worked with Weaver Street Market, which has a commissary kitchen in Hillsborough, to develop a special sandwich roll. Sam Suchoff of Chapel Hill’s The Pig is making bologna mortadella, and a pork loin pastrami. Hillsborough Cheese Co. will be providing goat cheeses. The men eventually hope to incorporate a working farm into the business on land owned by Fox a short distance away.
They’ve also partnered with chef Carrie Schleiffer of Durham’s Alley Twenty Six on the menu. “I love Carrie as a chef,” James said, noting that Schleiffer grew up in New Jersey and that the pair share a similar love of the classic Northern sandwich joint. (Schleiffer will continue to helm the food menu at Alley Twenty Six while collaborating with Bona Fide.)
Fans of those storied Northern sandwiches will notice some old favorites, like an Italian hero and a sly take on a loved-by-locals Philly sandwich they’re calling Brotha’ Love (rare roast beef with triple cream brie, garlicky broccolini, red onions and roasted red pepper mayo on a seeded roll). Suchoff’s bologna shows up on the All-American sub, and James is particularly proud of their signature smoked chicken salad. “It’s so good that sandwich will basically be just the chicken salad,” he noted.
I popped into Bona Fide recently for a tour and a taste. As a native New Englander, I was instantly familiar with some of the sandwiches on the menu. The classic Reuben makes an appearance, but with a twist — kimchi adorns the corned beef as opposed to sauerkraut. The space itself is as bright and cheerful as James and his partners, and James noted that they had the design team (a group they knew from Chicago) stay a few days in downtown Hillsborough to get a feel for the area and community before pitching design ideas.
With craft sodas and shrubs on draft (developed by the bar team at La Place) and a great selection of savory sides (Buffalo cucumbers made with Frank’s Red Hot vinegar are a nod to the beloved chicken wings at The Wooden Nickel) and innovative salads, including their BF ancient grains mixture of red and white quinoa, lentils and amaranth, Bona Fide is shooting to fill what the pair sees as a hole in the Hillsborough food scene.
“When I moved to Hillsborough five years ago I wondered, ‘Where is the sandwich shop?’” James said.
Luckily for sandwich fans, James and Fox have answered that question.
Bona Fide Sandwich Co. opens for business March 7. Hours: 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. seven days a week. Delivery available within Hillsborough’s 27278 zip code. Info: 919-245-7869, bonafidesandwich.com
Matt Lardie is a Durham-based food and travel writer. He writes the Eat Write Go blog: eatwritego.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org