Restaurant News & Reviews

Deli with a difference

Neal's Deli (100-C E. Main St.; 967-2185; www.nealsdeli.com), which opened recently in downtown Carrboro, modestly bills itself as "a Mom and Pop operation." But when "Mom" is former Carrboro Farmers' Market manager Sheila Neal, and "Pop" is Matt Neal, son of local culinary legend Bill Neal and his restaurateur/food writer wife Moreton, you'd suspect that their restaurant wouldn't be serving your ordinary pastrami on rye.

You'd be right. At Neal's, the pastrami is house-made and it's served on rye from Guglhupf Bakery. And when Mom and Pop (and Pop's brother, Elliott, who also works in the restaurant) aren't busy curing pastrami, they're making just about everything else from scratch, from corned beef to sauerkraut to New York style cheesecake. The few items they don't make in-house are either traditional deli benchmarks (Hofmann hot dogs, Guss' half-sour pickles) or locally made artisanal fare (cheese from Chapel Hill Creamery, salumi from Giacomo's in Greensboro). All these goodies come together on a menu whose offering covers the sandwich spectrum from muffuletta to pan bagnat to egg salad, available with sides such as German potato salad, carrot ginger soup, and lentils braised in red wine. The Neals plan to expand the offering to include an even wider sampling of the fare they enjoyed on a recent exploration of the Italian, Jewish, Chinese and Vietnamese delis of New York's Lower East Side.

Neal's Deli is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It's a small shop, with just a handful of tables and a few counter stools. When I spoke to Matt Neal, he had just finished installing a counter with four stools under the awning on the front of the restaurant (which faces Greensboro Street, by the way, notwithstanding the mailing address). The offering changes daily, so it's a good idea to call ahead if you're craving that house-made pastrami on rye.

In Durham, the news is of two restaurants that have undergone major changes. The wait is over for those who have been missing their Calabash style seafood fix since Kemp's Seafood House (115 Page Point Circle; 957-7155; www.kempsseafoodhouse.com) closed for renovations a few weeks ago. Those returning will find a more open dining room and the return of lunch hours, which had been discontinued last year. Table service has been replaced by an order counter, a change that owner Kemp Pendergrass implemented in order to lower prices.

In Erwin Square, the Mediterranean fusion restaurant Verde has morphed into Vita (2200 W. Main St.; 286-9755; www.ghgrestaurants.com/verde/verde.html), whose focus is traditional Italian fare. Flatbread pizzas are a specialty, with a handful of pasta dishes and a mix-and-match assortment of meat, cheese and vegetarian antipasti rounding out the offering. The restaurant is still owned by Giorgios Hospitality Group, whose holdings also include Vin Rouge, George's Garage and -- in the same building as Vita -- Parizade.

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