Neal’s Deli (Carrboro, NC)

images courtesy of This Paper Ship

Neal’s Deli in Carrboro is the perfect little lunch counter, and one of the best places for a sandwich in the Triangle.  While particularly well regarded for their classic deli sandwiches that incorporate their house made pastrami and corned beef, Neal’s also offers a range of other lunch and breakfast options, including biscuits that I’ve heard are delicious.

It’s a tiny place, better suited for take-out than a sit-down meal, although there are a handful of tables and bar stools at the window.  A small deli case showcases seasonal side dishes, like a roasted beet salad, but the main attraction here is the sandwiches.

I went with the smoked turkey ($7.50) and my wife chose the reuben ($8.50).  My sandwich featured some wonderfully citrusy crushed avocado and nice crispy bacon.  It was a winning combination despite some unremarkable, unsmoky sliced turkey meat.  The reuben was the better choice.  It was hot, juicy, and sweet, and piled high with excellent corned beef.

Neal’s offers simple sandwiches done right.  You wouldn’t think that would be such a hard thing to find, would you?  Durham, of course, has Toast, with its great panini, but Raleigh could really use a great little sandwich shop like these.  One can always hope.

Neo Monde Bakery & Deli (Raleigh, NC)

Despite being situated in an obscure, hidden location near the NC state fair grounds, Neo Monde has a steady and devoted following.  The Mediterranean deli is a favorite of many, including me, for good reason.  The food is consistently delicious, it’s inexpensive, and the staff is supremely friendly.  If that weren’t enough to bring you in, there’s also a bakery and small market/grocery area where you can pick up some wonderful pita bread or a Turkish olive oil, for instance.

Since their menu is relatively large, my favorite way to approach a Neo Monde meal is to get the pick-4 sampler ($7.99).  This enables you to try a variety of their scrumptious items displayed behind the glass case.  Standouts for me are definitely the hummus and baba ghannouj, both of which are the best that I’ve had.  The hummus in particular is creamy and silky smooth.  I almost always get some of their excellent chicken salad, which features raisins and cinnamon.  And I can’t bypass the terrific mjadarah (rice/lentils with caramelized onions).  Other solid choices, if a little less fabulous than the above, include a roasted potato salad with mint, fatoush, tabouli, or stuffed grape leaves.  There are also kabobs and usually one or two other hot entrees to choose from.  You carry your tray along with you, cafeteria-style, so you can’t miss the large dessert case as well.  Neo Monde’s baklava is as good as I’ve had anywhere.  I haven’t tried many of the other desserts or pastries, but I don’t really feel the need to.  Beware, though, as one piece of the baklava is deceptively filling.  If you go with the sampler, pita bread (your choice of white or wheat) comes with it.  All items are also for sale by the pound as well.  After you pay, you can take a seat inside or dine on their pleasant, if unscenic, patio.  Either way, you’re bound to be back soon.

As a side note, Neo Monde also does a great job with catering.  Ordering online is easy, and the staff is gracious and helpful, setting up cards that describe each dish and going out of their way to make your event enjoyable.  They’re thoughtful to place vegetarian and meat dishes apart, and kind enough to follow up with you to see how everything went.