If you’re a fan of great sandwiches like I am, there’s nothing like pressing some savory meat and cheese in between two slices of bread. Grinders, hoagies, heroes, sandwiches or subs, no matter what you call them, it’s a wonderful way to eat out of hand. Recently, I caught wind of a new sandwich shop opening up in East Durham, Ideal’s Sandwich and Groceries. The brain-child of two classically trained chefs from up north, the goal was to bring that type of sandwich to the Triangle. And after a couple of tastes I can honestly say that you won’t want to miss this new lunch spot if you live in the Bull City.
If you haven’t spent much time in East Durham, let me just say that it’s not the most accessible neighborhood in Durham and not within walking distance of other great food options. But over at 2108 Angier Avenue, you’ll find the slightly run-down storefront for Ideal’s. Inside it’s super humble, concrete floor, open kitchen and items being stored out front. They are obviously still working on the space and waiting on equipment like everyone else during the craziness of the past year. The plan is to have some retail space upfront in this space in addition to the sandwich shop!
Since they just opened up in late July, Ideal’s Sandwiches has a smallish menu of 10 sandwiches (hot and cold) along with potato chips! What makes the place special is that Ideal’s bakes its own breads. From a seeded hoagie roll, to round focaccia bread and crisp, English muffins, so good! They know a good sandwich starts with the bread and do not skip corners here. Hoagies are available in full or half-size or on pressed round focaccia. Order at the front counter and get comfortable while you wait for your sandwich. There is no interior or exterior seating so it’s a ToGo operation for customers. I also don’t believe they have online or phone ordering yet and are only open from 12pm to 4pm, Thursday to Monday. Both of my visits have come early in the day and it’s been about a 15 to 20 minute wait for sammiches! Think Tom Petty, the waiting is the hardest part…
Sandwiches are wrapped up carefully in white butcher paper, grab some chips and you’re ready to eat! I’ll review the sandwiches in order of deliciousness, at least in my opinion! My #1 recommendation at Ideal’s is their Philly Roast Pork hoagie. A classic taste combination of slow-roasted pork loin, broccoli di rabe, and provolone. This Italian roast pork sandwich is just perfect and their seeded hoagie roll holds up well to the moisture in the pork. The roll is beautifully baked with some exterior chew and a tender interior. The broccoli di rabe adds a hint of bitter along with the pungent cheese to counteract the richness of the pork. The full hoagies at Ideal’s are about 12″ long and it’s a narrower sandwich but well packed for a filling meal.
My close #2 favorite is the Uncle Primo’s chicken cutlet sandwich! I recommend it on the focaccia which is pressed on a panini press, the breaded and fried chicken cutlet is layered with broccoli di rabe and provolone similar to the roast pork sammy but fits the round focaccia well. It’s a beast of a sandwich and can be shared between two people but you won’t want to. 🙂
Next up and #3 on my list of Ideal’s sandwiches is their classic breakfast sandwich with egg and cheese. I added some savory salami to amp it up but it’s a huge mouthful. Ideal’s griddles up a crispy muffin and the salami-egg-cheese concoction is very tasty and different from other options in the area.
Last up on my list is their Harlem Chopped Cheese which is basically their cheesesteak. Finely chopped steak with well-melted provolone, spicy cherry peppers and what they call, chop sauce (spicy mayo)? Now it’s a beautiful sandwich and I can see it potentially being the best sandwich on their menu. They really hit the steak hard on the grill to get some caramelization but unfortunately, my hoagie came a bit over-salted. I’ll give it another shot at some point in the future. And don’t miss the addictive garlic-onion chips made in-house. If you’re going this far down the calorie road with their sandwiches, why hold back on some crisps?
While I know some people who aren’t fans of sandwiches, thinking of them as boring and simple, I think a great sandwich similar to what Ideal’s is dishing out, transcends the ingredients and turns them into something special. Despite all those challenges you might find in the ordering, waiting, and lack of seating, I think you’ll find Ideal’s is totally worth the wait. I recommend going early (maybe 10 minutes before open) and have a good dining spot to eat your sandwich while it’s still warm. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do as they build out their space but even in its current state, Ideal’s is doing a great job, bon appetit!