Neal and Lettuce Pray…

Pocket Surprise is Salmon Extravaganza… Huh?

Wandering around the intersection of Greensboro and Main Street the other day, I was getting a little hungry, and not sure what exactly I wanted or needed. I had been going to The Open Eye Cafe for years, and it’s always a steady offering, but didn’t really do anything for me at the moment.

And I grabbed these jeans off the bedroom floor, didn’t hear any change jingle-jangle as I put then on so I was pretty sure I didn’t have a dime on me.

There’s Steel String, too,  but they don’t really have a food component and Glass Half Full always seems nice but not what I had in mind. Of course, Steel String has the added patio entertainment of watching whatever it is going up across the street go up.

Watching the Buildings Go Up

I really enjoy watching construction stuff, especially the electricians and framers. But it looked like too much trouble crossing the street, then crossing back, then back again to pick-up your Open Eye order.

Orange County Social Club was light years away from cocktail hour, and I had just dropped of a guitar at Twin House Music to get a set-up so didn’t feel the need to cross again and head over to Weaver Street

As I stood on the curb across from the Wendy’s, pondering my next move, I reached into my jeans from the previous evening and fished out a wad of one dollar bills that had been hiding in the depths. As I peeled the wad back, out jumped a double sawbuck!


Ground Score Saves the morning

The universe had smiled on me, and I was given some celestial on-the-spot luncheon financing, so my options immediately expanded! I was feeling quite flush, finances had been re-energized and luncheon possibilities seem endless…

I stuffed my good fortune cash back in my jeans, and I looked up…

And there, staring back at me across the street, was the odd sign I had seen for so long I never really looked at it: I mean really looked at it, and now it was in the front row, sticking its hand in the air going “Me! Me! Over here, over here, dude! Yeah you!”

And then I saw the word “Deli” and I was across the street faster than a toupee in a hurricane!

It was “Neals Deli”… for so long just a set of stairs and a Carrboro business that had slumbered peacefully out of the public eye – specifically mine – for at least a millennia… maybe longer.

So, I reach the curb in front of the “Neal’s Deli” sign, and I carefully make my way up the short iron stairs to the landing and a big glass door with an arrow pointing to my left.

This all Looks Very Familiar

Have I been here before…? Because it looks exactly like the ticket window at the Greyhound Bus Station in Rutland, Vermont. The air of crunchiness, and perfectly baked granola bars, plus the clear and clean Vermont air…

Slapped back into the here-and-now by the sound of the window opening, I am looking into the mysterious interior, blocked by an incredibly welcoming 1000 watt smile that belongs to a beautiful young woman with some serious customer-service chops.

Ok, I have not looked at the menu, I don’t even see it, and yet magically, one appears in my hand. Since I am pretty famished at this point, I just asked the girl what’s good and without skipping a beat she says “the Salmon Sandwich” is excellent.

Ok, that’ll do. Not sure what it is, but I imagine some sort of fish sandwich.

The Cave, Mouse and Groves

The window shuts close and since other life forms have now appeared behind me, I step back a few feet to the stools that line this narrow porch. I realize the back door to The Speakeasy is to my left, and for a fleeting moment I want to open it, head in and see what the new stage is like. The last time I was here I ran into the legendary Mouse Mock, former owner of The Cave, another remarkable rock palace that has weathered more storms than the Kennebunkport Lighthouse and is still in operation!

Autumn and Melissa run it now, so it’s always a good idea to run over there are say “Boy Howdy” to them: they will appreciate it! Plus, if it’s on a Sunday, you will run into Groves himself, a legendary fixture in the pantheon of Triangle creatures of the night.

There is a steady stream of customers now, ordering at the window and then milling about on the porch or hanging out directly below the porch on a few picnic tables in the sidewalk/yard area…Neal’s Deli is rockin’!

I slip off my stool, take a few steps towards the order window, and assume a jaunty lean and get a little order-window yakity-yak going with these two cute as all get out girls the minute the window slides open.

Customer Service is… Amazing!

These girls are fun, vocal, highly skilled at the art of “Yak” and, as it turns out, one of them, Miss Beth S, recognized me from Ithaca, NY or Trumansburg more specifically, where I spent a few years playing at a venue she worked at a decade earlier…! I loved playing the Southern Tier!

Suddenly, there’s a bit of commotion in the dark interior, Beth and Heather step aside,  the waters part… and my Salmon Sandwich appears in the window. Explodes into the window is more like it! This is a thing of beauty, and I have a bit of experience with Salmon in many forms, so I know amazingness when I see it.

I take it back to the seat I left on the porch, but it’s already filled, so I walk this epicurean gem down the stairs to one of the picnic tables and place it on the wooden top so I can really take a look at this creation…

The first thing that jumps out at me is there is pink salmon poking out from all the edges of this gorgeous bun! Lots of it! So much Salmon on this sandwich I had to hold it up and examine it in detail! But that’s just the visual stuff…one bite into this thing and the white sauce, which seems like tzatziki with a dash of yogurt, is heavenly, the mix is just perfect and to enhance this assemblage are wafer thin slices of cucumber, mixed in and around the salmon and lemme tell ya, good people of Earth and the Outer Rim, that’s a wonderful and unexpected delight!

Where Portion Control is, well…

Here, at Neal’s Deli, portion control is, well… it’s just a concept, which makes me love this place even more. Gordon Ramsey, you’re a douchebag!

The  combination of tastes, textures and sophisticated sous chef-ness without any of the pompous chef douchebagery, leaves one alone to savor this magnificent creation. In fact, fearless Reader, it has all the exuberance of Chaucer without the concomitant vulgarities. Yup, It’s a delightfully original creation, made it all the more yummy and double-super-tasty by the low price point of this mass of deliciousness.

How good it is?

It is on a par with the lobster roll at The Seafood Shanty in Edgartown out on Martha’s Vinyard, and could easily edge into the top of the menu at McLoons in South Thomaston, Maine. And it is a shoe-in for the top of the menu board at Ballards on Block Island.

And all this from a little hole in the wall that’s barely noticeable from the street, sitting between the Open Eye Cafe and The Speakeasy in Carrboro, NC.

I feel I ought to turn genuflect on my way out…


Eric Sommer: About the Artist

“If there’s a place for musical perfection, it’s wherever you’ll find Eric Sommer – A blistering acoustic style plus a variety of slide and open tuning formats will knock you for a loop…” wrote Studdie Burns, New Melody Maker/UK in 2013. “How one guy can do this so well is remarkable, but if you look a little deeper there’s a batch of road miles around this lad… and it all makes sense.”

Eric started his musical career in the Boston area under the eye of legendary promoter Don Law and was onstage at The Paradise Theatre in Boston for a record 40 appearances. He has been a regular player on many national and international tours and showcases, and worked in Europe for two years with Nick Lowe and acts Bram Tchaikovsky and Wreckless Eric; during this period Eric worked on Danish, German and British rock stages, returned to Boston and formed The Atomics

Eric Sommer, Boston… & The Atomics

As a founding member of Boston’s legendary pop/new wave cult trio “The Atomics”, who toured non-stop with Mission of Burma, Gang of Four and The Dead Kennedy’s and were on the leading edge of several musical transformations, Eric never lost sight of his acoustic roots, returning to his heroes and mentors often: David Bromberg, Steve Howe(YES), Duane Allman (Allman Bros.), Bert Jansch, Davy Graham, Robert Johnson. Mr. Sommer’s current project with power trio “The Solar Flares” shake up Chet Atkins and David Bromberg’s influences with those of Randy Travis and British Rocker Elvis Costello – a remarkable mix.

And to keep track of it all, Eric started keeping notes, which evolved from napkin scribbles to paper and pen efforts, writing stories, making poetry and capturing the roads and bridges as they went by, plus people, places and… more people which become his notes, then become characters for songs, stories, and prose.

Eric currently has four volumes of verse, 5 studio albums, a LIVE in AUSTIN DVD as well as an electronica project titled “The Smallest Particle” and more on the way… this blog is an attempt to keep track of it all…




You can reach Eric directly at and see more of his projects here on this website. Red Chairs, Black Pancake and Blue Turtle are all available here, as well as all current releases. Please share and comment below.

img src="Signage.png" alt="This small signage is all that tells the world of Carrboro and Chapel Hill herein is the lunch you've been looking for">
An unassuming entrance...
img src="Signage.pngneals-window.png" alt="This iron stair is all that tells the world of Carrboro and Chapel Hill herein is the lunch you've been looking for">
Stairs to the Pick Up Woindow
img src="NealsWindow.png" alt="meet the wonderful girls who run the window at Neals where there's no interior seating but there are rail stools and a few picnic tables >
Beth and Heather just hangin'
img src="NealsSalmon.png" alt="meet the wonderful sandwich that started this off >
Visual and epicurean delight!
img src=" autumn.png" alt="meet the wonderful girl who runs the Cave"
Miss Autumn
img src=" mouse.png" alt="meet the legends of Carrboro: From R: Groves, Mr. Fablous, Mouse Mock, The Author"
L-R: The author, Mouse, Mr. X, Groves
img src="preptable.png" alt="meet the table where the magic happens and the lightening is stuffed into each delicious offering">
"Yeah, we make it here..."
img src="Neals.png" alt="meet the wonderful girls who run the window at Neals and take care of every order" >
Beth Siron and Heather Swanson...!
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