Back in the mid 1990s, when I lived in the wild, bucolic, rolling hills of Chatham County, I used to drive pass a run down Esso station on US 15-501, built circa 1945, every few days on the way to Chapel Hill in order to pick up this or that. In those days, this or that usually meant a trip to the Wellspring, a stop at the Mediterranean Deli on Franklin Street or occasionally a pizza from Pepper's. And every time I drove passed it, there would be cars – Beamers, Volvo wagons and the like – in the parking lot, but little evidence that anything was going on inside. It looked to world that or at least to me, that this was nothing more than a little family run country store, eking out an existence on its way to being bulldozed and turned in a TGI McFunsters.
Tragic, in a personal way for the family trying to make it in an age where corporate behemoths rule the universe and little guys get trampled underfoot.
I moved away to New York for five years, only to spend hours commuting into The City and freezing myself nearly solid as blizzard after blizzard finally disabused me on the notion that the horsey part of Westchester County, New York was Currier and Ives landscape made real. Sure, it looks great dressed in white, but how in the &@#$%^! do I get to the train station in this mess?
|A Double on Sourdough, with mayo|
Hipsters knew but I didn't. But I do now.
There are other things on the menu and I have heard of people ordering fried bologna sandwiches but I never have.
No, the star of the show is the BLT, which comes in three variants: the Single, the Double and The Triple and they are exactly what you think they would be. A single is Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato between two slices of the bread of your choice – mayo optional. The double is Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato, and then another layer of Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato. The triple is three layers of the BLT between two slices of bread. To put it in perspective; a triple is almost as big as my head.
This time of year, the Tomatoes are perfect. The Bacon comes from Cliff's in Carrboro and has the right balance of fat to lean, smoke to salt. Is it worth the drive from Raleigh? You betcha'. Is it special? So special, in fact, I took my Mom to lunch there for Mother's Day (okay, it was the Saturday before since they're closed on Sundays).
The prices are reasonable, with a double coming in at about eight bucks. Worth it.
Merritt's Store & Grill
1009 S. Columbia St.
Chapel Hill, 919-942-4897