Eatery - Parker & Otis (NC) Revisited

Parker and Otis Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

112 S Duke St, Durham, NC 27701
Pricing - $ | Dining - Casual, To-Go | Cuisine - American, Sandwiches

Ah, Durham. The old haunt. In all the years since I graduated from Duke, I hadn't traveled back to the area despite all the news I heard about the changes happening to both the culinary scene and city overall there. I had been meaning to return with Duc in tow since he had never been there so when our schedules opened up for an opportunity (and opportunely, it was Homecoming Weekend), we decided to go! Though there were new spots in town that had opened up, I wanted to make sure we visited Parker & Otis because I had enjoyed it so much (old review here). It's the perfect lunch spot and with so many sections of gifts and products at their location, it's just a fun place to browse. The restaurant still stood and was just as busy as ever; we plopped down for lunch one afternoon, and I still really enjoyed what they had to offer.

A little background on Parker & Otis - it's not just a restaurant. When you enter, it feels like you're walking into a coffee shop that features greeting cards and gift items. However, go beyond that Durham roaster (Counter Culture Coffee) counter and you'll find even more. A display case of bonbons, truffles, and cutely-shaped confections can catch your eye. If you can move beyond that, there are shelves and tables of gift-worthy gourmet items, primarily local wares. I especially like getting souvenir presents from here like boxes of Moravian Cookies. In the back reaches of the building are fridges of craft beers, sections for home goods and children's toys, wine racks, and seating for their food. The restaurant portion has open displays of cured meats, cheese, and soda in cans and bottles. There is also a deli section where you can order items by the pound which we would have done had we not had other plans that day! What is also enjoyable about Parker & Otis is how they make as much from scratch and local as possible including their egg and dairy sourcing. Even the freshly baked bread comes from not too far away.

With that in mind, it could have been hard to decide on what to get but the restaurant's popularity during the lunch hour meant we had a line to wait in and think about our order. I had remembered how much I loved their deviled eggs in the past so made sure it would be in my meal. Duc was feeling like a hot sandwich so opted for their Salami & Provolone Panini ($6.99 - with red onion and pepperoncini on sourdough) which came out ooey, gooey, and rich-smelling. All sandwiches come with their house slaw but just as I remembered it, I was not a fan. However, the panini had a generous amount of salami that was warm against the melted cheese. The sandwich was a great, savory way to start the afternoon though all of the meat's extra fat made the bottoms greasier than we liked. Comes with the territory, I guess!

I personally had to sate my curiosity of all their deli offerings and ordered the Three Salad Platter ($7.99) along with two Deviled Eggs ($.75 each). The salad platter let you choose from any of their displayed salads of the day so my choices were curry chicken salad, Greek salad, and spinach pesto pasta salad to get a good balance of the different types. Once the plates came to our table, it was obvious that there would be plenty to eat from what sounded like it could be a light dish. The curry chicken salad had the fun surprise of fresh grapes and was surprisingly light given how creamy it was overall. The Greek salad had sizable chunks of cucumber (perhaps a little too big) and large cuts of red onion that were a bit spicy due to their concentration per bite but overall, the dressing was balanced and the feta chunks delightful. I particularly liked the pesto pasta salad because all of it was done well; pasta salads have a tendency of under- or overdone pasta but P&O knew what they were doing. The pesto was slightly piquant from the vegetal rawness but overall welcomed with the occasional appearance of sweet peas in the salad.

As for the deviled egg, just as good as I remembered though a little softer than I recalled. If you want a well-seasoned, simple deviled egg that is soft and melt-in-your-mouth good, P&O does it well for its pricing. All in all, it was a great return trip to a place I already know and trust. Duc gave it the thumbs up too!

Photography by Duc Duong.