Fate brought me to sample Duke Sandwich over a series of events. First, I passed their establishment on an earlier trip. I tagged it in my mind as a potentially interesting, old fashioned restaurant. Then, on a later trip, a BBQ restaurant I wanted to try was closed for vacation, and GPS brought me over a series of tiny roads to Duke's doorstep.
A little online research shows that Duke Sandwich was founded in 1917 when Ms. Duke started to sell her chicken salad sandwiches to the troops at the local base. The chicken salad made use of Ms. Duke's mayonnaise recipe, which she licensed and is still manufactured today. Her family still runs the business and it shows. The restaurant is bright, clean, and efficient. The staff all wear crisp, lively-colored t-shirts. When I expressed an interest in trying the chicken salad, he asked someone to bring me a spoonful. Later, our tray was delivered by an extremely courteous and helpful server.
I am not a big chicken salad person, but I must say that my sample was excellent. The chicken came through cleanly and mixed beautifully with the excellent mayonnaise. Fresh, crispy celery accented the mix.
Duke serves a full complement of sandwiches. For my lunch, I ordered the grilled cheese. The perfect grill marks are an outward sign of the tastiness of the sandwich inside. The cheese was rich and creamy. The toast was a perfect balance of softness and toasty crunch. I didn't get a chance to try the BBQ pork but I observed that it didn't last long.
This place reminds me of some of the old time spots in New Jersey. As with those spots, Duke's serves simpler food from a simpler time. People used to have less money to eat but they also had fewer transportations options to search out their food. Inexpensive, good food spots were important for sustenance and a sense of place. I am grateful that places like Duke's are still around for us to enjoy.