Some communities are lucky enough to have a gathering place that grows organically over time into a center for food, art, music and conversation. Pittsboro is about to become three times that lucky: Its General Store Cafe (39 West St., 542-2432, www.thegeneralstorecafe.com) is tripling in size.
Special events April 3-6 will showcase the new space, which is home to the new Black Bird Bar, a performance stage, a dance floor and a private meeting room. In the heart of Chatham's county seat, the cafe has long drawn neighbors in with casual dining that incorporates the bounty of Chatham's farms, live music and an eclectic collection of local arts and crafts.
"Our hope and our vision has been to stay as close to the community as possible," says co-owner Vance Remick. "That's why I'm in business—it's much more fun to know your customers and be part of the community, rather than just focus on making a buck."
Remick grew up in a family that owned a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise and knew he wanted to do something different. He and his wife, Joyce, with a group of local investors, bought the cafe in April 2002 and have focused on fostering community in many ways, from hosting monthly fundraisers called "Burrito Bashes" in support of grassroots nonprofits to battling health inspectors for the right to serve eggs from local farms.
The cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and Sunday brunch. Live music, poetry readings, theater and other performance art will be offered three nights a week. The grand opening weekend features live jazz, Latin music and salsa dancing with Solazo and some R&B. For a full schedule, menus and other info, see the Web site.
Casual dining options are also expanding in Carrboro, where Sheila and Matt Neal are set to open their new venture, Neal's Deli (100-C E. Main St., 967-2185, www.nealsdeli.com). Between them, the two have cooked, served and tended bar at a multitude of local establishments, including ACME (where they met), Crook's Corner, Lantern and Vin, but Matt had always dreamed of owning a sub shop, Sheila says. Final inspections on their space, the former home of Open Eye Cafe (which moved), are happening this week; an opening date is set for "early, early April." With seating for 15 inside and more outside, Neal's will offer dine-in and takeout for lunch and dinner, including house-made corned beef and pastrami. The menu features local meats and cheeses, as well as bread from Durham's Guglhupf Bakery & Patisserie; seasonal side dishes will be drawn from farmers' market ingredients. Menus are on the Web site; check there for their opening date.
More kudos for Chapel Hill's Allen & Son (6203 Millhouse Road, 942-7576): The beloved barbecue joint garnered national attention in the March Esquire, which called its chopped pork on bread one of "the best sandwiches in America."
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