Growing up in New Jersey and being Jewish, I've always been very fond of New York style delis. As I got settled at Duke, I quickly realized these delis were one of the things I missed most from home. My quest to find a deli like I have at home led me to Lucky's Delicatessen, a true deli located right here in Durham. After an incredible visit and many more to come, I compiled this list of the top five reasons why Lucky's is one of Durham's many hidden gems.

1) The Perfect Atmosphere

One of the fondest food-related memories (the best kind) I have of growing up in the New York City area is its surplus of delis . It’s no secret that there aren’t many of these delis in the Durham area. Enter Lucky’s Delicatessen. This place is as authentic as they come. From its classic subway tile floor to the retro sign out front, Lucky’s could just as easily be on a street corner in Manhattan as in Durham.

2) Seemingly Endless Options!

Despite its traditional look, Lucky’s isn’t your run-of-the-mill deli. Their daily sandwich specials range from banh mi buns to buffalo chicken sandwiches. The focus on nontraditional menu items does not detract from its old-school options. The matzo ball soup looks like it is fresh out of grandma’s kitchen. Mary Deal, general manager of Lucky’s Delicatessen, explains, “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but we also don’t want to be a museum.” There is certainly the perfect mix of fresh and vintage here.

3) The People

One of my biggest impressions from my visit to Lucky’s was just how happy and passionate every worker was. According to Mary, the team behind the deli sought to serve both the Durham community of northern transplants and Southerners who are inexperienced when it comes to delis. Everybody at Lucky’s Delicatessen is incredibly kind, and the restaurant is truly trying to make Durham a better place one bite at a time.

4) The Pickles

No deli experience could be considered complete without a juicy pickle. While some people consider this to be just an accompaniment to the star that is the sandwich, I consider this the highlight of my meal (pickle lovers unite!). The pickles at Lucky’s Delicatessen are phenomenal, and have the perfect ratio of sour and salty. 

5) The Reuben Sandwich

Derek Saul

One of the most popular orders at any deli is the Reuben. I decided to test Lucky’s genuineness by ordering the classic Reuben, and they certainly delivered. Their Reuben is a masterful blend of corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing, between two toasted slices of rye bread. I ordered it with a side of egg salad, which had just the right amount of mayonnaise, and of course, a pickle. Every bite was perfection.

All in all, Lucky's is most definitely a place to check out! The options are endless, and all selections are high quality. Make sure to give it a try!