CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this column misspelled the name of Neal's Deli. The column has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.
Sometimes you end up in a room so small it makes you question everything.
Images are brought forward of extreme poverty in the 1930s and whatever your personal interpretation of a “shanty” is and those tiny cocoons that Japanese men supposedly sleep in on business trips. We don’t get a lot of that here in America, a country that is composed of fifty states but really only uses the motto of one of them (“everything’s bigger in Texas” should be revised to “everything’s just bigger here”).
However, no matter how infrequently, there are small places in America. One of them is my 2008 two-seater Smart car. One of them is the second floor Bingham bathrooms. One of them is Neal's Deli in Carrboro.
Small places create a very specific kind of ambiance, which I like to call “romantic claustrophobia.” Cue the feeling of being able to smell everyone’s in the diner’s farts — but still being okay with it because it’s romantic.
What I ordered:
Ham and egg and Swiss biscuit — $5.50
Orange juice — $2
I’m going to be honest here because you deserve that. I am willing to pay $5 for a ham and egg and swiss biscuit barely the size of a comparable $3.49 meal at Sunrise. I order food that is not worth the price for a number of reasons, the first of which being small touches like the menu saying “swiss” instead of “cheese.”
Usually paying $8.50 (with tip) for a biscuit and juice wouldn’t bother me. That was until they handed me the juice.
Sometimes you end up with a bottle of juice so small it makes you question everything.
The juice bottle said eight ounces. I don’t believe that. There is no possible way. The juice floated in my hands like a feather, with not enough heft to be anchored there by gravity. The juice was a micro-microcosm of regular juice. The juice was nary significant enough to be a good metaphor for regular juice. The juice was that small.
The juice sufficiently washed down my first three bites. After that it was like trying to sail a ship through the Sahara (if the Sahara was mostly soaked by butter). It wasn’t so much the dryness but the utter lack of appropriate citrus companionship that ruined the biscuit. To be clear, the biscuit was good.
My meal was ruined by the expectation of juice, the common exchange of legal tender for juice, and the receiving of something much smaller and much more sinister.
I was tricked by Neal’s Deli. I was straight swindled, and I don’t appreciate it. I suggest you go, though. Order the coffee. Or the chocolate milk. Or just water. Please, please do not order the juice.
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