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Cafe Meridian

Posted by MEZ 6 Jul 2010 6 Comments

Café Meridian comes just before the Highway 55 and 54 crossroads, across the road from Sansui Sushi. Months (years?) ago I saw that they were opening up for lunch soon, then promptly forgot until I passed it last week and saw their big banners advertising that they were open. Inside, you order at the counter,

which is loaded with portions of their hearty entrée options like the big burrito that comes stuffed to bursting and slathered with a red sauce (customers in lined chattered about how good it is), salmon with a mandarin orange sauce, stuffed chicken breasts, frittata wedges, large spanakopitas, and their side salads offerings that include fresh fruit, caesar, garden, macaroni and carrot, black bean and corn, broccoli, potato, and orzo. Their main fare appears to be sandwiches and salads, which they prepare once you place your order at that counter. You can get half sandwiches, too, which I always appreciate.

There is plenty of outside and inside seating, and they seem to be quite popular with the RTP lunch crowd. The interior is painted in red, green, and black, and is more inviting than you usually expect for a lunch spot.

Plus, the staff was super friendly, both the people behind the counter and the woman working the register who seemed to know a number of the regulars.

I decided on a half chicken pesto sandwich.

I think I’d call that a whole sandwich. It was pressed panini-style, like all of their grilled sandwiches. The chicken was moist and flavorful. I enjoyed how the somewhat bitter mixed greens and tangy, roasted bell peppers combined with the pesto’s richness. Serving it with muenster rather than provolone or mozzeralla was a bit of a curveball, but the extra punch of flavor from that cheese was welcome. It was a darn good chicken pesto, if not quite up there with the divine one from Zoccoli’s Deli in my adopted hometown of Santa Cruz, CA.

My potato salad side was also pretty tasty.

The dijon mustard element was stronger than I like, but the sauce was creamy enough to stand up to that. There was also dill mixed in, and the red-skin potatoes were great.

I also tried their lemon pound cake ($2.50).

It was dense and had plenty of moisture and lemony vibrancy. I would call it an average slice of pound cake.

Café Meridian made a great sandwich and definitely had me eyeing that burrito for a return visit. It’s a shame they are only open for three hours a day, because this night owl often doesn’t make it out to lunch until later.

Café Meridian
2500 Meridian Parkway & Highway 55
RTP/South Durham
Hours: 11–2 Monday through Friday
Whole sandwiches and a side: $5.75–$7
Daily special entrees: $4.99–$8.99

Reviewed 7.1.10.

6 Comments »

  • rossgrady said:

    Thanks for reviewing Meridian Cafe! I have had a to-do on my list for a couple of months now to write up a review, but clearly it hasn’t bubbled to the top of the list.

    It’s a family-run business; they bought the former Doce last year & it took them a couple of months to transition it over (the cash-register receipts might even still say Doce). You’ll see chef Richie & his wife (and sometimes one or more sons) in the kitchen, and daughter Paige runs the register.

    As a longtime fan of the late lamented Park Diner, I can say that Meridian Cafe has come closer than any other RTP eatery to filling the giant hole in my heart that was left when the PD closed.

    They’re not quite there yet . . . the hot entrees & sides aren’t as much of a focus as they were at the Park Diner (and there’s simply no replacement for Don Mazzia). But the feeling of warm welcome that I get when I walk in the door *is* very much in the same ballpark, and I’ve come to realize over the past couple of months that that’s one of the key elements I’ve been missing. And the sandwiches & entree specials *are* really good.

    Since I was halfway working on thinking about a review, I’ve been taking photos. Here are a few: Meridian Cafe photos on flickr

    [Reply]

    MEZ replies on July 6th, 2010 at 1:27 pm:

    You’re a big fan of their black bean and corn salad from those pictures! I have to say, that one looked especially fresh and tasty out of their side options, and I say that not even liking beans.

    [Reply]

  • Freddie said:

    I should know about this place as I work walking distance to them…I always thought it was such a shame these people ran Doce as it was a great location but never seemed to get better…Doce sucked, was way over priced, and had horrible service and attitude.

    I gave it some time but I went there with the new owners to be pleasantly surprised. For a moment, I thought they just changed names/style to bring more customers in…but once I stepped in and looked at their menu and friendly smiles, I knew they were all new. Prices were a lot cheaper and the food a TON better! My wife has gone more than I have and she loves it too but I have only gone once…That chicken pesto looks delicious! I gotta go there again…

    [Reply]

  • Jason said:

    I work within walking distance to this place as well and will agree that it is a solid choice for lunch. The family that runs it takes a lot of pride in their food. The catfish on Fridays is delicious and I haven’t found a better club sandwich in this town. Definitely worth a try if you’re in the area.

    [Reply]

  • Brandie said:

    Thanks for the review, I’ve always wondered about this place when I drive past. Looks like it is definitely worth stopping in.

    I know Zoccoli’s! Nice to see another Santa Cruzian way out here. No matter where I live, I’ll always be a Banana Slug at heart :)

    [Reply]

    MEZ replies on November 16th, 2012 at 11:49 am:

    That’s great, Brandie! You should definitely try Cafe Meridian if you can make it for those limited lunch hours. And yes, banana slug forever! I always describe it as where I will return to once I’m a millionaire and can afford the redwoods and ocean beauty. ,)

    [Reply]

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