BY JAIME GATTON
Mention a bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich, and hardly anyone bats an eye. Squirt a little ketchup on it, and now you’ve drawn battle lines.
The Counter, a New York-style deli on Brawley School Road in Mooresville, is serving up an egg sandwich with ingredients that are being hotly debated on social media. One ingredient — maybe two — has even divided local residents who once called New York or New Jersey home. Should the sandwich have ketchup? Should it include a potato?
People have their opinions, and they’re quick to share them. But they all seem to agree on one thing: The breakfast sandwich needs to be on an authentic hard roll — or, in The Counter’s case, a New York Kaiser roll.
Don and Diane Pfeil are originally from Rockland County, N.Y., but they moved to Mooresville almost 20 years ago. They have stood in the middle of friendly food banter since August, when they opened their deli, which is earning high marks from customers and local food bloggers/influencers alike.
Diane, who owned a restaurant in New York before falling in love with the Lake Norman area during her first visit here, said she initially considered opening a pizza shop in the space beside where The Counter now stands. But folks who have fallen in love with The Counter are happy she picked the deli instead. After all, an authentic deli isn’t as easy to come by as pizza in the Lake Norman area.
The Counter proudly offers its “Classic Egg Sammy on a N.Y. Kaiser roll” that features choice of breakfast meat — and, yes, that includes pork roll … or Taylor ham. (What to call this New Jersey staple, which tastes like ham and bologna had a baby, is also hotly debated.) The sandwich also boasts a soft egg, oozy American cheese, a smashed and fried red bliss potato and “SPK,” or salt, pepper and — you guessed it — ketchup. (Pro tip: Don’t knock it ’til you try it!)
But it’s hard to argue with your mouth full, and in addition to daily soups and a whole list of available sandwiches/paninis, one menu item that has received rave reviews is The Counter’s “Piled High Pastrami” Reuben. Topped with sauerkraut and Swiss cheese on pumpernickel and rye swirl bread, it’s the most popular item on the deli’s menu.
But perhaps you have a palate for sweet instead of savory. That’s okay. The Counter has something for everyone — including coffee, mini baked pies, cinnamon rolls, muffins and, yes, Southern friends, even pimento cheese.
In fact, one of Diane’s first and biggest decisions when opening should come as no surprise to those raised in the South because it has divided friendships and households here for generations: Which mayonnaise should a New York-style deli that’s situated in the South use — Duke’s or Hellman’s?
Don, a retired New York detective, said he was just as surprised to learn that Southerners put mustard or mayonnaise on egg sandwiches as the Southerners are to hear about the addition of ketchup!
The Counter serves breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m. — lunch is 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. — and customers were happy to learn that the egg sammy is now available all day.
The bread that The Counter carries is one of the most beloved parts of the deli, especially for New York and New Jersey transplants craving a taste of home. Diane worked hard to make sure the deli carries authentic bread from New York, New Jersey and even Nebraska! But that was easier said than done.
“Before we opened, I was contacting bakeries all over the country,” she said. Most of the standard food suppliers in the area don’t carry bread from the bakeries Diane wanted.
“I didn’t realize it was going to be a journey, and it was a journey,” she recalled. But now customers can enjoy authentic bread on any sandwich that’s on the menu, or they can buy the baked bread alone — including Kaiser rolls, N.Y. bagels, seeded and unseeded bread and Dutch Crunch — to take home.
Diane’s favorite part of the deli is meeting people and watching new relationships form. She said she has a “coffee crew” that regularly gathers for breakfast, and it warms her heart to see everyone in the small deli, whether they walked in knowing each other or not, talking over breakfast and coffee.
The debates over regional foods are just part of the fun and deli experience. Mayonnaise, mustard or ketchup debates aside, Diane and Don said they love living in the South. “When people here ask how you’re doing, they really mean it,” Diane said. “We love it here.”
The Counter is located at 1098 Brawley School Road in Mooresville. Learn More at https://www.thecountermooresville.com/
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the January edition of “IFN Monthly.”