Popular local deli expands its brand to Castle Hayne with Chop’s Diner

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CASTLE HAYNE — The Manhattan, The Bordeaux, The Monaco, The Wilmington: These are just some of the signature sandwiches patrons have come to love at one of three Chops Deli locations across the Port City. Now, owners Chris Graham and Brad Corpening have expanded to northern New Hanover County, all while looking to grow the Chop’s family tree.

In the seven years since it opened its doors downtown along Front Street in December 2009, the award-winning delicatessen has put its stamp throughout Wilmington. The passion for “filling people’s belly’s,” while finding a new base of customers seems to have fit nicely with Graham’s desire go outside the blueprint. Those thoughts led to the newest restaurant, Chop’s Diner.

Chop's Diner has new daily specials each day on the blackboard.
Chop’s Diner has new daily specials each day on the blackboard.

“We were looking to find a kitchen and expand with some commissary work and catering,” said Graham. “[We] ran into this place in Castle Hayne, which was pretty ready to go and once we looked around the area thought the Castle Hayne location looked like a diner-type place.”

Chop’s Diner  does differentiate itself from the three other Chop’s locations with a traditional diner-style menu, serving breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m.-2 p.m. each day.  Love for country-style fair has also been a hit for its blue-collar base who frequent the 2539 Castle Hayne Road establishment.

“I’m here almost every day,” said Jay McKeithan of Leland, who works at a nearby lumberyard. “We’re all about supporting local businesses and they have some of the best sandwiches in town. I thought it was smart the way they did this one. They’re everywhere now.”

As McKeithan munched on his favorite pick on the menu – the oven roasted turkey sub – he was able to enjoy some time with his wife and young daughter during his lunch break at the family-friendly setting.

The notoriety of the Chop’s brand is what kept Graham from going in a different direction when first opening Chop’s Diner in December 2016. It also attracted people like McKeithan and his family, who had visited Chops’s other locations over the years. Along with the typical diner grub, specials are changing day-to-day, with a focus on choice of meat, veggies and desserts.

Frequent customer Jay McKeithan enjoys lunch with his family.
Frequent customer Jay McKeithan enjoys lunch with his family.

“The area is delighted to have us with our menu,” Graham added. “I think we were fortunate to find the place. We wanted to stay with the brand. Chop’s Deli, Chop’s Deli and Grill at the Wrightsville Avenue location and Chop’s Diner. We’re very blessed to have a real local crowd in Castle Hayne.”

The proximity to downtown kept Graham from going with the traditional deli that has gained so much traction within the city limits. But, Chop’s goal of making sure customers are well nourished in a welcoming atmosphere on the way to work and at lunchtime could very well keep this local name at the forefront of people’s appetite in the years to come.

“It’s one of the things I love about the restaurant business,” Graham said. “We take a lot of pride in filling people’s bellies. We’re seeing a breakfast crowd and a lunchtime crowd and get back to work. People are in and out. Sustenance is the first thing to having a good day.”

While the initial idea of getting the Castle Hayne location was to start putting together a plan to extend Chop’s as a catering entity, the immediate growth of the diner put the notion on the back burner for now. However, look for Chop’s to soon grow even more in the near future when it does add catering.

“Now that the restaurant is doing well, we’ll be looking to expand, paired with our beach store,” Graham said. “It is in the works. We’re working on our menu, that we’ll add to the website to let people know what we’re capable of. We’ll soon be open to do any type of event.”