WILMIINGTON — What’s the key to a good sandwich? Perhaps it’s a fresh Italian roll with the addition of smoked meats, pickled peppers and a homemade sauce. Maybe it’s perfected by the pint of beer served alongside it.
This attention to detail is what Dean Moore, Carl Cross and Andrew Dennison are focusing on as they prepare to open a new sandwich shop at 510 ½ Red Cross St. — formerly known as Detour Deli.
Once a beloved staple in the Brooklyn Arts District (BAD), Detour closed last April. One year later, The Half — a name based on its business address — will open in its stead for an April debut. The three-man team signed the lease in January.
“We looked at a few different neighborhoods and buildings in town, and this one was just the spot. We love this Northside community,” Dennison added.
The were drawn to the community vibe from neighbors, business owners along Red Cross and in the BAD, as well as local nonprofits nearby, including Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard and DREAMS Center for Arts Education.
The skinny brick building housing The Half originally was constructed in 1943, Dennison said: “Before Detour, it was an insurance company.”
Little upfit is needed since being transformed into a restaurant in 2015, Dennison said. They will be adding a 12-seat bar; the restaurant itself holds 40, including tables located on its back patio.
Dennison worked in the industry for over a decade, and had the idea to open a gourmet sandwich and craft beer shop five years ago. He pitched it to his coworkers Cross and Moore during their time together at Flying Machine Beer Co. Cross was the head brewer, Moore was in production, and Dennison was in distribution.
All in their early ‘30s, their first business venture will have Dennison overseeing daily operations. Cross will head the craft beer program and utilize his vast network of industry heads, while Moore is creating the menu.
The Half will feature a dozen or so sandwiches to appeal to carnivores and herbivores alike, as Cross and Moore are vegans. Though the menu will be in flux according to what’s fresh, there will be a few mainstays.
“We definitely will offer a Caprese,” Moore said. “We know that was popular when Detour was here.”
Yet, the former sandwich shop’s most swooned-over item isn’t on The Half menu right now.
“I can’t commit to the banh mi coming back just yet,” Moore said. “We will eventually have it, as to whether or not it’s a constant option will be determined.”
The foundation of each handheld will come with fresh meats and cheeses, or tofu, seitan and tempeh. Vegetables will be offered aplenty, uniquely prepared to up the score on flavor.
“We may potentially serve sliced and cured or smoked carrots and beets, to bring that umami that meat does to a sandwich,” Moore explained. He also will be making homemade giardiniera — a pickled medley of vegetables, including cauliflower, carrots, bell peppers, celery, and chile peppers.
The restaurant will procure items from local purveyors as much as possible. Moore already has reached out to Feast Down East, which pulls produce from farmers across the southeastern region.
“Ultimately, we want to have as much control over the process as we can,” Moore added, which could eventually lead into the team smoking their own meats as well.
The idea is to feature global flavors, accentuated by specialty sauces, which “really makes a sandwich,” Moore said. He is already testing homemade pestos, tahini- and miso-based spreads, a Romesco and even a mustard concoction.
A number of breads will be available: Italian and Cuban rolls, rye, a French baguette and of course sliced loaves.
There will also be salads and some small plates, like homemade pimento cheese and crackers, as well as pasta and potato salads, and other light nibbles to be served with a pint. Cross is concentrating on building a beer program that highlights the best of local brews as well as regional flavors.
Though they won’t be brewing beer onsite, they will have six taps, plus multiple can and bottle selections to enjoy in the shop or to take away. Cross said he wants to tap into trends, such as finding good lagers and one-of-a-kind IPAs, from the mountains to the Piedmont to the coast, and even outside the state.
“We want to expand upon our knowledge and ultimately open up more opportunities for beer in the city,” he said. “We have friends in the northeast, we have friends in California and Texas, friends in Florida who offer something a little bit different, which we want to bring to Wilmington.”
There also will be a concentration on collaborations with various breweries designing unique flavors, all branded with The Half’s logo.
“People will be able to come in and enjoy a beer and a sandwich for $15,” Moore said. “I think, by us doing a lot of this stuff by hand, and being so invested, as well as being part of the ownership here, we can achieve that price point and still have really high local quality.”
Once open, The Half will operate 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. everyday except Tuesday.
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