Chip Meeker grew up about 40 miles outside New York City, where towns were defined by the delicatessen and a life spent in the absence of its signature sandwich was not worth living.
Thanks to Meeker, a prominent Wilton Manors gateway, near Wilton Drive’s iconic Dairy Queen, soon will be home to Papa Duke’s Deli, a showcase for grab-and-go meals where the Drunken Brisket sandwich on James Beard Award-winning bread is king.
The well-made sandwich is a point of pride for Meeker, who will feature house-made roast beef, turkey, chicken, ham, corned beef and pastrami.
The name of the Drunken Brisket sandwich has nothing to do with any of its ingredients: slow-cooked brisket, with pickled vegetables, a spicy pepper tapenade and a barbecue sauce that Meeker has been perfecting for years.
“I’ve always loved brisket and, years and years ago, the combination came up while drunk with a bunch of friends,” says Meeker, 53, with a laugh. “It was, like, ‘Oh my god, this is absolutely insane!’”
The other critical element, bread, will be from Sullivan Street Bakery in Miami, the only location outside New York City of the cult-y bakeshop founded by Jim Lahey, a James Beard Award winner.
Lahey is perhaps best known for the No-Knead Bread recipe published in The New York Times that continues to be one of the newspaper’s most popular food features 15 years later.
“The bread is fantastic,” Meeker says. “It’s got that super nice crunch on the outside and soft and moist inside. I went to probably four or five different bakeries between Fort Lauderdale and Miami, and this was clearly, in my opinion, the best one around.”
Along with house-made baked goods and a variety of coffees and other drinks, Meeker hopes to have whole loaves of fresh-baked Sullivan Street Bakery bread delivered daily at Papa Duke’s.
Meeker was raised near the shore on the Connecticut edge of Long Island Sound. The idea for a grab-and-go sandwich shop — aimed at those on the way to the beach or remote workers at lunch — formed during the dark days of COVID but makes even more sense now.
“I was contemplating this during the heat of the pandemic, and we didn’t know when you were going to be able to sit at a restaurant again. I thought maybe this deli-type thing, which is predominately takeout, maybe this is the new trend. Maybe this is where we’re gonna go,” he says.
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When it debuts in the next 30 days, the deli will be open for breakfast and lunch, 7 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. There is no waitstaff, with counter service only, and 10 outdoor seats if you want to linger. Papa Duke’s doesn’t serve alcohol.
Meeker describes the location as “perfect,” positioned at the entry to Wilton Manors on the southern end of Wilton Drive on property anchored by the popular Dairy Queen. Its proximity to a built-in lunch crowd of students and teachers at Fort Lauderdale High School doesn’t hurt.
Papa Duke’s (the nickname of Meeker’s late father) is in a totally remodeled space — the design is monochromatic, black-and-white industrial chic, with white subway tile and wood floors — that has housed an antique shop and a laundromat.
The deli currently takes up the north half of the building, with the rest dedicated to storage. Meeker says that if business takes off, he’ll expand into the other half and open a patio deck on the south end of the building, where a mural will cover a prominent wall.
Papa Duke’s Deli is at 1952 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors. When it opens later this summer, hours will be 7 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. Call 954-530-4914 or visit PapaDukesWM.com.