by Deborah Miller (with tasty comments from Joy Salyers)
Joy surely wasn’t looking for a European Deli and Grocery while Googling (it’s a word now, right?) for something else. It was one of those happy accidents. From the corner came “Deborah! We’ve got to go here!” and I knew there was another adventure in our future. One day last week, after several projects and deadlines had been put to bed, we set out to cross Durham from north to south like explorers – in search of Halgo.
Since pictures are worth a thousand words, I’ll let them do most of the talking.
Tucked back in what was once a house, just across the street from the South Durham Public Library, is Halgo. You could easily pass it by, but don’t!
Co-owner Halina Zbingniew bakes her own cookies and pastries to sell in the shop. The ones on the left are the biggest sellers, because they are better known outside of Polish communities.
Halina’s husband, who people call “Ziggy,” told us the chrusciki are bought mostly by other Poles, who recognize the little fried “angel wings” as a special treat indeed.
Ziggy proudly showed us around, picking up this and that around the small store, and smiling as he pointed out “19 varieties of Pierogis.” Just take them home and prepare according to the instructions, or you can call 2 hours ahead and pick up your choice of ready-to-eat Pierogis with butter-sauteed onion.
Ziggy and Halina began to open jars, slice meats and cheeses, and rip into cookies, just to give us a taste. As other lunchtime customers trickled in, they were also offered slices and slivers. One man, also a first-timer, could only exclaim “wow!” over and over as he sampled. When we shared our sampling of some butter-rich smoked salmon, he said “wow” yet again, and as he gathered up his to-go sandwich he added, “I’ve got to come back here!”
Polish deli aficionados may not find the miles-long meat cases seen in Milwaukee, but Ziggy’s has curated a selection including traditional favorites likes kielbasa wiejska (or “village sausage”) and kielbasa weselna (or “wedding sausage”), along with other varieties. (And he can also sell you all your favorite kielbasa accessories, from grated beets mixed with horseradish, to refrigerated sauerkraut, to spicy Polish mustard.)
Ziggy and Halina make their sandwiches in the authentic Polish way as well – with the meat piled high. There are no tables to dine in, so make use of the picnic table just under the shade tree!
Halgo European Deli & Grocery
4520 Alston Ave.
Deborah Miller, Program Administrator at the North Carolina Folklife Institute, is a native Tar Heel and lifelong foodie with a deep passion for music.
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