Early afternoon on a Saturday, a woman stands in front of the counter at Halgo speaking Polish, ordering kielbasa and other meats. A couple proudly tells Ziggy Gorzkowski, the proprietor, that their families are from Poland and they are transplants from Michigan in search of good Polish food. But customers don’t need an accent or family history in order to enjoy Halgo, the European deli across Alston Avenue from the South Regional Library in Durham.
Halgo is primarily a deli and store, and the only place to eat is at a picnic table outside, not a good choice on a damp Saturday in March. But Halgo is a likely choice for lunch takeout for anyone pining for a good old fashioned ham, kielbasa, or pastrami sandwich on rye bread with an authentic ethnic twist. Today, on our first, but not last, visit, I ordered the “traditional.” They were out of pastrami, so my husband Dave chose the ham kielbasa, though we didn’t know what that was.
Waiting for our order, we browsed the store, where much of the groceries have labels written in Polish. The chocolates looked particularly enticing but I resisted, and instead picked up some sour cherry jam.
We took our order to the car and opened the box to check it out. When we saw the huge slices of lightly grilled rye, Dave went back inside to pick up a loaf. The sandwiches were layered with ham, with a thin slice of melted sharp swiss cheese on top and bottom. They come with spicy Polish mustard, mayonnaise, tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and a pickle on the side, though the sandwich-makers will leave out whatever a customer doesn’t want. We ate part of one on the way home. The mustard, in particular, is memorable.
A few minutes later, sitting at our kitchen table and eating with a little more awareness, we figured out that the ham kielbasa is similar to ham, just seasoned a little more boldly. Whether it is the usual practice, or whether it was because Ziggy saw us eying but not buying the chocolates, our lunches each came with a little jam-filled chocolate covered cookie that tasted as good as the chocolates on the shelf looked. I also tried the sour-cherry jam and had a moment of regret that we had eaten pancakes that morning without it.
The prices for these generously-sized sandwiches range from $7.45 for the ones we chose, to build your own for $9.25. The meats and cheeses seemed priced reasonably as small specialty stores go, and other specialty items, though more, were also not so high that they would not be worth a try.
We were there on a Saturday, but like many eateries around RTP, Halgo probably does the most business on weekdays. The store itself is unpretentious, with shelves of groceries, coolers, and what appears to be a simple, spotless kitchen in the back.
If you love authentic Polish food, you should definitely add Halgo’s to your list of must-visit places in North Carolina.
Halgo European Deli & Groceries is located at 4520 S Alston Ave, Durham, NC 27713. They are open Tuesday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. They make sandwiches on those days from 11 am to 3 pm. Some items, like the pierogis, require a two-hour advance order.
Halgo is on our list of the Three Best Places To Find Polish Food In NC.
Debbie resides in Durham, NC.