Dept. 7 East is a self-described French/sandwich/Southern restaurant using local, fresh ingredients and serving lunch and small bites.
This new restaurant shares space with the Tea Room at 7 E. Broughton St. and is open from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with plans to open for dinner by the end of January.
The combined establishment contains Tea Room retail shopping and a bar up front, with restaurant seating in the rear.
The new space is quaint, warm and pleasantly quirky with Wedgewood blue walls, reclaimed wood accents and Commander Cody, a stuffed deer head with a holiday cigar, prominently displayed above the dining room fireplace.
Adding to a chic, folksy theme are dish towels serving as napkins and galvanized washbasin and bucket lighting fixtures.
When we first tried to go, we discovered Dept. 7 East is closed on Sundays.
The next trip was on a weekday, and we arrived on the early side for lunch.
We were met by a friendly hostess who seated us at a table next to the fireplace.
Our server, who was pleasant and knowledgeable about the menu, greeted us and gave us time to peruse the selections.
The menu is comprised of a small but well composed selection of sandwiches, "nibbles," salads and soup. The sandwiches are varied and creatively named, including the Cracklin' Cuban, the J&L Redneck Reuben, the Southern Parisian and the Flim Flammy.
A great deal of thought went into Dept. 7 East's menu, evidenced by the varied sandwich selection and slight ingredient twist on many items, as well as use of fresh, local ingredients.
There is an ample selection of primarily Old World wines: sparkling, red and white, as well as a small selection of craft brews. Teas from the Tea Room are also available in the restaurant.
All menu selections, wines, craft beers and teas are reasonably priced.
I ordered the Perverted Roast Beef sandwich and soup du jour, while my dining partner, Kathy, ordered the East Club sandwich and peach iced tea with simple syrup.
The soup was French vegetable purÃ©e consisting of potatoes, leeks and onion with a pesto garnish and roasted, crushed pumpkin seeds, which presented a nice textural contrast to the vegetable purÃ©e. The soup was good - hearty and rich in flavor.
The Perverted Roast Beef was a roast beef panini with a small piece of lettuce, a hint of horseradish sauce served with kettle-style chips and garnished with pickled cucumber slices and carrot strips.
Although nicely presented, the sandwich was dry and the roast beef well-done; it needed additional lettuce and horseradish sauce.
Kathy's club sandwich was served with mixed greens with buttermilk ranch dressing and similar pickled garnishes. The peach tea and salad with buttermilk ranch were both enjoyable.
However, the turkey and ham appeared thrown together on the toasted bread with another miniscule piece of lettuce. Her sandwich was also dry and unappealing.
On this first visit to Dept. 7 East, the soup and the salad were enjoyable; however, both sandwiches fell well short of expectations. In my opinion, it was the result of poor execution in the back of house on that day.
Had the food been delivered as described (on the menu and by our server) and up to par with the detail paid to other aspects of Dept. 7 East, the meal would have been noteworthy.
But wait, everybody deserves a second try.
For the second trip, I took my 12-year-old son for a late lunch during the week. I ordered the Cracklin' Cuban, and Cortland ordered a cup of Brunswick stew, the crab cakes and peach tea with cane syrup.
In this case, the second time was the charm.
The Cuban was served with pork rinds, a side salad of mixed greens and shredded carrots with citrus cane vinaigrette garnished with a pickled green tomato and carrot strip. This dish was very good.
The hot, grilled sandwich, with its slight twist - pickled okra - was spot on.
The sliced pork tenderloin and ham were moist and well balanced with the other ingredients and condiments.
The salad and dressing were a nice compliment. I would order it again.
My son's hearty Brunswick stew was tomato-based with lima beans, corn, onion and just the right amount of pulled pork.
It was served with a cornbread square, and both the stew and cornbread were enjoyable.
His crab cake was plated over a bed of mixed greens and topped with an herbed aioli.
The crab was just that, crab with minimal to no breading.
It was perfectly cooked, brown on the outside witha melt-in-your-mouth texture inside, and almost decadent when combined with the aioli.
In this case, I am glad for second chances. Dept. 7 East delivered the critical missing piece from the first visit - good food.
This visit produced food commensurate with the inviting atmosphere, thoughtful menu and good service.
Based on the second visit, I will return and suggest you visit Dept. 7 East as well, but don't go on a Sunday or Monday, or for dinner for the time being, as you will be out of luck.
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