I'm not a big fan of chain restaurants. I typically opt for locally owned eateries that boast signature dishes you can't find anywhere else. So when my friend and I recently ate at Sweet Peppers Deli (her suggestion), I was pleasantly surprised by the versatile menu.
She wanted to try the newer of the two local Sweet Peppers Deli franchises, next to Hamilton Place. The freestanding building occupies a space on the perimeter of the main mall, so parking was convenient. We arrived around noon, and the place was packed -- a good sign. Customers place and pay for their orders before being seated, and a server brings the food to the table. Despite the crowd, we had our food in about five minutes.
Where: Sweet Peppers Deli, 2040 Hamilton Place Blvd., Suite 142 (also at 407 Broad St.).
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Price range: $5.99 for a Mediterranean hummus plate to $7.99 for shrimp salad croissant.
Phone: 825-4999 (755-4800 downtown).
The restaurant offers starters, salads, sandwiches, paninis, wraps, a variety of baked potatoes, desserts and children's favorites.
We started with a Mediterranean hummus plate ($5.99). The hummus is served with cucumbers, tomatoes and Kalamata olives with warm pita bread. Another dish favored by vegetarians at Sweet Peppers is a portobello panini ($7.49), served with feta and cheddar cheese, pesto, tomato, olives, red onion and roasted portobello mushroom on ciabatta. Meat eaters can add chicken to the mix for an extra $1.50. Additional paninis include fresh mozzarella and tomato, Mediterranean chicken, Cuban, Reuben, grande (roast beef) and Southwestern quesadilla.
Salad choices are chef, chicken grill, taco, Caesar chicken, big Greek hummus and Waldorf, priced at $7.99 or less. Diners also have the option of ordering a Scoop Salad that tops a bed of crisp greens, cucumbers and ripe tomatoes with a generous portion of either handmade shrimp salad, chicken salad or albacore tuna salad ($6.99-$7.99).
I ordered the chicken salad, one of my favorite dishes. It was perfect -- fresh and homemade. I also got the Waldorf salad, and it was great, too.
The sandwiches are served with a choice of potato chips, coleslaw, potato salad or pasta salad. Because my mother makes the best potato salad in the universe, I'm always reluctant to order potato salad in a restaurant. But I gave it a shot, and I'm glad I did. It was so tasty, I wanted to order another serving.
The sandwich menu features some out-of-the-ordinary choices, such as a goat cheese and fire-roasted red pepper sub and a muffaletta ($6.49 for either).
You'll also find old favorites, such as chicken salad, roast beef, grilled chicken breast and BLT, as well as a smoked cheddar melt and a shrimp salad croissant ($5.99-$7.99).
When it comes to baked potatoes, I go the simple route -- sour cream and butter. Sweet Peppers, though, has upgraded my typical favorite by adding ham, turkey, bacon, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, green onions and black olives, along with the butter and sour cream, to its Loaded Tater ($6.99). There's also the Bacon Cheesy Tater, ($5.99) and the Cajun Shrimp Tater ($6.99).
Desserts include Key lime pie, carrot cake and a variety of cheesecakes ($3.99 to $4.29 a slice), plus freshly baked cookies ($1.19 each).
The service was unbelievably attentive. So attentive, it bordered on being annoying (sorry!). It seemed like every five minutes, someone was at our table asking if we needed anything. I appreciate the attention (they had no idea I was doing a restaurant review), but my friend and I thought it was a little much.
Comfortable atmosphere, spacious floor space, table options (booths or tables), good lighting and pleasant, not-too-loud background music.
I have been back on a couple occasions, and I'll definitely return. I know the food is good, the service is good, and the staff is friendly.