PEMBROKE — Chef Theo Gumbs has brought back flavors of West Indian food to this university town and serves up those flavors with a variety of deli sandwiches, lettuce wraps, salads, a few pasta dishes and breakfast items.
Located at 306 B Normal St. in downtown Pembroke, Theo’s Gourmet Deli caters to those with a yen for island flavors.
It’s a small building with several tables and counter seating, but that makes it easier for the chef to say hello to everyone who walks in.
Gumbs previously ran a restaurant on campus at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He has operated other restaurants over the years and has made apearances on numerous television shows, including Wendy Williams, NBC6 South Florida Today, Canada’s CTV, CBS Fox 5 Washington, D.C., New York’s CW11 Morning Show, News 12 Connecticut, and Viacom’s Tempo.
A native of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Gumbs came to North Carolina at a young age. While attending Charlotte Amalie High School, he entered the culinary arts program, which began his interest in cooking.
He likes the feel of small towns.
“You’re able to make a bigger impact on smaller towns. You’re able to flagship new ideas and new products,” he said. “I wanted to get a small operation but still produce great food, have a simple concept and leave room for specials and diverse items.”
One of the customers who wandered in on a recent afternoon is a chef himself. Matthew Pavlovich teaches in the culinary program at Purnell Swett High School. Pavolvich likes the Caribbean influence of the food at Theo’s.
“The food is different, it’s healthier, it’s got more variety,” Pavlovich said.
Another customer, Andrew Bryant, is a student at UNCP.
“The food is delicious and Chef Theo is very professional. He entertains you while he’s cooking. He’s got great stories,” Bryant said. “His homemade sauces are off the chain.”
Pointing to Gumb’s honey habanero sauce, Bryant described it has having “that initial sweet with an after-burn, right in the back of the throat. It’s good on anything — eggs, pork — you name it. It’s good.”
Bryant is making his way through the menu and said so far his favorite is jerk chicken with black beans and rice.
Sandwiches range in price from $7.99 for one of the basics to $10.99 for the Creole crab cake sanwich.
The restaurant is open Monday sthrough Wednesdays from 6:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. and Thursdays through Sundays from 6:30 a.m. until 2 a.m. To order by phone, call 910-668-1016. For an online menu, go to: www.theosgourmetdeli.com.
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.