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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Bill Leslie: The best BLT

Posted August 1, 2018 6:46 a.m. EDT

Bill and his wife, Cindy, eating at Merritt's

— The mad scientist in me has been at work again.

It happens every summer when tomatoes are ripe and plentiful -- I experiment with tomato sandwich recipes.

A recent home recipe was delicious featuring a ripe Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato. Other ingredients included sweet basil, smoked gouda cheese, bacon, avocado slices, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and toasted sourdough bread.

Bill's homemade BLT

Sometimes I keep it simple, but this time a more complicated recipe really worked. Former co-anchor Lynda Loveland told me about sweet basil years ago. It can add a wonderful layer of flavor to a tomato sandwich. You can also substitute pimento cheese or a slice of sharp cheddar for the gouda.

The best BLT I’ve ever tasted at home or in a restaurant is in Chapel Hill.

I was there this week with friends and we all agreed – it doesn’t get any better than Merritt’s Grill.

We were smart. We arrived shortly after 11 a.m. to avoid the long line that would form later. But even if you have to wait, it’s worth it at Merritt’s.

We all ordered the same thing – the Flagship Sandwich. It’s the Merritt’s Single BLT for $7.15. If you’re extra hungry, you can go for the Double at $9.35 or the Triple for $11.15. My nickname for the Merritt’s BLT is the “Harmonic Sandwich.” Each component in the sandwich is in perfect harmony with the other parts.

Merritt's

You would think the tomato would be the star of the sandwich, but it’s not. The bacon is billed as the main attraction. There’s a lot of it. And their lettuce is so crisp and delicious it plays a key role in bringing all of the flavors together.

Merritt’s gets its bacon from a supplier in Lexington. The tomatoes come from a farm and hothouse operation just over the Virginia line. It’s pretty amazing how consistently good the BLT is here at Merritt’s throughout the year.

I would love to hear your tomato sandwich recipes and stories. Email me at bleslie@wral.com and I will write another story next week.