A Slice of Home at Eastcut Sandwich Bar

At this Raleigh Iron Works restaurant, you can find Italian subs, chicken cutlet sandwiches, a Philly cheesesteak and more.
by Catherine Currin | photography by Bryan Regan

When Brad Bankos and Steve Wuench moved to Durham from the Northeast (New York and New Jersey, respectively), they felt that something was missing: a great sandwich. “I went to business school with Steve’s wife, and after we graduated, we were wanting to scratch the entrepreneurial itch,” says Bankos, who has worked in the restaurant industry most of his career. 

The duo wanted to create a place where they felt at home, with chef-driven sandwiches and a great beer program. Eastcut Sandwich Bar, born in Durham in the summer of 2018, became an instant hit for Duke students and neighbors alike. “The idea for the name Eastcut was to incorporate an East coast vibe without calling it that,” says Bankos. “Everything we do is cut from the right side of the country, up and down.” The menu is filled with sandwiches paying respect to New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and more. 

The pandemic slowed down Eastcut’s expansion into Raleigh, but the space they eventually found, in Raleigh Iron Works, was exactly what they had been looking for. “We always really focused on being that neighborhood hangout in Durham,” says Wuench. “Iron Works didn’t feel like downtown, but was surrounded by a lot of neighborhoods.” The concepts are identical, offering up sandwiches, salads and sides along with an extensive local beer list. The Iron Works location boasts a sunny dining area done up in blonde wood and white subway tile, with primary-color pops in the artwork and furniture. 

Bankos and Wuench both have fond memories of the Italian delis of their childhood, and it’s evident with many aspects of Eastcut’s menu: the Boardwalk Italian boasts four cured meats along with lettuce, tomato and pickled red onion; the Avocado Caprese is a twist on another classic. Housemade mozzarella and kimchi slaw find their way onto many of the sandwiches.

There’s an entire cutlet program, using a thin-pounded, breaded and fried chicken, eggplant or vegan protein as its base. “We didn’t want it to feel exactly like an Italian deli, so we played on the use of the chicken cutlet,” says Wuench. The East-Katsu sandwich pairs the cutlet with kimchi slaw, tomato, pickled red onion, sweet soy and spicy mayo; The Jet has it with Buffalo sauce, mozzarella, lettuce and tomato. 

Many of the sandwiches are served on a kaiser sesame roll by Union Special (there is also a hoagie-style sub and a gluten-free option). “One of our biggest challenges was finding the right style of bread,” says Bankos. “Once we found the sesame roll, that solidified the base of how we approach the menu — the bread reminds us of home.”

While the East Coast deli concept is the main draw, the menu includes nods to other sandwich traditions, including cheesesteaks, fried chicken sandwiches and falafel served on sandwich or salad. All of Eastcut’s sauces are made in-house, from the classic Ranch to the Green Goddess to a nut-free
Pesto Aioli. 

Now that Eastcut’s a well-oiled sandwich-making machine, Bankos says that he and Wuench are focusing on how their business can do good: “We’re working on creating a good environment for our team and a positive impact on our local community.” To that end, Eastcut has four local nonprofit partners to whom they provide a percent of sales throughout the year, and they offer employees paid time off to volunteer. 

One of Eastcut’s partners is the Triangle Land Conservancy. “We’re grateful for Eastcut’s partnership, and we’re big fans of Eastcut’s food, too!” says Casey Therrien, TLC’s associate director of philanthropy. 

This article originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of WALTER magazine