By George Humphries
You can quickly judge an eatery by looking at its longevity together with the degree of its current popularity. Some restaurants have an outstanding opening year or two, but for whatever reason, dwindle to a tenuous existence thereafter or simply close. It is to rejoice when an initial success is followed by years of continued good performance.
We were at Tuscarora Mill on opening night – or nearly so anyway – and after almost 28 years, there it remains with excellent service and excellent food – consistency not only having prevailed but its success spawning a series of several other popular, if notably different, eateries in the area.
But, we come not to praise Tuskees, but to note the unique and equally long term success of its lower level sibling, South Street Under (SSU). Located in the northwest corner of Market Station, South Street Under is a bustling triple success enterprise, at once a bakery, a deli, and a casual-fare restaurant. And, it excels in all three categories.
If you doubt this, visit SSU on any week day lunch hour and try to find a table or a stool at the bar. But go a little early or a little after the noon hour and treat yourself to an amazingly fresh and tasty sandwich, soup, salad, or quiche, or pick it up to go. And in the good ole summertime, find tables and chairs outside in the Mill complex’s courtyard. Giving a party? SSU offers most of the same items on trays and the food is notably superior to supermarket and chain store party platter alternatives.
The South Street Under menu is a modest 28 items, four of which are “kid’s stuff.” There are four menu categories – soups, salads and specialties, cold sandwiches (6), and warm sandwiches (8). When you find an item that is really outstanding, it’s hard to make yourself try something else. That’s the way the Tarragon Chicken Salad on ciabatta or the Rare Roast Beef with Swiss and horseradish mayo on black olive rosemary bread are for my wife. Other cold sandwiches include egg, chicken, turkey, tuna, and BBBLT (check the extra bacon). Among the other warm sandwiches are smoked ham and brie, Reuben, hoagie, and almost Italian (no carne).
A slice of hot cheese-broccoli quiche large enough for two accompanied by a cup of potato leek soup made an excellent meal for me on a recent visit. That soup, available to take out in quart size, tops any others that we have had. Pureed to a creamy texture, light seasoning accentuated and complemented the natural flavors of the leeks without being overpowering. Other soups offered include vegetable and a soup of the day, as well as a local beef chili and a stew of the day.
The salads start with a “Bowl of Romaine,” with either vinaigrette or buttermilk ranch dressing. There are 10 special salads, among them four chickens, tuna, egg, bean, and slaw.
Like the upstairs Tuskee’s, ingredients are very fresh, locally obtained wherever possible, and prepared daily on the premises. You can peer over the counter and watch the baker knead dough, season the bread and prepare dessert items.
The lunch scene is crowded, there being only a dozen or so small tables inside in inclement weather and a continuous crush of take-out customers lined up at the counter. Warmer weather should triple the seating space as the outdoor tables, surrounded by flower boxes, will become irresistible.
South Street Under is a rousing continuing success story that matches the achievement of Tuscarora above it.
George Humphries is a retired Navy aviator who began cooking at the age of 10 and has managed several large restaurants. He has lived in Loudoun Country since 1984.