After opening in September, Arris Noble and his six-person team at Ballston’s newest sandwich shop, Superette, have gotten their sea legs.
The name, Noble explains, takes customers back in time to the corner store with hot food and a limited selection of grocery items. It was the kind of place that parents sent their kids to, list and basket in hand, for apples and milk. The cashier would gather and ring up the items and send the kids home.
“It’s an old-world concept that was forgotten, and shouldn’t have been,” said Noble.
The sandwich joint and grocery is in the lower level of the food hall at Ballston Quarter (4238 Wilson Blvd). Noble ultimately chose the neighborhood because he saw a gap in sandwich places that prioritize love and quality over speed and volume.
Noble said he is happy to own a business in Arlington, and Ballston in particular, adding that he “really likes the people.”
As for the food, while the sandwich is practical, Noble does not want his diners to sacrifice taste in order to gain convenience.
“If you’re going to dine and come to Superette, I want to give you that ‘Wow’ factor,” he said. “We just want them to know how much care we put into everything.”
When new customers walk in, Noble said he loves seeing “the surprised look” on their faces when they see not only the food but the beer, wine and cocktail menu.
Noble, who paid his way through school at the University of Maryland by bartending, geeks out describing his signature cocktails.
His winter whisky sour combines rye whisky and a simple syrup infused with allspice, star anise, clove, cinnamon and black pepper, with the classic foam rim made from emulsified lemon juice and egg white.
Guests enjoy his gin punch, made with oleo saccharum (or oil of sugar). Muddled sugar and citrus peel steeps in spices and hot water, creating a syrup that is “easy to make, with a ton of flavor.” For the punch, he adds gin, lemon juice and stone fruit tea.
He personally developed the menu, to which his growing waistline can attest.
“I gained 35 pounds,” he said. “The one that has done the most damage is the BLT-ish.”
The classic bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich does not do much for Noble. So he added cheese, braised pork shoulder and a sesame seed bun slathered with garlic aioli. The shoulder is the centerpiece: It marinates for a day before it is braised for seven hours with aromatics and chicken stock.
“That sandwich has a following,” he said. “I got a guy who comes here three days a week and gets it.”
Noble, who spent the last 18 years of his life in the restaurant business, said the challenge of managing a restaurant during the Great Recession more than a decade ago “does not hold a candle to the challenges restaurants are experiencing now.”
From idea to execution, Superette took 14 months, with the pandemic causing delays in deliveries and permitting. The price for a case of gloves increased by 300% times and third-party delivery apps charge double what they used to, but restaurants use them to keep the lights on and employees paid, he said.
“This environment is completely different because the virus creates government restrictions,” he said. “During the recession, you could have a holiday party — you may just have to take a discount — but people were still gathering.”