Downtown Johnson City is becoming an interesting place to visit, especially with all of the watershed construction and roadway reconstruction. The area around Fountain Square has received a lot of attention of late, especially where the Downtown Loop and Buffalo Street meet. As expected, all the construction work has had its effect on the downtown businesses, especially the restaurants. The resulting loss of customer traffic due to the construction blocking them from reaching your restaurant’s front door can quickly put you out of business.
One downtown location in particular, 109 Buffalo St., has had several restaurants come and go for one reason or another. Just now, 109’s new tenant is the Buffalo Street Downtown Deli, a bright and cheerful place all ready to serve a whole new crop of hungry customers.
Food here is handcrafted, of the sandwich, pizza and salad variety, with ice cream and sodas from a real soda fountain. The staff at Downtown Deli craft the meats that go into their sandwiches. For instance, the corned beef that is the centerpiece of their Reuben sandwich ($10) is prepared in-house, and not commissary- or store-bought. Their pork loin, an integral part of the Cuban Sandwich ($9) is smoked and roasted on premises. The Deli’s pizzas use their own infused olive oil as a base. Sodas and floats are prepared while you wait.
My dining partner and I visited Downtown Deli just the other day, accompanied by the Retiree. While our server Mike bustled about getting our drinks, the three of us pondered our choices from the menu.
As an appetizer, I started us off with the Deli’s Artichoke Dip ($6) with toasted flatbread. My partner and the Retiree decided to go halves on one of the Make Your Own pizzas ($10 for 3 toppings), choosing marinara sauce as a base, and topping it with Black Forest Ham, Roma tomatoes and sliced red onions. They also shared a House Salad ($6) with Aphrodite dressing.
Meanwhile, my attention was drawn to the Muffaleta sandwich ($8), and a side order of Mediterranean pasta. While waiting for Chef Jeff Duke to prepare our orders, the three of us reminisced on meals we’d eaten in 109 Buffalo Street, some memorable, others less so.
The Artichoke Dip arrived in due course made from chopped artichoke mixed with a creamy cheese blend, sun-dried tomato and chopped onion, then baked until molten and brought to the table bubbling merrily. The supplied homemade flatbread chips made excellent scoops and tasted great by themselves while we waited for the dip to cool. As we finished the dip, the rest of our meal arrived. Downtown Deli’s Muffaleta was packed with ham, salami, provolone cheese and an olive relish that tasted great, especially when spread on an herbed artisan roll and matched with their spicy pasta as a side. My partner and the Retiree each got a taste of it. Though neither was a fan of olive relish, both agreed that the sandwich was tasty. Personally, I’d have had a higher concentration of black over green olives in the relish, thus making a good Muffaleta even better.
Next was the house salad, a fresh mixture of field greens, lettuce, onions and a sprinkling of smoked cheese blend on top. The balsamic tang of the Aphrodite dressing contrasted well with the peppery taste of the field greens and the smoky flavor of the cheese.
The pizza arrived next, using home-baked flatbread as the pizza crust. The steaming marinara sauce and bubbling cheese contrasted well with the spicy flavor of the Black Forest Ham, the crunch of the sliced red onions, and the acid sharpness of the tomatoes. All in all, our Make Your Own pizza was a hit, especially with the Downtown Deli folks doing the making. With food like this, prepared with this much care and attention, Downtown Deli is sure to be a hit, and is definitely on the dine-around bunch’s “We Must Come Back” list. Stop in and see if they make your list.
109 Buffalo Street
Mon-Fri 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sat 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Available on Facebook
Credit cards accepted.