Formerly a Substation II franchise but now independently owned and operated by longtime host Julie Mogy, Just Julie’s has hometown feel. With cold fluorescent lights over bare-topped tables, it first appears to be institutional, but interaction with the staff can make eating here a most personable event. “I watched customers grow up,” Mrs. Mogy told a local reporter. “I watched them be kids, and now they have kids. We’ve had people here that their kids couldn’t see over the counter, and now they are in college.” It’s a locals’ favorite sort of place, clientele including a large percentage of Aiken first-responders, a wall in back honoring citizens who have served in the military.
Sandwiches are built of good-quality cold cuts artfully piled in various combos, and quite spectacular when ordered all the way, meaning dressed with lettuce, tomato, onion, salt, pepper, oregano, oil, and vinegar and also maybe olives, jalapeno chips, and green pepper slices.
Chicken salad is a big deal in sandwich shops in this part of the world, and on that score, Julie’s delivers. It is fresh and chunky, more meat than mayo. Egg salad is made when you order it, and to your specifications: pickle relish or not? How much mayo?
Rolls are soft with little in the way of crust — all about tenderness without the crisp edge and rugged chew typical of Delaware Valley subs.
Hot sandwiches deliver rib-sticking satisfaction. Among them are a French dip, meatballs & cheese, a Greek gyro, and a Philly cheese steak with peppers, mushrooms, and onions. The Reuben lacks lascivious succulence of Old-World brined meat, but it properly balances respectable pastrami, hot sauerkraut, and melted Swiss cheese with either 1000 Islands dressing or spicy mustard — all heaped between slices of grilled-crisp rye. Like all sandwiches, it is available in both regular and large versions, the latter enough to sate the most ravenous appetite.
I was lucky to visit during an unusual January cold snap, when the soup of the day was Tennessee pork and cabbage. The gent taking my order said it put a big smile on his face when he had a sample earlier that morning. A hearty mix it is, with enough pepper punch to offer capsicum heat as a halo to the actual warmth of the soup. You feel real weight in the spoon when you scoop up a thick, tangled web of pork and cabbage punctuated by a bite-size disk of sausage. I am not sure exactly what makes it Tennessee soup (blindfolded, I likely would identify it as middle European), but whatever its genealogy, it delivers the honest satisfaction of an old family recipe.
Everyday desserts include cheesecake, cookies, and handsome layer cakes; but when banana pudding is on the menu, that is the way to go. Made by staff member Karen, it is scooped from a broad pan that is a good balance of cookie, fruit, and custard. It doesn’t have the leavening effect that whipped cream or meringue contributes to more elegant versions of the dish, but it is sweet-tooth balm.
Modus operandi: Place your order and pay at the cash register, then move down to the counter where sandwiches are assembled. Here, work out details of the order with the sandwich-maker, then tote your own to a table.