by Alice Levitt
1223 Airport Drive, South Burlington, 399-2206
I keep so busy eating around the state that my neighborhood spots often end up neglected. When I moved to South Burlington last summer, my neighboring coworkers told me it was important to try the Aviation Deli, just across the street from the airport. I finally made it there last night.
As you can see from the photo at right, it's not much to look at. Not so different from your average gas station convenience store. But there's no gas pump out front and most of the food is homemade — and delicious.
Last night wasn't one of the homestyle specialty nights — there's braised beef on Tuesdays and prime rib every Thursday — but I did grab a beef stroganoff from the hot case. An in-depth review wouldn't be fair, because it's ill advised to eat anything from a hot case, especially something in a cream sauce, and I take full responsibility. Suffice it to say, I liked the crispness of the noodles and, though the sauce dried up unappealingly, it remained flavorful and dotted with still-vibrant mushrooms.
The burger made up entirely for my bad move. I tried the burger of the week, called "Just for Joel." Apparently it was for me, too. The patty was topped with beer-battered jalapeños and pepperjack cheese.
But it was the beef itself that made it special. The thick, tender patty was cooked an ideal medium and wonderfully seasoned. The meat was grease-free but still gushed a clear juice that didn't feel as arterially destructive as many burgers. Strangely, it reminded me of wagyu burgers I've eaten. The price was far more pleasant — $7.99 for the burger and a bag of chips.
The Italian sub wasn't quite as resounding a slam dunk, but what could be? It was still one of the better subs I've had in the area.
The six-inch sandwich was packed with salami; sweet, smoky ham; and capicola. Fresh veggies gave a hint of crisp sweetness that contrasted well with the dark, slightly murky-tasting oil-and-vinegar dressing.
I was also fond of the whole-grain roll, which was just slightly crusty and got plenty of texture from the grains and seeds therein. Paired with salt-and-vinegar potato chips, the sandwich was even better the second day. Total damage for the sandwich (which made two meals): $4.29.
I ended dinner with a dessert from South-Burlington-based Superb Cupcakes. How to choose? Did I want a vanilla cake fillled with cookie dough? How about a maple cupcake filled with maple cream and topped with maple buttercream?
I couldn't resist the fudgy, moist chocolate cake filled with light hazelnut cream and topped with a thick chocolate buttercream, showered with hazelnuts.
It was a surprisingly elegant end to a meal that, overall, exceeded my expectations. The excellent burger will now be a regular part of my take-out repertoire. Yet another lesson not to judge a book — or airport-adjacent deli — by its cover.
Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to email@example.com.