Full Steam Ahead
Sully’s Steamers puts a twist on downtown Greenville’s sandwich scene
Sandwiches are an invention of convenience and necessity. They are often easy and sometimes delicious, but seldom is a sandwich so harmoniously assembled that you forget it is no more than layers of meats, cheeses, vegetables, and condiments stuffed in bread.
Fortunately for sandwich consumers, Robert Sullivan, owner of Sully’s Steamers, believes he has a simple tweak that can transform your average layered pile of meat and cheese into a transcendent, unified entity.
The key isn’t the variety of bagels (of which there are 12), the cream cheese (of which there are several homemade flavors), or the combinations of ingredients (of which there are hundreds). Instead, you only have to peek behind the counter where each bagel, already partially topped with meat and cheese, is blasted with steam for several minutes.
Steamed bagels are an uncommon concept, but it’s one upon which Sully’s is entirely based. As Sullivan notes, there are several advantages to steaming. The result is a sandwich “piping hot all the way through,” no mean feat considering the heft of each sandwich. Furthermore, the hot sandwich comes without the cost of being toasted to a crumbling mess, nor does the bagel fall apart under the weight of juices released by the heat.
But the best part for Sullivan is that the heat “activates the flavors of the bagel, meats, and cheeses,” making the sandwich less about the individual ingredients and more about the flavor permeating the entire sandwich. And that’s before the sandwich is even finished with lettuce, sprouts, and other less steam-friendly toppings. The addition of steam elevates each of Sully’s tinfoil-wrapped bagels from mere sandwich to mouthwatering meal.
While Sullivan is currently focused on perfecting the brand-new sandwich shop’s daytime operations, he intends to stay open for weekend night owls in the coming months. Just another option for steaming up your spring and summer.
High & Mighty:
6 E Washington St,
Sully’s perfects the bagel sandwich
Before Robert “Sully” Sullivan opened Sully’s Steamers in mid-March, people stopped into the location on East Washington Street to ask when it was opening. Some asked if “steamers” meant seafood. Others thought he was opening a laundry.
Educating your customers, Sullivan says, is one of the pleasures of his business. Not an hour goes by now that he doesn’t explain to a steady stream of diners the advantages of a steamed bagel. Steaming bagels “suffuses flavors of the bread and toppings, mixing softness with a little crispness,” he says. The steamers are expensive equipment designed to precisely steam and cook the bagels. Sullivan says he’s learned that each steamer is a quirky machine and has its own personality.
Sullivan first encountered steamed bagels at Miami University in Ohio, where he dined frequently at a popular deli that served them. He arranged to work there while finishing his degree in biology and never forgot just how magical those steamed bagels were. After a college friend later opened his own steamed bagel restaurant in Idaho, Sullivan said he began entertaining the idea. He just wasn’t sure where.
Born in Chicago, Sullivan lived a number of years in Atlanta, and after college he and his wife, Jill, returned there. Sullivan sold pharmaceuticals and then became a stockbroker but “grew tired of the Atlanta traffic and lack of community,” he said. When he visited Greenville five years ago, he stumbled onto Main Street and it was love at first sight.
Sully’s Steamers serves breakfast, lunch and will soon offer dinner and late-night dining, Sullivan says. He aims to fill the need for dining after midnight and plans to serve beer and wine in the near future.
Sullivan says he’s already meeting a need his own family noticed: “We have three kids, and you don’t always want fine dining when you bring your children downtown for dinner.”