Marian's Sub Shop has served Ruskin for 45 years.
I've lived in Ruskin for more than three years now and must have driven by Marian's Sub Shop a million times. For some reason, I never stopped in.
But I recently found out the tiny eatery at 701 U.S. 41 S. sells only one kind of sandwich. And that intrigued me.
The shop was opened in 1967 by the late Marian Sumner. Generations of Ruskinites have since fallen in love with the Italian submarine she concocted. It's still made the same way today, and the place is flourishing.
Four customers were lined up in front of the small take-out counter the day I decided to check out Marian's. A single employee took orders, made the sandwiches and ran the register.
The scene somewhat reminded me of Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" episode where the entire line was watching and waiting impatiently. No one dared to order anything different.
The Marian sub comes with salami, ham and provolone on Italian bread. The deluxe version has more meat and cheese, the regular comes with less. You can omit one or more of the seven toppings: lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, hot cherry peppers, oil and oregano.
I ordered half a regular sub from Barbara Crisp, who has worked at Marian's for seven years.
Barbara grabbed the Italian bread with one hand and a knife with the other, then loaded the bread with sliced meat. Then she grabbed a paddle and shoveled the sub into the oven for a quick blast of heat.
When the cheese was bubbling, she pulled the sub from the oven.
But it wasn't done yet.
"What do you want on it?" she said.
"Don't get too fancy," I told myself. "God forbid I should make a mistake and hold up the whole line."
"No tomatoes," I said quickly, and that was it.
Don't bother asking for mayo or mustard. Marian's doesn't carry either. When I later asked if they've ever felt pressure to change or expand the menu, I learned that adding the two condiments is the most common request Marian's has had.
Barbara told me Marian's sub is best ordered all the way. It was warm and delicious, sans the tomato, and I have to admit, somewhat addictive. I'm still not sure though what made that sub so special. And they're not telling.
Be forewarned that you'll have to chow down elsewhere because it's take-out only at Marian's. The tiny shop has no inside seating, but there is a picnic bench outside.
There's also no website, but you can call. The phone number is (813) 645-1088.
This week's Italian sub recipe is as close to Marian's sub as I could guesstimate. Enjoy.
Italian Sub Sandwich
6 hoagie rolls, split
1/2 cup Italian dressing
1/2 pound sliced deli salami
1/2 pound sliced deli ham
1/2 pound sliced provolone cheese
Hot cherry peppers
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Brush the insides of the rolls with Italian dressing. Layer the bottom halves with meats, cheese and desired toppings. Replace hoagie tops, and then wrap each sandwich tightly in foil.
Bake 12-15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove foil and serve. Makes 6 servings.