The kid is back – and with another round of oh-so-good sandwich reviews for his loyal readers. Because I’ve received nothing but positive feedback from my first review of Gioia’s Deli, and because I haven’t given you folks very much high-quality #journalism lately, I’ve decided I’d make it up to you all by featuring two sandwich reviews in this blog post. That’s right folks. Twice the sandwiches, twice the journalism. That’s how eager I am to bring you my hot takes on these hot sammies. But enough horsing around – it’s time for sandwich review #2.
What we have here ladies and gentleman is another staple of the St. Louis sandwich community. Blues City Deli, whose namesake derives from the nickname given to St. Louis, is one of those places you’ve wanted to try for a very long time, but for some reason haven’t made your way there to see what all the buzz is about. I can say this because I was one of these people. My first experience with BCD came several years ago, so I thought it would only be fair to give it another try.
Sandwiches aside, this shop is famous around the region for its unique and upbeat atmosphere. The menu is almost entirely blues themed. Some of its items such as the “Memphis Stax” and the “Delta Bayou” give a “tip of the hat to many cities on the ‘Blues Highway'” as explained on the deli’s official website. In addition to its menu, BCD’s walls are adorned with photos of blues music legends such as Robert Johnson. B.B. King, T-Bone Walker, Tommy Bankhead and more. And, of course, a trip to the Benton Park-neighborhood sandwich shop is not complete without the music. Many times you will find a live band jamming inside while the line snakes its way from outside and down the block to the front counter.
I made my trek after a several years’ absence on a rainy February afternoon to find the line out the door and beginning to curl to the east alongside the brick building wall. Fortunately for me and my colleague Michael Krupp (shoutout to Michael for joining me on this review) this place has their craft down to an exact science, and to my amazement we had reached the front of the line in no more than five minutes. Our wait in line provided an opportunity to take in every little bit of ambiance that comes along with this corner store. The front windows are covered with ‘Riverfront Times Best of’ and ‘Sauce Magazine Reader’s Choice’ stickers, and one that states “People Love Us on Yelp!”. Go figure, as not even a week earlier Blues City Deli had been ranked in the Top 10 of Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat for 2018. As we approached the front of the line, blues music playing through the speakers and all (there was no live band today) it was now decision time.
Vendor: Blues City Deli, 2438 McNair Ave., St. Louis, MO
Sammie: “The Thunderbird”
Bread: Toasted Hoagie
With a lineup as deep as BCD’s, choosing the most satisfying sandwich is no easy task. So I relied solely on the eye test — which sandwich looked so tasty that I simply couldn’t say ‘no’ to.
Enter The Thunderbird.
- Provel Cheese
- Tomato, Onion, Pepperoncini & ‘Boom Boom’ sauce
The first and most obvious flavor was the ‘Boom Boom’ sauce – which reminded me of a kind of smoky thousand island. But it was hot, oh boy, was it hot. Unfortunately the folks at BCD were a bit too generous with their spread of secret sauce, and it proceeded to drip and pour out of my sammie with each proceeding bite. No matter – I would ultimately persevere.
Working my way into the heart of the sandwich, the turkey was the meat that stood out in taste for me. The occasional bite of bacon was at times over-powering, but coupled with the provel cheese it made for a delicious bite. But what about the pastrami? The cappicola and pepperoncini? All of these ingredients — all generally underrated in their own way — seemed to be lost by the excessive slathering of ‘Boom Boom’ sauce.
While delicious, I couldn’t help but feel a little let down by the hype surrounding ‘The Thunderbird’. A big consideration for me is always the bread – I tend to favor french bread that has a little crunch to it. The hoagie that nestled the Thunderbird was fine, but felt a little too chewy for my liking.
Overall Rating: 4.0/5
In my overall excitement of getting to the front of the line, I ordered a second sammie to take home later for its own review.
Sammie: “The Redbird”
Yeah, I know, there must be a thing about sandwiches with “birds” in the name. The Redbird was a Special of the Day, and it too passed the eye test. I requested to have this one prepared cold because I knew I would likely eat it the next day.
- Provel cheese
- Lettuce, Tomato and Sweet Red Pepper Sauce
With lots of overlap with ‘The Thunderbird’, ‘The Redbird’ brought it strong with a mix of turkey/provel/bacon flavor. The first bite through the last featured a turkey flavor. The biggest difference here was the missing ‘Boom Boom’ sauce, and instead featured the Sweet Red Pepper as its replacement. The sauce was really more of a paste, however, and unlike the ‘Boom Boom’ sauce the Sweet Red Pepper cooled this sandwich off quite a bit. To me it was a nice compliment, but the flavor could be over-powering at times. (I would compare it to the Legend Club at LeGrand’s, for all of you other sandwich aficionados.) I try not to penalize the sandwich too much on taste given that I chose to eat it leftover, but the hoagie still didn’t do a whole lot for me. Perhaps dressing it down with less sauce would bring out more of the meat flavor that was missing, but nevertheless, I have to stick by my ratings here.
Overall Rating: 3.7/5