Over the years, restaurateurs have struggled to adopt the vision of Alice Waters and her culinary utopia, often succeeding to varying degrees of success. It is easy to toss around the same old buzzwords and scribble them on a rustic hand-printed chalkboard. But local, sustainable, organic, and seasonal won’t get you very far if your food is no better than what’s being offered by the evil soulless corporate giants. Perhaps no one in Little Rock has successfully captured the slow-food spirit better than the folks at Boulevard Bread. Lucky for us, they’ve not only created a menu that embodies the ideals that made Chez Panisse a household name, they also make some seriously good eats.
As much of their regular menu is taken up by sandwiches in their various forms, I ventured out to get a better idea of what the slow food concept can do for an item so marred by the grab-and-go, five-dollar-footlong attitude promoted by the “sandwich artists” behind some of the big chains. The results of my studies were enlightening and satisfying, and I’m happy to report that Boulevard’s efforts are really paying off.
The caprese sandwich has no elements surprising to an admirer of the classic salad bearing the same name. Fresh mozzarella, ripe red tomatoes, olive oil, and an herbaceous pesto make their way onto a house-made baguette. Though it is certainly straightforward, the key is freshness. Local tomato, hand-pulled mozzarella—this is how decent caprese must be done for any self-respecting person to enjoy. The results are impressive and refreshing.
The traditional pastrami came highly recommended from a number of people, including the guy manning the counter. This version is decorated with pastrami, Swiss, organic field greens, tomato, red onion, pickle, and Dijon on rye sourdough. I enjoyed the sandwich overall, but I found myself a little underwhelmed after all the glowing praise I’ve heard about this thing. The pastrami itself was flavorful and salty, but I found the rest of the sandwich seemed to fall flat, a bit too one-note for me.
My sandwich sorrows quickly subsided after one bite into the pristine porchetta sandwich. Porchetta, a boneless Italian pork roast, traditionally layered with stuffing, rolled and roasted, is thick cut and stuffed into a rich, buttery focaccia with tomato and aioli. The porchetta, which could easily be called “the pork that launched a thousand faces” due to its sheer beauty, makes nearly everything it touches an instant success. Pair it with the smooth, creaminess of aioli, and it’s one impressive piece of pig.
Finishing any meal with one of their palm-sized cookies, in all of their glorious varieties, makes for a lunch to remember any day of the week. But don’t get me started on the cookies…that’s a different story for another day.