- GRAB AND GO: Gourmet grub.
Boulevard Bread Co.’s expanded space in the River Market (it was previously in the Cox Center) offers an expanded philosophy of gourmet noshing as well: A disc jockey booth is going up in the corner, and owner Scott McGehee’s enormous (nearly 1,000) collection of LPs will be catalogued and shelved for anyone to play. Anyone who can work a record-player, that is. (Sweet! Gen X, Y and Zed move over.)
Speaking of sweet, Boulevard’s new DJ booth will get a great workout when in a couple of weeks the deli expands its hours to 9 p.m. and its dessert offerings to Blue Cake Co. concoctions, like crème brulee, tarts and cakes. (Blue Cake sells Boulevard bread; the arrangement made sense, McGehee said.) The idea is to make a home for the local cafe society (now relegated to Barnes and Noble) and theater-goers and whatnot where they can hook into the WiFi and play with the HiFi, drink a glass or wine or a beer, have cake and coffee. The music, McGehee said, will be “acceptable to all” and not played at deafening decibels; rules on using the booth will be posted. Anyone who’s never lifted the arm of a phonograph and placed it on a big spinning black circle (or multicolored, one remembers from the 1970s) can get a lesson from manager Rod Bryan.
The Boulevard has also built railings to define an outdoor beer garden on the plaza the deli opens onto just east of the River Market. It’s put up a 16-foot cork board on the north wall (next to the DJ booth) for community postings, has installed a PA system for people who want to hold meetings in the community and dining area (which isn’t Boulevard’s but is open to all RM customers), and has proclaimed its commitment to eco-friendly products, organic food and using locally produced food when possible with a sign, “Green is the Goal!” The forks and knives are called spudware; made from potatoes, they are biodegradable in less than a month. The plastic-looking cups and salad containers are made from corn husks; they biodegrade in 60 days. The coffee cups are post-consumer recycled and biodegradable, the coffee in them is free trade. They even clean up with “earth-friendly” cleaners.
Don’t worry. McGehee isn’t serving St. Augustine smoothies with seeds on the side. The chocolate is still from Europe. The organic yogurt still from Greece. Northern Italy’s Sangiovese can be had by the glass, along with Spaten, New Belgium and Boulevard beer. The sandwiches and salads and breads and cheeses and hummus dips and olive relishes and so forth are the same unbeatably high quality they’ve always been (as offered in the Heights and previously at the Cox Center). There are any number of fresh breads, as well as muffins, scones and such for breakfast.
You can assume that everything on Boulevard’s menu is great. We have a favorite: the panini caprese, fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil on one of Boulevard’s famous baguettes. (At $3.50, the half sandwich is the best deal at the Boulevard.) Our other most favorite sandwich (that’s just how it is at the Boulevard) is the goat cheese and pepperonata panini, dressed up with pesto on the sweet red bell peppers and cheese. There’s also pastrami, smoked turkey, tuna, etc.
When we’re in the mood for salad, the chop salad, with slices of salami, blue cheese, tomato, red onion and bell pepper on Romaine, is the ticket. (It’s $6.50, but it’s great, in no small part thanks to Boulevard’s mustardy dressing.)
The Boulevard’s salads (which also include roasted potato salad, balsamic chicken, Asian chicken, fruit, a Greek sampler and garden, with an artisan cheese sampler to boot) and drinks can be picked up from the long cooler on the way to the cash register. (There are two now.) “It’s a grab-and-go system,” McGehee said, suited to the downtown working clientele. Soup, sandwich or a gourmet coffee will take a few minutes longer.
The Asian chicken salad is new, as is the vegan hummus sandwich. “I’m a huge carnivore,” McGehee said, so when he designed his sandwich, he asked himself, “What would I want to eat that’s vegan?” The answer was hummus, olive relish, avocado, tomato and onions on his eight-grain bread, a feast fit even for a flesh-eater.
In the new liquid heaven department is the “anti-frappaccino,” made with coffee, cream and that Euro-chocolate; the “Naked Juice blender” of Naked Juice and fruit, and a Chai freeze.
“It’s healthy, fast, delicious, amazing food that’s out quickly if you want and does not litter the earth in the process,” McGehee boasted. It’s well he does; Little Rock boasts it’s got Boulevard, as well.
Boulevard Bread Company
River Market Hall
400 President Clinton Ave.
The Heights deli is packed into 1,600 square feet including the kitchen; you can stretch your legs and arms at the River Market, and with two registers the wait is far less. And you can get a beer at 7 a.m. if you want.
7 a.m. to 7 p.m. now; to 9 p.m. later this month.
All credit cards accepted, beer and wine available, can get pricey.