4135 Park Boulevard, University Heights
In this age of text and twitter shorthand, it's tough to say whether branding your storefront with the bright bold letters "BFD" should be taken as a bold declaration, or act of self-deprecation. Fortunately, the proprietors of Big Front Door have given the acronym a quite literal meaning by building the whole design of the shop around what might be more accurately termed a huge front door. Any excess bravado is restricted to their practice of wrapping sandwiches in white paper, sealed with a sticker to remind you: it's a "BFD".
Tough to argue the point when you're hungry and pondering the menu, which reads like a foodie love poem. What carnivore can resist the allure of roasted poblano and pork loin, double smoked Berkshire ham, or baby back ribs? Even some of the veggie-friendly options tantalize: stacked avocado, seasonal tomato and parmesan crisp; or smoked potato, avocado whip and pea sprouts.
But I ignored them all on my recent visit, lured by another siren song: the S.O.S. special. The so-called "Sandwich of the Season" seems to be an excuse to experiment with locally sourced ingredients, and successful attempts may earn a permanent spot on the big board. On my recent visit, the S.O.S. piqued my interest with blackened chicken, Brussels sprouts, shallots and brie on a cibatta. I've never known anyone audacious enough to put Brussels sprouts on a sandwich, so it had to be tried.
In true deli fashion, you order, then sit or stand around and wait, hoping for something interesting to look at that isn't your smart phone. Architecturally there's not much to see beyond that big front door, a glass and steel custom job that opens on a center pivot and doubles as a standing lunch counter. The idea seems to be to make the indoor seating feel almost as outdoor as the sidewalk tables facing Park Blvd. It's not a particularly compelling section of Park, but the tables have umbrellas, so I guess it'll do.
More interesting are the coolers and cases. The deli case offers a glimpse of side salads including cold sesame udon noodles, and sesame slaw. If you're looking to take something home, try the heat-and-serve mac'n'cheese or proprietary sliced deli meats. I tend to spend most of my time by the specialty soda cooler, reading the labels of an impressive assortment of root beers, cream sodas and ginger ales that haven't been ruined by high fructose corn syrup.
Actually, very few of the sandwiches and salads of BFD are ruined by terrible ingredients, unless you count a crusty torpedo roll scraping the roof of your mouth (I request my orders on a cibatta or sourdough). While the Brussels sprouts didn't ultimately work as a topping, outside the sandwich environment they tasted great. Even looking past the specials, these guys offer a sort of cerebral take on sandwich-making. While they manage to avoid gimmicks, some of their attempts are just bound to fall short. Just as likely is you'll find one good enough to make you wonder about the rest.