On a pleasant enough but otherwise unremarkable Benton Park corner, in a century-old building, Blues City Deli attracts lunchers to the point where a line is a constant. Since the restaurant seats perhaps 30, plus some outside tables, it gets more than a little crowded. At least the line has plenty to read; the walls are covered with concert announcements, both past and future, album covers, photographs and other memorabilia making the point the deli, or sandwich shop, is named for more than just the W.C. Handy song. Of course, it's noisy. The old-fashioned linoleum tile floor bounces sound like your grade school cafeteria.
All the food comes wrapped and bagged, and a high percentage of it is to travel. The preferred side seems to be bagged chips and their kin. On reflection the place feels much like a New Orleans poor-boy purveyor. And that's not just because the Monday “soup” – quotation marks ours – was red beans and rice with andouille sausage, labeled by the same people who call chili a soup. Creamy, rich, spiced carefully, it was, of course, not a soup at all, but the real thing, although some purists might yowl at the fact the beans and rice were stirred together rather than the beans ladled atop the rice or vice versa. No need to be picky...this was excellent.
The menu lists 28 different sandwiches, both cold and hot, none of them with fewer than six ingredients. This isn't a spot for a plain ham sandwich, although perhaps they'd make one. We began with the St. Louis Primo. Salami, mortadella, capicolla, pepperoni, provolone cheese, tomato and onion, all served on a toasted muffuletta roll. (Think hamburger bun, flatter but larger.) The meat is sliced thinly, not paper thin but enough that one bite can bring in some of each component. We particularly liked the onion, bringing a little crunch to the whole thing. Our only complaint is that the vinaigrette that adds a splendid piquant note could have been brushed on a little more generously.
A Daddy-O Combo-O, on a long hoagie bun, gave us a large Italian sausage and a generous serving of the spicy Italian (roast) beef, topped with provolone cheese and popped in an oven to melt. Peppers on top can be either spicy or sweet. The spicing in the two meats was enough to provide mouth-tingle, but remember, this is a sandwich much like an open-face roast beef is a sandwich. There's a reason why they tape a knife and fork to the box in which it's presented.
It's hard for us – one of us in particular – to resist a roast pork sandwich. Blues City offers its Delta Bayou, lean, thinly sliced roast pork with pepper cheese, tomato, grilled onion, their Delta Sauce, which gives a little heat, too, all on a muffuletta roll. Nice and moist, a good amount of heat from the cheese and sauce, and served warm, the better to appreciate the pork. That's it down below.
Open relatively late on Thursdays, 7:45 p.m., for an early dinner, and live music Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons. Yes, there's beer.
2438 McNair at Victor
Lunch Mon.-Sat., Dinner (early) Thurs.
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Fair