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Simple downtown sandwich shop nails the details


Boise has no shortage of sandwich shops--interchangeable shrines to deli meat, processed cheese and portability. Yet, strangely, it's a simple sandwich joint, not a starched white linen steakhouse or a low-lit gastropub, that has created the biggest buzz in the downtown dining scene in recent memory.

Husband and wife duo Dave Kelly and Sarah Kornfield opened Bleubird in the former Fixx coffeehouse space in September. Despite an awkwardly timed construction project enveloping the cafe's sidewalk and limited hours--11 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday--the spot has amassed a loyal following.

But Bleubird hasn't revolutionized the sandwich, it just nailed the details. The grilled cheese ($7) boasts a modest blend of gruyere and cheddar topped with grilled onions, mustard and fig jam, melted to a satisfying crunch. Despite the eclectic accoutrements, this grown-up sandwich is every bit as comforting as the childhood classic.

The same can be said for the pressed butternut squash sandwich ($8.50)--which features a bright smear of butternut, brie cheese, garlic aioli, flecks of arugula and a sprinkling of pepitas--and the egg salad sandwich ($8), with hunks of yellow yolk mingling with capers, arugula and mayo on a thin bed of purple potatoes, all encased in a pillowy brioche bun.

Bleubird's rotating chalkboard wall menu gives a nod to the spot's culinary eccentricity: "We understand our menu has a few ... different items. Just ask us to help you clarify."

But these more adventurous ingredients--by Boise restaurant standards, at least--don't seem to be keeping folks away. During a recent lunch hour rush, Kelly hurriedly took orders from a growing line of diners, greeting many by name with a broad smile. A few feet away, Kornfield assembled the sandwiches in an open, stainless steel kitchen. As each order was finalized--accompanied by a heap of chips or a simply dressed mixed greens salad served on a thin wooden plank--Kornfield yelled out the customer's name, the call ricocheting up the large windows into Bleubird's bustling upstairs.

But the joint isn't always so hectic. From 4-7 p.m., Monday through Friday, Bleubird offers what it calls "apres," a happy hour selection of wines, beers, sangrias, cheeses and charcuterie. The cheese boards come with crisp toast points, seasonal dried fruit and jam, a glistening wedge of honeycomb and nuts. But what seals the deal is an accompanying mini mason jar filled with colored knives and spreaders. It's this kind of thoughtful attention to detail that has Boiseans singing Bleubird's praises. Unfortunately, due to increased catering demands, Bleubird has put apres on hold until March. We're a-praying for its speedy return.