Editor’s Note: Urban Dictionary says the term “sammich” is reserved for sandwiches that are a cut above the rest. Made not of the best ingredients, sammiches are made of the *right* ingredients, which combine to create something greater, and tastier, than the sum of its parts.
It’s lunchtime, Downtown Pittsburgh. Your morning? Spent in traffic court. Your wallet? Much, much lighter. And your stomach? It demands satisfaction.
You nearly walk right by Boulevard Deli, tucked inside an unremarkable concrete building between Third and Fourth on Smithfield Street. The inside is cozy, with seating for some 20, and a big menu on the wall with a whole lot of specialty sandwiches, each named after a different city neighborhood.
The line moves quickly, and you pass some coolers filled with pop and pasta salad. At some point, you overhear someone say that Boulevard Deli has been around since the 80s, and that it’s family-owned… but your attention wanes: Who did that judge think he was? Sure, ok, maybe “it’s barely over the line” wasn’t your best defense. Maybe you shouldn’t have called the parking enforcement offi—
It’s your turn to order and you don’t know what to get. Chili? Can a person eat just chili for lunch? Maybe some Italian hoagie thing, or a breakfast sandwich. Quickly now: everyone is waiting on you, and they scorn your indecision.
What’s this one here? Turkey with cheese and bacon, both? The “West End” it is.
You pay and take your seat, peel open a pint of iced tea, and question your judgment once more: A turkey sandwich? The thought conjures memories of sad, soggy, white bread school lunches: mere sustenance, not “sammich.”
Maybe you should have made your own, or gone with the Market Square: turkey/swiss/coleslaw and thousand island on marble rye. Or the Spring Hill, made with braunschweiger and sliced hard boiled eggs.
You start to google “braunschweiger” and then it arrives: a lightly-toasted kaiser roll, bookended by cheddar cheese and crispy bacon, piled high with thinly-sliced turkey and tomato.
It’s hunger-zapping, unpretentious, and tasty as hell. In this moment, it’s everything you could ever ask for. And what’s this? A pickle spear, too, all for $7.95.
You notice as you leave, over by the register, written words of praise from customers. That includes something signed “Mike Lange,” the Hall of Fame play-by-play voice of the Penguins. His words, or at least the words of someone who wrote down his name, ring as true as ever: “it’s a great day for a deli sandwich.”
#PIsammichOTW: The West End
Location: Boulevard Deli
Address: 309 Smithfield Street, Downtown.
Menu Description: “Fresh turkey, bacon, tomatoes and cheddar cheese all toasted on a kaiser roll.”
Vegetarian alternative: Boulevard Deli offers pasta and potato salads, a regular tossed salad, and a plain ol’ baked potato.
Know a sammich that deserves some shine? Tell us.
He is a 2x 2023 Western PA Press Club Golden Quill award winner, in feature and business reporting. And a 3x finalist in the investigative reporting category.
He is a 2018 first prize winner in environmental reporting from the Keystone Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for reporting on lead in Pittsburgh’s drinking water.
In 2022 and 2021, he was awarded a grant from The Gumshoe Group to support his investigative reporting.