Bluephies Downtown Deli occupies part of the ground floor space in the Network 222 Building on West Washington Avenue, an office center geared to tech companies - Sonic Foundry has a home there. The space has a warm yet warehousey look, with light woods alongside corrugated tin, cement floor juxtaposed with coppery upholstery. There's Wi-Fi, and if you show up with your iPad you might imagine that you're catching approving glances from employees running in to pick up their box lunches.
BDD does seem to function as a cafeteria for building employees, and a fairly steady stream of people come through to pick up single orders in tidy cardboard lunch boxes. But there's nothing depressing or brown-baggy about takeout here. Each sandwich has its own nifty, pre-printed sticker to identify its box in group orders and seal it shut. This is efficient when the deli is vending at Concerts on the Square, too.
Bluephies seems to know its clientele - too busy not to eat at their desks, but wanting a sandwich better than they would throw together at home. They don't want to be bummed out by an egg salad on soft wheat wrapped in cellophane. So the egg salad comes flecked with green olives and with a tinge of lemon tarragon dressing, on ciabatta, with a choice of side, and still costs just $5.
The heart of the BDD menu is sandwiches, seven hot and seven cold, none more than $7.50, with the option of creating your own from various breads, meats, cheeses and condiments. There are seven salads and a create-your-own option here, too. Easily the most boring sandwich I ate was the one that I dreamed up myself. (Fried egg and tomato on a baguette with mustard, for the record.)
The smoked beef brisket Philly is one of the most popular, according to staff, and if the smoked flavor of the house-smoked beef brisket only came through more, it would be a worthy pick. As it was, gorgonzola/horseradish spread, roasted red peppers and caramelized onions overwhelmed the light smoked nature of the meat. Big flavor is needed to stand up to all those big condiments.
For me the real go-to bite is the grilled lemon herb chicken, one of the best sandwiches I've had anywhere. It came fresh from the panini press on ciabatta (not herb focaccia as described, but that was fine - there was plenty of rosemary in the filling). Tender white-meat chicken, not quite shredded, is brightened with darts of feta, olives, and artichoke, all brought together with garlic aioli. Somehow this combines to create a light albacore tuna taste, but without fishiness. Mwah! At $6.50, it's a Square deal.
Good, if not great, tastes are in the vineyard turkey sandwich (sweet, with sugared pecans, grapes and poppyseed dressing), the aforementioned egg salad, and the chickpea chop (a bean/roasted/artichoke/feta/olive filling that has plenty of flavor, but a messy tendency to fall out of the bread). Warning, onion haters: Whether listed as an ingredient or not, purple onions are very likely to show up in your sandwich. Sometimes these can be left out; sometimes, as with the egg salad, they're part and parcel of the filling.
All sandwiches come with a choice of side: pasta salad, potato salad, three-bean salad or a piece of fruit. The salads are bland. Go for the fruit. And I will say a pickle side would be much appreciated.
A "pick two" option of a small salad with a cup of soup apparently does not allow picking a specific salad; I ordered the tortilla salad, but got just mixed greens and dressing. The cup of navy bean soup was acceptable, but at $7 for the pairing I wished I'd gone for a sandwich.
Bluephies has a small breakfast menu of organic steel-cut oatmeal, quiche, a breakfast sandwich and a breakfast burrito. Coffee is from Milwaukee's Boom Brothers.
Staff hinted that the menu is undergoing some changes - that the cold ham sandwich with a fennel and gold raisin relish (that I never got to try) is no more. But I hope the grilled lemon herb chicken stays on the menu in perpetuity.