There are other open mics the Lost Sock, Chuggers, Rock Falls Tavern among them but take a guy like Monty Jones of the Ukulele Hipster Kings (a ukulele, bass and drum trio) who's played this stage more than a few times, always promptly arriving at 7:30 p.m. for a sandwich and sides.
"Oh, yeah, I love going [to the Boulevard Deli]," says Jones. "There's a few places during the week, if you plan them out, you can eat for almost nothing the entire week." He also mentions late-night dollar boxes at Lee's on Broad (a subject of an earlier Grub column), and half-price chicken night, the Monday night special at the Fan's Strawberry Street Market.
Despite what you might be thinking, the Deli is no French bistro, and the open-mic crowd's standards leave a bit to be desired. We're talking pretzels and deli meat here: ham, turkey, Swiss and American cheese, with bowls of chips, olives and quartered dill pickles to get things rolling. You've also got your choice of bread: white or rye, sometimes wheat. After 8 p.m. back at your table with your paper plate and Dagwood sandwich piled high, friends surrounding you, settling for the long night ahead at the Deli can feel downright homey.
As the owners of the Boulevard Deli must know, this homey feeling is imperative to keep your butt in your seat so you continue ordering Budweisers. This is true at any open-mic night, but especially at the Boulevard Deli. Thanks to an extensive house PA and instrumentation, full bands are allowed to perform here. You never know when you'll have to weather a band running 15 minutes over its time allotment with a grand version of Prince's "Purple Rain." Three hours into a night like that, still waiting your turn to perform, it's amazing how psyched you can get about free pretzels.
Strangely, the Boulevard Deli isn't the kind of place you can stop in any old time and grab a bite. The hours are so infrequent it's as if they disdain the idea of customers altogether: They're open for lunch on Fridays, touring bands play Friday and Saturday nights, and they're only open weekday nights when they have a band booked. Other than that, to quote the Boulevard's recorded voice message, "That's about it." Even if you don't play an instrument, with the right sense of humor, an open mic here can be an absolute hoot. Look at it this way: at the very worst you'll walk out with a free ham and cheese. S
The Boulevard Delicatessen & Restaurant
5218 W. Broad St.