Dining review: On the Fly offers fresh food fast

SPECIAL TO THE IDAHO STATESMANMay 30, 2014 

  • ON THE FLY

    Address: 800 W. Main St., Boise (second floor of the Eighth & Main building)

    Phone: (208) 344-6833

    Online: ontheflydeli.com

    Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday. On the Fly has plans to start bike delivery in the Downtown area this summer.

    Menu price range: breakfast $3-$4.50; baked goods, sides, soups, salads and sandwiches $1.75-$6.50; grab-and-go dinner items $6-$13.

    Libation situation: On the Fly soon will carry local canned beers and single-serve wines. For now it's cola, energy drinks, disposable French press coffee and bottled water.

    Kid friendly? Yes

    Wheelchair accessible: Yes. Take the elevator to the second floor.

    Opened: April 2014

On the Fly is an apropos name for chef Dustan Bristol's new deli concept in the Eighth & Main building in Downtown Boise.

It's fast and affordable by design, without the overly processed trappings of a typical fast-food restaurant. Fresh rotisserie-roasted and cured meats are the focal point of the eatery, which offers a gamut of grab-and-go sandwiches, specialty salads, soups and breakfast items. It's intended to give people in the business district a quick fix of freshly made food.

Most everything in the place gets made from scratch, all the way down to the garlic-spiked dill pickles, and don't be surprised to find lots of fresh herbs and other local foodstuffs on the set and rotating menus.

It's safe to say that the ubiquitous corporate sandwich shops around town come nowhere close to this level of seasonal freshness and nuance.

Bristol, a three-time semi-finalist for a prestigious James Beard Award, also owns the popular Brick 29 Bistro in Nampa. In Boise, he saw the need for a local-tinged deli concept and committed to a spot in the city's newest and tallest high-rise, directly above Ruth's Chris Steak House.

Take the escalator up to the second floor to On the Fly - across from Flatbread Neapolitan Pizzeria - and right inside the front door you will find a row of reach-in coolers packed with fresh offerings served in biodegradable and recyclable packaging.

The gray-hued decor in the small dining area is simple, yet it still boasts some thoughtful design elements, like a custom-made wood standup counter, retro-looking plastic chairs and a wall covered with repurposed antique ceiling tiles with "OTF" emblazoned across the center.

Now let's talk bacon.

Bristol has become well known around Nampa for his house-brined and smoked bacon, which can be found on several items at the deli.

You would be remiss not to try Bristol's take on a classic egg salad sandwich ($3.50), a delish hybrid made with smashed hard-boiled eggs (mixed with dill creme fraiche) and a smear of sweet and smoky bacon jam between thick slices of Pullman bread. The fluffy white bread is baked specially for OTF by Gaston's Bakery. Bristol refers to it as "Wonder Bread on crack."

He also puts his inventive twist on a chicken salad sandwich ($4.50), a flavor-forward, mayonnaise-free medley of rotisserie chicken, shaved fennel, red onion, golden raisins, blue cheese crumbles, toasted walnuts and basil chiffonade - built on Pullman bread with herby vinaigrette, arugula and sliced tomato.

Hopefully you'll be able to score a bologna sandwich (I had no luck getting my hands on one during my three visits), but Bristol says the housemade pork bologna sells out quickly due its newfound popularity.

The roast beef sandwich ($5) is a menu mainstay. Expect to find perfectly pink ribbons of rotisserie-roasted Angus beef (too bad it was overly salty during one visit), shaved manchego cheese, red onion and arugula, folded into a long-cut Gaston's Bakery baguette brushed with bearnaise-inspired aioli.

On a lighter note, try the salmon salad sandwich ($5.75), a fresh and aromatic blend of flaky salmon, aioli, dill, capers, minced red onion and celery, on sliced Pullman bread with layers of nutty arugula and tomato.

Vegetarians should be on the lookout for the black bean wrap ($4), which makes occasional appearances in the reach-in cooler. Zesty black bean and corn salsa -lubed with cilantro pesto and peri peri hot sauce - gets swaddled in a spongy whole-wheat crepe with lettuce and tomato.

OTF's deli salad selection includes some daily stalwarts and occasional offerings, like a lemony chickpea salad ($1.75) with shaved almonds, red onion and shreds of fresh spinach.

You should also keep an eye out for the mushroom pasta salad ($1.75), an earthy amalgam of whole-wheat penne, oven-roasted criminis, crumbled feta, fresh rosemary and tarragon vinaigrette.

Bristol's potato salad ($1.50) will have you harkening back to a summer picnic of yesteryear. But this classic spud salad - made with chopped dill pickle, freshly made mayonnaise and a hint of Dijon -is nowhere near as goopy as the stuff found in grocery store deli cases.

The coolers are also stocked with various mixed greens salads, Caesars and Cobb salads on a daily basis.

OTF serves a few hot items as well, like panini sandwiches and a rotating array of seasonal soups, dished up by the friendly staff behind the counter, next to a deli case and the glass-encased rotisserie oven.

One day, I sank my teeth into a Reuben panini ($6.50). This tasty pressed sandwich (made with Gaston's Bakery light rye panini bread) was layered with pastrami-cured Angus beef, Swiss cheese fondue, bacon-braised red cabbage, sliced pickle and tangy Louie dressing.

I also enjoyed a cup of asparagus bisque ($3), a delicious spring-inspired soup with a backbeat of mirepoix and citrus.

Behind the counter is also where you can score house-baked sweet treats. Good picks include the basil-infused lemon bar ($2) and the Rice Whiskey Treat ($3), a bourbon-spiked crispy rice square with chocolate chips, cinnamon and no shortage of gooey marshmallow cream.

In the late afternoon, OTF offers ready-made, grab-and-go dinner items such as whole rotisserie chickens, ham and poblano-kicked meatloaf, with side dishes like smoked mushroom risotto and crispy polenta.

One night, in a pinch, I picked up a whole chicken ($8) and a Cobb salad ($5.50); mixed greens adorned with chopped Bristol bacon, blue cheese crumbles, grape tomatoes, sliced avocado and black olives, served with a side of zippy tarragon vinaigrette.

The dry rub (think sweet and spicy barbecue potato chip seasoning) really shined through on the chicken, which had a crispy, golden exterior and was succulently tender and juicy to the bone.

Email James Patrick Kelly: scene@idahostatesman.com

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