Where: The Brown Bag
When: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
Dish: Spicy Asian Beef Wrap
Price: $11.54 (including tax and tip)
The Setting: The Brown Bag, a family owned deli at 7575 N. 16th Street in Phoenix is a very…beige restaurant. The color choice — floor to ceiling — makes the place feel a little drab. A few tables line the wall in the long skinny deli, while in the back area you'll find leather couches, an ottoman, and area rug. While many eateries and coffee shops have areas that are living room-esque, we've never seen a section quite like this one that could actually be transported to someone's living room without skipping a beat. It's a tad strange, but also cool.
The Food: The menu at The Brown Bag is artfully displayed on a chalkboard behind the counter and features a mix of deli classics like the Reuben (pastrami, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Thousand Island spread on marble rye for $8.99) and classics-with-a-twist like the Klob Klub (pastrami, bacon, swiss, onions, and jalepeno with pesto on a hoagie roll for $8.99). There's a limited breakfast menu, but we opted for the Spicy Asian Beef Wrap off the lunch menu (roast beef, Mandarin oranges, flaked coconut, sliced almonds, and greens with spicy tahini dressing in a whole wheat wrap) served with potato salad.
The Good: The tahini dressing was really tasty, almost like a thin peanut sauce with a sharper finish and some spice. The wrap itself was also huge— probably a foot long—and there weren't any of the doughy wrap-only bites that are usually leftover at the end of eating a wrap.
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The potato salad served on the side had bits of chewy bacon throughout and the mayo dressing had a hint of mustard in it. It was the highlight of our lunch.
The Bad: Overall, our wrap was excessively dry. The roast beef was completely well-done, and there was an excessive amount of lettuce surrounding the goodies in the center. The almonds and coconut were all in one spot inside, which made for some pretty unpleasant bites. On more than one occasion, we got a mouthful of just sweetened flaked coconut and lettuce. The crunch of the slivered almonds would have been a welcome texture change had they been integrated into the other ingredients, but as they were, the crackling nuts gave us the nails on a chalkboard feeling. Sadly, there were no Mandarin oranges on our sandwich. Because it was nearly undetectable and the wrap was so dry, we asked for an additional side of the tahini sauce, which helped with some of issues, but not all of them.
All In All: We really wanted to like the Spicy Asian Beef Wrap because the description sounded so interesting, but aside from the tahini sauce (of which there wasn't enough) and the fabulous potato salad, the sandwich was too dry and segregated to enjoy. The back room at The Brown Bag, though, was unique and if we wanted to be unbothered in a comfortable public setting, we'd give this local deli another shot.
The Brown Bag
7575 N 16th St.
Phoenix, AZ 85020