My darling friend DD is pregnant. She's in full-on adjustment mode—reading up on what to expect, shopping for crib bedding, and figuring out if she wants to be a working mom.
I'm in adjustment mode, too.
DD is my most reliable summertime drinking partner, and it's hard not to think of a hot July day without mentally calling up her deck, two chairs and two six-packs briefly chilling in the fridge. So this will be a different kind of summer—I've already been cluing her in to a bevy of non-alcoholic beer—and I kicked it off with just one beer in my purse as we walked down Kimball Avenue last Thursday.
Since splitting a bottle of wine with her will effectively leave her sober and me smashed, I thought that finding a casual eatery fit for a beer would be a less intrusive way to tipple. Brown Sack certainly seemed to fit the bill. A clipped Reader review of it had yellowed on my fridge, and six months after pasting it there I was no less eager to check out the soup/sandwich/shake shack opened by a former Lula Cafe manager, which gave it an instant slice of credibility.
Though DD and I walked about 30 minutes to get to our dinner destination, I took a quick jaunt to Vas Foremost before meeting her, where I eyed the beer coolers—and there are many of them—for far too long. I knew I'd probably only have one bottle (don't want to rub in my non-preggo state too hard) and I figured the oversize bottle of Duchesse de Bourgogne would render me a little too tipsy. And while that beer's a fave, I wanted something summery, something cheap, something like the $5.99 six-pack of Berghoff Solstice Wit Beer, a spring brew tinged with coriander and orange, which is exactly what I got.
I figured it was a safe bet for a sandwich shop, but as soon as we walked in I realized I had underestimated the little joint. It's a little haphazard inside—a collection of casual tables and benches, a wall of drawings, a brightly colored chalkboard above a big window that you'd expect to order burgers, fries, and a milkshake through.
But what you get here is much better: first, a friendly attitude—questions were welcomed, as was my beer (an opener appeared quickly). Second, good answers to the questions. I nearly didn't ask about what came in the veggie sandwich, figuring it was a traditional mix of tomatoes, onions and some kind of cheese. Good thing I did: Brown Sack's version boasted the normal veggies, plus mushrooms, black beans and plantains.
We opted to split that, on wheat (you get a choice), along with the organic peanut butter, banana and honey sandwich. Both came grilled, and with a choice of side (we both selected the apple-ginger coleslaw), and man, did they elevate the sandwich to another level. Unlike gourmet shops, where sandwiches emerge as meaty wonders that you'd be hard-pressed to replicate without a fridge full of pricey ingredients, there was something refreshingly homey about these, as if my mom could have made me grilled PB&B and a bean sandwich, if she had thought in a vein a little wackier than our bologna-and-Velveeta standby.
The former was a gooey wonder, with peanut butter that almost melted off the bread. I ate mine with a fork, each bite a rich, honey-spiked treat. It no doubt overshadowed some of the plantains' sweetness, though I took long gulps of my beer to try to push the taste aside before chomping down on the veggie version. The sweet malt beer was light on wheat and totally decent. For the price, I can't imagine why summertime drinkers would opt for the Miller Lites of the world.
The second sandwich wasn't as messy as I expected a meal of black beans tucked between two slices of bread to be, but I still found myself picking every last bit of plantains and tomatoes off my plate, unwilling to leave any tasty morsel behind. That sandwich was the better pairing with the slaw, a mayo-laced version that didn't present much of an apple or ginger taste but did present a fantastic bit of heat.
We left with our bellies full, and with scrapped-clean plates that Mom wished for on so many occasions. Had she only grilled our PB&J...