Columbus is a one-of-a-kind city, and that means Columbus natives are a one-of-a-kind bunch. It should follow that a people and a place so characterized by singularity necessarily demand the same character in the businesses they frequent, from movie theaters to bars to restaurants. So where do one-of-a-kind people in a one-of-a-kind place eat lunch? Not to get gratingly redundant here, but if I had to identify the most one-of-a-kind lunch spot in the whole city, I’d easily name the Brown Bag Deli, an earnestly authentic sandwich emporium which is situated irresistibly at the corner of Whittier and Mohawk at the head of Schiller Park in German Village.
It’s Time To Go To Heaven
I’ll tell you a story that I think exemplifies the precious singularity of the spot: when I was a kid, my mother would often take my older sister Lucy and me to the Brown Bag Deli for lunch. We loved the place so much––the delicious sandwiches and giant dill pickles we picked out of the jar, the staff who were always so happy to see us––that Lucy started to call the Deli Heaven. When my mother announced a trip to Brown Bag, Lucy followed that it was time to go to Heaven.
Today, some twenty years later, Brown Bag Deli still feels like a holy space. It’s one that celebrates community: the small dining area is defined by communal tables, so you’re always dining next to new friends, and there are usually people––the hungry customers, the smiley staff––weaving in and around the tables, eyeing each others’ sandwiches and soups, excusing themselves and being excused. I’ve never been to the Brown Bag Deli at a moment when it isn’t packed, but this is no here-today-gone-tomorrow trendy new restaurant or tourist trap: it’s just a great place, that those in the know keep coming back to. It’s quite something, to feel like you are one of those in the know, especially when being in the know yields such delicious results.
A Mouth-Watering Menu
Which brings me to the next one-of-a-kind feature of the Deli: the food! Oh, the word count I could hit writing about the food: in a few, it is reliably colorful, seasonal, textured, flavorful, and original, based on recipes that elevate simple forms and ingredients into sandwich-shaped art.
Standout signatures include the Weezy’s Cheesie, which features such exotic ingredients as alfalfa sprouts and honeycup mustard; Village Addiction, a Thanksgiving-leftovers-inspired sandwich starring a cunning cranberry mayonnaise; and the classic pastrami, Leroy’s Smoking Sandwich, which employs timeless accouterment like sauerkraut and thousand island dressing. It’s also possible to make your own sandwich incorporating the various savory offerings listed on the chalkboard, but with menu items this good––why bother?
Because of its modest size and inconspicuous––though opportune––location, the Brown Bag Deli can feel like a little-city hidden gem. And it is, but it is also a Columbus institution that all true ride-or-die natives know and love. Visit the spot for a Weezy’s Cheesy or a Village Addiction between meetings downtown or before a walk through Schiller Park, and you’ll see what I mean––and you’ll be automatically absorbed into the privileged ranks of those who know the most one-of-a-kind spots in this truly one-of-a-kind city.
The thing about Heaven, after all, is that there’s supposed to be only one.