Friday, July 15, 2011

The Brown Bag Cafe - Norfolk, VA-NOW CLOSED

The Brown Bag Cafe Exterior
The Brown Bag Cafe from City Hall Ave
When you are a hot shot restaurant reviewer with some financial backing like the NY Times, LA Times, and others, you will review a restaurant based upon a series of visits over the course of several different days, at different times and sampling different entrees. While Alex and I like to think of ourselves as hot shots, we definitely are lacking in the financial backing department. Our reviews are real life. We visit a restaurant and it gets one chance to make a first impression, then we write about it. It’s just like any other business encounter, isn’t it? If you don’t get a good feeling on that first phone call, first handshake, first meeting, you probably are not going to pursue the relationship. If things aren’t totally disastrous and you like the people, you might try them again because you liked the people, provided it isn’t going to cost you an arm or a leg.
The Brown Bag Cafe Greek Salad
Greek Salad - No Olives

Today I had a limited lunch break, and decided to give The Brown Bag Café a visit. Alex and I have had them on the list for a while, but a recent relocation to City Hall Avenue renewed our interest. Open Monday – Friday 7:30AM – 3:30PM, they definitely cater to the business crowd. Their menu has all the lunch basics, with a few breakfast items to cater to those who like to pick up something on their way in to work.

Wanting a Greek Salad (a recurring favorite of mine) I noted that they have one for $5, including a drink and a cookie. Folks, that is a deal anywhere! You can add any meat for a meager $2 extra. Still, at $7 this is a great deal. I called in my order a little before noon and requested chicken added. I really like when local lunch spots let you call or fax in your order so you don’t waste precious lunch minutes waiting for order preparation! I was told they were out of chicken. What is it lately with places running out of menu staples? I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on the chicken as this is a new location and they may still be adjusting their inventory due to be busier here than their previous location. The phone was answered promptly and the call was handled quickly for which I award brownie points. When I arrived 10-15 minutes later to pick up my salad, I was told they were out of olives, so they were only charging me for the Garden salad. Really? Out of 2 items now?

The Brown Bag Cafe Interior
Seating Area
The interior hasn’t really changed much since the former City Line café days. The atmosphere is definitely low overhead. Varieties of small bags of chips are in a bin on the counter, versus the usual clipped hanging displays or shelves most places have. Diners have to dig through the bin to see what’s in there and pick their choices. This doesn’t seem very conducive to protecting the quality of whole chips. Drinks are selected from a cooler full of ice. They were nice and cold. It reminded me a bit more of picnic style versus restaurant style.
My salad was very good and the portion was generous for $4. The lettuce was fresh, feta flavorful and not overdone, good tomatoes, some grilled red pepper (bottled kind, my guess) and 5 Peperoncini. The dressing was reminiscent of Craft zesty Italian. This is the one item I think they could improve upon. The salad wasn’t exactly what I wanted or ordered, and they let me down twice, but all things considered, I know I will give them another try.  _Laine

205 E. City Hall Avenue
Norfolk, VA 23510

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