[Photograph: Josh Conley]

What's in a name? Well, not exactly what's in your restaurant if your name happens to be Johnny Brown Bag. Either that or my interpretation of brown bag is way off. When it opened last year in my neighborhood of feverishly rotating storefronts, I pegged this place as a takeout sandwich shop in a tiny storefront with lots of competition (not to mention the curse of Pasticcieria Natalina). Cynically, I gave it six months. Turns out, this offering, from the Via Carducci founders, has had staying power possibly because it's exactly what you think it's not. It is a cozy little BYO restaurant, complete with a menu of small plates, pizzas, pastas, and, yes, sandwiches.

The Panino di Pollo e Peperonata ($9 with fries) features a split, moist chicken breast, given a healthy dose of char. The generous slab of fresh mozzarella is appropriately mild, and helps take a bit of the edge off the bitterness from the green peppers. The roasted red peppers add a bit of sweetness, and the extra virgin olive oil and oregano are nice to have on board as well, but the fresh focaccia is the sturdy backbone that brings it all together. The fries are also worth a mention—crisp and nicely seasoned.

Next time I would bring a date and a bottle; I got mine to go, and, since I'm sure you're dying to know, the answer is...no. It did not come in a brown bag.

Johnny Brown Bag

5406 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60640 (map)
Johnny Brown Bag

Josh Conley is single-handedly trying to re-introduce the verb beget into the everyday lexicon. He traveled to Easter Island one Christmas out of sheer irony. He excises a hefty syntax, and shamelessly promotes the color orange. His wife begat him two small children that he regularly belittles HERE.

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