The Brown Bag Cafe - Healthy & Creative Gourmet Salads, Sandwiches and More
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
Lory Tydingco is one determined lady who knows what she likes and is on a mission to share this with a growing number of loyal customers who can be seen running around town clutching Lory's signature brown bags. The Brown Bag Cafe is Lory's brainchild and home to Guam's largest selection of gourmet salads as well as a host of healthy sandwiches, whole wheat pizzas, wraps, unique baked goods (such as a family of muffins made with cream cheese - how does Mango, Key Lime, Banana, Blueberry, Peach and Strawberry grab you?), quality beverages like Illy espresso and China Mist Tea, and an assortment of exotic packaged food products.
The Brown Bag Cafe is in the DFS Pacifica Building on Chalan San Antonio across the street from LBJ Elementary. The restaurant is right next to Citizen's Security Bank which is where you enter the building to get to The Brown Bag Cafe. Just look for the giant Brown Bag on the building! I stopped in one day after a little banking and got a lot of food. I believe The Brown Bag is the only place where you can get pizza made with a whole wheat crust. I ordered a Pepperoni Pizza ($6.95) from Nora (who, along with Marlene, does a lot of the kitchen magic) which is made fresh by hand and takes about 15 minutes. The pizza's between 7 to 8 inches in diameter and has a soft, refreshingly healthy tasting crust. Buffalo Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese are used. Lory says she'll soon be offering Chicken Adobo and Margarita Pizzas. She also has Garden Pizza with fresh veggies and tofu with cheese for $7.50.
I also ordered my favorite salad - the Mango Salad ($7.95), which is a large, full-sized meal on its own, laden with crisp Romaine lettuce, mangoes, oranges, pecans, tomatoes and feta cheese, with Lory's homemade raspberry vinaigrette which is full of wonderful garlic. This is a great salad and it comes with a herb roll. Other salads are Rainbow Crunch ($6.95); Ginger Chicken ($7.95); Popeye Spinach Salad ($7.95) with fresh spinach leaves, baby greens, mandarin oranges, walnuts, feta cheese and hard boiled eggs with a citrus vinaigrette; Cracked Wheat Salad; and a Cold Salmon Salad for $8.95. The Cold Salmon salad is especially popular as it is Atkins-friendly and also adherent to the South Beach diet regimen. Lory has recently introduced side salads for $4.95, which are smaller versions of these meal-sized salads.
One item listed as a salad that I tried was a Thai Salad Roll. This is a rice paper wrapper filled with tofu, eggs, carrots, baby lettuce, cucumber, celery, and chives, and accompanied by an original spicy peanut vinaigrette with off-the-chart flavor followed by a warming sensation on your palate. It's also priced at $7.95. You can expect future salads to include cold noodles like Japanese Buckwheat and Soba. In the more traditional vein, The Brown Bag has sandwiches such as Angus Cut Pastrami on Whole Wheat ($7.95), Classic Ham on Whole Wheat ($5.95), as well as a Garden Sandwich and Tuna Fish, both on Whole Wheat for $4.95 each. The Brown Bag takes the sandwich to a new level with "mini-sandwiches", and you can get a mini-Pastrami for $3.50 and a mini-Classic Ham for $1.95.
One thing you notice about The Brown Bag Cafe is that they are always introducing new and different foods to their menu selection, with a recent example being their Brown Rice Fried Rice on their breakfast menu. For $4.95, you get an egg and 2 scoops of this healthy, tasty fried rice made with tofu, vegetables and just a few small chunks of ham for flavoring. For vegetarians, you can have this sans ham. Another new item I sampled was a Soy Noodle Salad with a zesty Peanut Sesame Dressing. This certainly is innovative cuisine, and Lory is looking to offer Soy Noodle Pasta dishes, using locally made tofu (Tom's Tofu) to assure freshness. These will satisfy those low-carb dietary requirements, too.
The Brown Bag Cafe prides itself in using quality, nutritious ingredients in their food products. For baked goods, raw sugar is used instead of refined sugar. Olive oil and soy oils are used for cooking, as well as Kosher and Sea Salt. Among some of The Brown Bag's baked specialties are the Sugar-Free Whole Wheat Apple Pie (using Splenda to sweeten), cookies, Double Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownies, and that family of amazingly delicious Cream Cheese Muffins. I confess to having the Banana (made with fresh local bananas), Key Lime, Mango, and Peach. Lory serves food according to her motto, which is "Because I Like It", and judging from Lory, her food must be good.
The Brown Bag Cafe has a second, satellite location at Paradise Fitness in Hagatna, where you can get a fairly good selection of her foods after your work-out. The main location, though, features a variety of gourmet retail items like flavored cooking oils, salad dressings, wasabi mayonnaise, rubs, curry dips, and packaged bake mixes, such as Key Lime Pie and Pineapple Cake. The cafe enjoys natural lighting in a cozy ambiance with additional seating in the covered lobby outside. It's a comfortable place for quiet meetings or to sit alone and read from a diverse collection of magazines, while drinking a Tropical Triple or Cappuccino.
The Brown Bag Cafe is open Monday through Friday, from 7am to 5pm, and Saturdays from 7am to 2pm. The Paradise Fitness location (475-2126) is open until 7 pm on weeknights. For Brown Bag take-out, call 647-0188. Try The Brown Bag Cafe for original, creative, and flavorful foods with health appeal - you'll taste the difference, and feel it too!