(The Feed Bag Deli and Catering, Voice-Tribune, Sept. 13, 2007)
Okay, it’s not quite as hard to get into the Feed Bag as it was to gain entry to a Prohibition-era speakeasy: No one will challenge you through a peephole or insist that you prove you were invited. In fact, if you’re having a tough time finding your way to this almost-hidden St. Matthews treasure, chances are someone will offer directions with a smile.
Nevertheless, The Feed Bag isn’t exactly high-profile. First there’s the small matter of its location: Despite its Breckenridge Lane address, it’s not really visible from this or any other thoroughfare.
To get there, one must know to go around the corner from Breckenridge onto Willis Avenue, then cut back a narrow alley between Porter Paint and the (also most estimable) Meridian Cafe. Find a parking place if you can, taking note of the many “Don’t Park Here” signs. Then follow the signs into the Clothes Horse consignment store, where you’ll eventually find The Feed Bag tucked away in a back room.
And a pretty back room it is, with room for about three dozen diners at tables that sport tablecloths with race-horse designs under protective glass. One wall is exposed brick; another boasts a humorous mural of human servers passing food to horses casually reclining at table. The floor is painted terra-cotta red, the ceiling moss green, and the overall effect is colorful and inviting.
At the risk of over-using the “ladies who lunch” description, The Feed Bag is in fact open only for lunch, and the house is almost always filled with women and a distinct minority of husbands. There’s no gender difference in satisfaction, though, as everyone seemed to be chowing down happily; and we soon joined them.
The menu is affordable, featuring soups, salads and sandwiches – plus The Feed Bag’s famous homemade desserts – with no entree exceeding $6.95. There’s a full range of luncheonette standards such as tomato stuffed with chicken salad or tuna salad ($6.75), grilled chicken club sandwich ($6.75), BLT ($4.50), and local favorites Benedictine ($3.95, or $4.75 with bacon) and pimento cheese ($3.95). Sandwiches are available on a variety of breads, and you can have a half portion at half the regular charge plus 50 cents.
Prices are as little as $2.95 (for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a cup of soup) to $6.95 (for an asparagus salad or a freshly grilled salmon burger). Desserts, a seductive selection of pies and cakes, are $2.95. No alcoholic beverages are served, but unsweet iced tea is strong and fresh and admirably clean-flavored. It’s served in tall tumblers with plenty of ice and wedges of lemon, $1.50 for all you can drink.
A cup of gazpacho ($2.75) made a fine starter on a hot summer day, a cool, gently spicy spoonable salad mix of tomato and vegetable puree with crunchy bits of celery, carrot, onion and tomato to give it texture.
A meat loaf sandwich (about $2.85 for a half) brought a generous slab of beefy, slightly piquant and reasonably juicy meat dressed with lettuce and tomato on a square of French bread that resembled focaccia.
Two salads – an asparagus salad and a daily special, seafood salad (both $6.95) were built on the same base of fresh mixed lettuces, ripe tomato wedges, thin cucumber slices and a few rounds of red onion. The asparagus salad was topped with a half-dozen thin spears of fresh asparagus and a few slices of hard-boiled egg, with a thick but not overly cheesy blue-cheese dressing in a plastic tub on the side. I liked the seafood salad, topped with a creamy blend of tiny salad shrimp and bits of crab (actually, it appeared to be surimi, fish-based crab “shapes”) with chopped celery and shredded carrot in a pink-tinged mayo dressing.
A shared slice of rich, dark and textured German’s Chocolate pie ($2.95) on a short and flaky crust made a happy ending to a decent lunch. The toll for two came to $28.55, and pleasant, competent service that never faltered in spite of a full house earned a $5.45 tip.
The Feed Bag Deli and Catering
133 Breckenridge Lane