Far too many of us have endured long business meetings only to be asked what the “takeaway,” meaning the key message or call to action, is supposed to be. If the American usage of “takeaway” is all business, the British application of the same word is more fun. “Takeaway” there means something similar to what we’d call “takeout” in the United States. Using British terms in American English has become a trend lately, and a new sandwich shop in Downtown Mesa, Worth Takeaway, employs “takeaway” to describe its food, not slideshows from staff meetings.
Worth Takeaway is situated just a block east of the Country Club / Main light rail station. Abundant bike racks line Main Street just a short distance from the sandwich shop. Worth’s signs are inconspicuous, but the establishment can be readily found by looking for Mary Consie’s “Big Pink Chair” sculpture, a piece of public art that is described perfectly by its title. More typically sized chairs can be found in a small outdoor dining area, and there’s seating at a single long table and two small counters inside the shop.
The decor is simple but pleasant with one counter facing outward toward Main Street and its passing trains and another facing a wall adorned with prints celebrating three big names in local mid-century modern architecture: Al Beadle, Ralph Haver and W.A. Sarmiento. Diners should be aware that Worth Takeaway does not have a customer-accessible restroom. Yes, that’s legal in light of the shop’s small size and its orientation toward carryout business. Nevertheless, it’s a circumstance to be taken into account when planning a visit, especially with young children.
Worth describes its food as “craft sandwiches.” There’s a strong emphasis on local purveyors, beginning with the bread, which comes from Mesa’s own Proof, a specialty baker. Proof’s delightfully chewy ciabatta is the foundation of several popular sandwiches that lead the menu. The reuben is an original take on a classic with pastrami, coarsely cut sauerkraut, mustard, and havarti cheese. The Cuban is filled with roasted pork and havarti accentuated with spicy pickles and mustard. Crispy chicken is also enlivened by spicy pickles, as well as a honey sriracha sauce.
Proof’s mild sourdough is the star in two sandwiches. One is chicken salad in tangy bleu cheese dressing with pickled vegetables. The other is a vegetable sandwich — not the usual assemblage of sprouts and cheese found so many places, but instead an artful mix of sliced, roasted sweet potatoes with pickled cabbage, cranberries, and ricotta. Another meatless choice is a grilled cheese sandwich. In this case, havarti and cheddar are melted between two slices of a fruit and nut bread from Proof. A side of blackberry jam adds to the variety of flavors at work here.
The sandwiches are all served a la carte, but sides are available for only a few dollars more. The chips are house made. They’re not a quite as crisp something out of bag, but they’re full of earthy potato flavor. The greens are a simple salad in a cup. The soup, for now, is always chicken with vegetables such as kale, celery, and sweet potato. Perhaps it will vary with the seasons as Worth establishes itself. Although it’s hard to imagine anyone voluntarily passing up Proof bread, any sandwich except the grilled cheese can be rendered as a salad with greens and sweet potatoes.
Although Worth Takeaway’s emphasis is lunch, there’s a small all-day breakfast menu. A croque madame, made with pastrami instead of the customary ham, serves as a breakfast sandwich. A hash made with sweet potatoes and rotisserie chicken is a filling morning entree, and a simple combination of granola, yogurt, and jam is a lighter option. From 4 PM until the unusually precise closing time of 7:05 PM, half and whole rotisserie chickens are available, although it’s recommended that customers call ahead. The sole dessert is an airy banana pudding made with the requisite vanilla wafers.
Worth Takeaway has recently added a children’s menu, which is a natural fit given the shop’s proximity to both the i.d.e.a. Museum and the Arizona Museum of Natural History. Both are excellent places for children to play and learn, not to mention take a bathroom break before or after a meal at Worth. Look for simplified versions of the same foods served to adults: crispy chicken bites with chips or a more basic grilled cheese. There’s also a peanut butter sandwich. Bottles of Danzeisen Dairy chocolate milk in the refrigerated case enhance the kid appeal.
For adults (and more adventurous children), there’s a house “pop” (or “soda” depending on where the customer grew up). Essentially a sparkling lemonade with some added herbal notes, the drink is a light and refreshing accompaniment to the sandwiches. For those looking to avoid a nap after lunch, nitro cold brew coffee is available. Coke products are sold in cans, and bottled water is complimentary. The owners are alumni of Upward Projects, known best for its Postino wine bars, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the addition of a liquor license at some point in the future.
Even if beer and wine are eventually added, Worth Takeaway is not the type of place to transform Downtown Mesa into another Mill Avenue. It’s a business that can thrive with an emphasis on daytime hours and a family friendly environment. Downtown Mesa may eventually cultivate more nightlife, but for now Worth’s approach is the right one. The Britishism in the name adds a little panache, but the emphasis on the bounty of local farms makes Worth a solid citizen of Arizona. For a lunch meeting that doesn’t involve a single PowerPoint slide, that’s a good takeaway indeed.
September 8, 2016 update: Effective September 12, Worth Takeaway is expanding its hours to include evenings and Sundays. Call or check the restaurant’s website for exact hours.
218 W. Main St., Mesa AZ 85201
Country Club / Main Station