With today’s confusing array of popular diets — paleo this, keto that, and gluten-free everything — it’s refreshing to see that good bread can still be the foundation of a meal. It’s equally invigorating to see an independent sandwich shop open amid all the national chains that have recently occupied that segment of the market. Breadwinner scores victories in both respects, building its sandwiches with the unabashedly glutenous products of local bakery Noble Bread and drawing inspiration from the kitchen of its full-service cousin, EVO in Scottsdale.
Breadwinner is among the opening lineup of tenants at the Churchill, an assemblage of shipping containers that functions as a bar, food hall, and gathering place in, appropriately enough, the Evans Churchill neighborhood on Phoenix. Situated just north of the downtown core, the location at First Street and Garfield is also part of Roosevelt Row and its continuously expanding array of food options. The Roosevelt / Central light rail station is only two blocks away, and abundant bike racks are found along both First Street and Garfield.
The sandwich shop is located at the northwest corner of the Churchill, with the nearest entry on First Street. Like all restaurant tenants here, Breadwinner operates with a fast casual model. A menu is posted near the counter where customers order. Staff then deliver the meal to the diner’s chosen location within the Churchill’s courtyard, a combination of small two-top tables, larger picnic tables, and an area furnished as a lounge. Because the seating is in this common area is shared, it’s perfectly acceptable to mix menu items from multiple eateries at the Churchill.
Sandwiches on the Breadwinner menu are divided between cold and hot, with the former oriented towards sliced bread and the latter towards rolls and buns. In either case, there’s abundant variety in terms of meat and vegetables fillings, along with condiments, that combine influences from throughout the world. The Puritan is a cold turkey sandwich that hits all the usual notes with thick slices of roast poultry topped with manchego cheese and arugula and then adds a few of touches of its own with caramelized onions and cranberry mostarda.
Alligator Pear, one of two meatless sandwiches on the menu, blends the peppery taste of arugula with the slight sweetness of fig jam and then adds additional dimension from cotija cheese, red onion, avocado, and tomato. The Mummy is the sole wrap on the menu with its Mediterranean mix of red peppers, feta, hummus, arugula, cucumbers, tomato, and red onion encased in whole wheat. The meatiest of the cold sandwiches is the Decatur St., inspired by New Orleans with a layers of cured meats, sliced cheeses, and an olive giardiniera as a garnish.
The slightly larger array of hot sandwiches begins with a Korean influence by way of South Philly. The B-Seoul is an essentially a bulgogi cheesesteak in which tender ribeye and melted provolone are matched with peppers and scallions for a bit of subtle spice. The Downtowner features a fried chicken breast topped with pickles and pineapple bleu cheese coleslaw. These tangy flavors are all complimented by a buttermilk bun. El Pato is Breadwinner’s version of a torta in which the carnitas inside a toasted telera are made with duck meat rather than pork.
If there’s anything that might improve these innovative sandwiches, it might be a small condiment bar to allow customers to add a little additional kick to their meals as desired. This seems like something that might fit either at Breadwinner’s counter or near the self-service water stations in the Churchill’s courtyard. Besides Miss Vickie’s potato chips, three sides are also available. Shepards Slaw is a larger serving of the cabbage-based salad found in some of the sandwiches. Ingrained is a hearty mix of wheat berries with potatoes, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
The most satisfying of the sides, however, is the Amarillo Papa. This dish draws its inspiration from Peru, using aji amarillo chiles native to South America to season fingerling potatoes. Pepitas add a bit of crunch, and cotija cheese and pickled red onion provide a bit of tang. Beyond these small sides, Breadwinner serves two larger salads as its sole non-sandwich entrees. The Gladiator is a meaty bowl of salumi over romaine, and the Jackrabbit is a vegetarian salad with cucumbers, dried corn, avocado, and bleu cheese over arugula.
Breadwinner offers bottled beverages such as sodas, teas, energy drinks, and sparkling water from a refrigerated case behind the counter. An extensive selection of craft beer is found at the Brill Line, the bar which occupies the shipping container next door. At the other end of the Churchill, another bar, Pobrecito, specializes in cocktails. Breadwinner does not offer dessert, but next door to the Churchill on First Street, Futuro serves gently seasoned espresso drinks and an ever-changing array of baked goods often inspired by Mexican panaderia traditions.
Each sandwich at Breadwinner is packaged to go, wrapped in paper so that it can be taken back to the office or enjoyed as a sort of urban picnic anywhere inside the Churchill’s courtyard. The courtyard is cooled by fans in the summer and warmed by portable heaters in the winter, with an ample roof to provide shade and shelter from rain. With its salad alternatives and flavorful sides, Breadwinner can probably accommodate most specialty diets, but its emphasis on sandwiches allow the shop to live up to its name and score an early victory for the Churchill.
901 N. 1st St., Phoenix AZ 85004
Roosevelt / Central Station