If there were a restaurant well-suited to trying times of pandemic and protest, it might be a place that emphasizes comforting foods familiar to many but still allowing for a little exploration. It might also be a place that plates and packages everything it serves in a way that works equally well for on-site dining or takeout. In downtown Mesa, Worth Takeaway reflects that theme not only in its approach, but even its name. Since its start five years ago, the restaurant has expanded its hours, menu, and space while staying true to the idea of food worth taking away.
Worth Takeaway is situated just a block east of the Country Club / Main light rail station in the western end of Mesa’s walkable city center. 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 identified by its large patio, currently in use as a waiting area for to-go orders until Worth’s owners decide it is appropriate to resume on-site dining. During ordinary times, the patio can be a busy space that supplements Worth’s two small interior dining rooms.
The decor is simple but pleasant with a counter facing outward toward Main Street and walls decorated with prints celebrating big names in local mid-century modern architecture such as Al Beadle, Ralph Haver and W.A. Sarmiento. To the left of the counter where customers place their orders, just past a refrigerated beverage case, a second dining room has been added via a takeover of an adjacent storefront. The total seating area is still small, but that growth included a valuable amenity that the original Worth Takeaway lacked: a customer bathroom.
Worth describes its food as “craft sandwiches.” There’s a strong emphasis on local purveyors, beginning with the bread. Chewy ciabatta is the foundation of several popular sandwiches that lead the menu. Crispy chicken, one of the restaurant’s signature dishes from day one, is enlivened by spicy pickles, as well as a honey sriracha sauce. The Buffalo chicken sandwich adds spicy, tangy sauce; ranch dressing; and bleu cheese crumbles. The Reuben is an original take on a classic with pastrami, coarsely cut sauerkraut, mustard, and havarti cheese.
A hoagie roll is the basis for the Cuban sandwich filled with roasted pork and havarti accentuated with spicy pickles and mustard, as well an Italian Grinder full of cured meats. Focaccia is featured with roast beef and the Calabrian turkey sandwich. A meatless choice is a grilled cheese sandwich available in multiple variants. The classic model is served on sourdough with a side of tomato soup, but an alternative version incorporates fruits, nuts, and blackberry lime jam to accentuate the dairy layer of melted white cheddar and havarti.
The sandwiches are all served with a choice of house-made chips or a simple green salad. Fries can be substituted for a small additional charge. Although it’s hard to imagine anyone voluntarily passing up the quality breads here, almost any sandwich can be reinterpreted as a bowl with greens combined with cherry tomatoes or sweet potatoes. Other non-sandwich options include creamy mac-and-cheese topped with Buffalo chicken, crispy chicken bites with fries or a bleu cheese dip, and a hearty Worth burger available only after four in the afternoon.
Although Worth’s primary emphasis is on lunch and dinner, there’s a small breakfast menu. A croque madame, made with either smoked ham or pastrami, serves as a morning sandwich. A hash made with sweet potatoes and rotisserie chicken is a filling breakfast entree, and a simple combination of granola, yogurt, and jam is a lighter option. Worth also has a children’s menu, a natural fit given the shop’s proximity to both the i.d.e.a. Museum and the Arizona Museum of Natural History, with smaller servings of items like chicken bites or grilled cheese.
With the restaurant’s core menu well established, Worth continues to add variety with weekly features such as fish tacos or a meatloaf sandwich. Even more adventure is evident in the Monday night supper, a reason to visit on the day of the week that is often least busy for most restaurants. On that night, specials available starting at four might include chicken and dumplings with poultry and gnocchi in a light sauce or a patty melt consisting of a beef patty, cheddar cheese, Dijon mustard, and sauteed onions between two slices of marble rye.
For dessert, there is one item that has been on the menu since day one: a smooth banana pudding full of mashed fruit and wafer cookies. Supplemental items offered from time to time, most often on weekends, have included additional choices like peach butter cake or a lemon trifle with crushed graham crackers on the bottom and fresh raspberries on top. Additional sweets from other local purveyors like Noi Cacoa chocolate bars are offered for sale in the restaurant and at the affiliated Mesa Farmers Market located a mile to the east at Pioneer Park.
Worth Takeaway’s beverage selection includes cold brew coffee, peach iced tea, and sodas. There is currently no liquor license; however, several nearby watering holes like Chupacabra Taproom and Oro Brewing Company allow outside food, effectively shortening the taking away in the restaurant’s name to only a few storefronts or a short walk around the corner. Whether the food is consumed on site (when the time comes), transported to a nearby venue, or taken several miles to be enjoyed at home, this restaurant makes the takeaway worth the journey.
218 W. Main St., Mesa AZ 85201
Country Club / Main Station