How to mingle

Naked Lunch packs bold flavors into classic sandwiches

Susan France

It may just be the holiday season, or that the name of the shop implies it, but the sandwiches at Naked Lunch had me thinking about parties.

The reuben was a lesson in how to mingle, the pastrami on rye showed how to be the life of the party and the portobello banh mi demonstrated how to know when it’s time to go home.

The reuben was pleasant; nothing overbearing in it, nothing too quiet. The bread was undertoasted and it was short on rye, but it held up remarkably well given a healthy amount of cole slaw (which replaced the traditional sauerkraut) and Thousand Island dressing. The corned beef was tender and salty sweet. Though the meat is piled high in most reubens to help balance the stronger elements of sauerkraut, rye and dressing, here it was stacked a bit less than high because the slaw, rye and cheese had limited influence. It was a pleasant bite. “It was nice to meet you, but you’re no pastrami.”

And how could you be? The pastrami on rye was exciting and bold, like a guest who hops on the piano or, my goodness, does magic and somehow everyone loves it. From outside in: the rye was toasted better (which indicates nothing more than a case of inconsis tent toasting; Naked Lunch opened in October so they get the benefit of the doubt); the mustard was spiced and hot, hitting the palate first and last; pickled red cabbage was crunchy and tangy; and the pastrami was smoky, rich, juicy and walloping. All were apportioned right, which was important because, given the volume of these ingredients, the whole sandwich would’ve been compromised if any one thing were askew.

And that’s sort of what happened with the banh mi. The bread was a crusty ciabatta — no doubt the best part of the sandwich. But the portobello mushrooms were deep and rooty and did not mingle with the bright cilantro and spicy tomato mayonnaise. And they downright picked a fight with the pick led vegetables and the whole thing was kind of uncomfortable. Ginger lingered, but she didn’t really know what she was doing there to begin with.

Pulled pork is another option instead of the portobellos on the banh mi, and it might have balanced the sandwich better by adding resistance for a better bite, and fat for a more harmonious taste.

The reuben, pastrami and banh mi are three of four sandwiches on the menu, which will rotate according to seasonal and local availability of ingredients. Naked Lunch also offers soups, salads and baked goods.

Otherwise, the food arrived quickly, the order-taker was friendly, the store was clean and bright, and we even got a free dog-shaped cookie. In fact, Naked Lunch’s vegan and glutenfree cookie and pastry options look marvelous — the vegan gingersnap was light and moist.

The sandwiches at Naked Lunch varied from fair to great, but what you can at least say about this new establishment is that, despite hiding in the Peloton complex on Arapahoe and 33rd, they’re not afraid to be bold. And being bold does a good party make.