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Fearless Critic restaurant review

Mon–Fri 7:30am–3:30pm

Features Delivery, outdoor dining, veg-friendly, Wi-Fi
Bar None
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx


1715 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC
(202) 822-8900
Bread Line
A well-oiled sandwich machine

Behold the factory line in all its glory! There is the foreman, brow furrowed, shouting at his crew. Next to him each worker, again and again, repeats his task, fabricating a small piece that will eventually combine to make the whole. The bread is sliced, the greens are washed, the mayonnaise is spread, the cheese added, the sandwich folded together.

Bread Line is a much-sanitized scene from Upton Sinclair. Instead of a Chicago slaughterhouse, however, we have a do-goody bakery that also happens to make some of the best bread in Washington. The line of corporate and World Bank-type lunchers wrapping through the store and out onto the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk seems something out of farce (or Soviet Russia): the length of the line is almost enough to make an interloper turn around and march right down to the Così next door, compromising quality for the freedom from crowds.

But unlike the Soviet ration lines, Bread Line’s lunch queue moves quickly. The order takers are adept at turning down substitution requests, and referring still-wavering diners to the menu out front. Cashiers ring in orders in record time, and begin to sigh audibly at wallets buried too deeply inside bags; every second counts.

Bread Line’s resulting sandwiches are delicious; they offer proof that good food can be made without art (no one is thinking about your individual sandwich as he slaps tomatoes on a hundred of them). The basis for such quality is, of course, the bread, all of which is baked in-house. Bread Line’s famous baguette is sour and dense, with a crunchy exterior and a consistency that requires a strong jaw to pull free a bite. The sliced whole wheat is held together more loosely, and features a small enough sprinkling of barley and oats to give the bread flavor without weighing it down.

The sandwich combinations are thoughtful with respect to taste and texture: the baguette pairs well with salami, cheese, red peppers, and arugula, while the wheat gives a fine mix of textures with dill-and-caper cream cheese, thin-sliced lox, chunks of cucumber, and a heaving handful of spicy watercress. Not every combo will be earth-shattering, and $9 for a ham sandwich might seem a bit steep, but when you consider the great bread, fresh veggies and the distance to the nearest excellent banh mi, it seems worth it.

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