4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

How to find Alex’s Brown Bag

When it comes to Philly-style cheesesteaks, where’s a Feaster to look?

A built to spec cheesesteak credited to Alex's Brown Bag, now part of an OB bar kitchen
A built to spec cheesesteak credited to Alex's Brown Bag, now part of an OB bar kitchen
Place

Mother's Saloon

2228 Bacon Street, San Diego

Just a few years ago, it made a list of “the best cheesesteaks outside Philly” compiled by the Food Network, but when I went looking for Alex’s Brown Bag at its home inside Pacific Beach pub Latitude 32, it was gone. I guess Food Network fame doesn’t guarantee longevity, I thought at the time. Tread lightly, Hodad’s and Blue Water.

A buffalo chicken cheesesteak, with provolone and ranch dressing

Turns out, the only problem here was my timing. Last year, the Brown Bag moved from inside one beach town bar, to another: Mother’s Saloon, in Ocean Beach. I have to imagine Alex’s regular customers were more on top of this change than I was. They’d already followed the business when it moved on from its original location in Bankers Hill a few years back. I can’t claim as much. Never-changing red lights and backed up traffic in left-turn lanes successfully prevented me from entering Pacific Beach for seven years, and by time I made it there, Calozzi’s Cheeesesteaks had opened.

But I know how to make it into Ocean Beach without getting stuck at a single traffic light, so off I went, looking for the cheesesteak I barely recall eating, it’s been so long. Full disclosure: I’d never entered Mother’s Saloon before, at least not since it was a would-be rock club called Dream Street, which only booked bands willing to sell tickets to friends.

Sports on TV, but no Philly sports paraphernalia at mother's Saloon

The place is apparently more of a sports bar now, with loads of TV screens showing replays of football and basketball games when I walked in. I couldn’t spot any signs of Alex’s Brown Bag at first, though I did see plenty of Mother’s Saloon menus, and wondered if I had once again showed up too late. Maybe the cheesesteaks had moved on to Imperial Beach or something?

But all I was missing this time was a flip of the laminated menu. Mother’s Saloon makes and serves its assorted burgers, wings, and nachos, but now shares its kitchen with the Brown Bag. I’m assured that, while the same cook makes both sides for their menu, the cheesesteak side adheres to the recipes the place always relied on, meaning the standard cheesesteak ($6.75 half, $11.50 whole) still grills onions, peppers, and mushrooms with its Philly-sourced beef, and still piles it on the traditional Philly-baked Amoroso Roll with melting American cheese, provolone, or cheez whiz.

Mother's Saloon, now an Ocean Beach sports bar and cheesesteak venue

Which, of course, makes it authentically cheesesteaky, and capable of satisfying all associated Philly cheesesteak cravings. Even less traditional fare, such as the chicken cheesesteak slathered with buffalo sauce and ranch dressing, makes a tasty belly filler to go with the beers being poured in this saloon. While this iteration of Alex’s doesn’t lose anything by moving from one back of the bar kitchen to another, it doesn’t feel special enough for national top ten lists. While I don’t miss the Philadelphia Eagles paraphernalia plastered on the walls of most standalone cheesesteak restaurants, some sort of Philly soul here would give these ‘steaks charm. They’re maybe third best in the city at this point.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

San Diego Reader's Best Of issue

Best place for locals, best day drinking park, local seafood, the Athenaeum, before the Casbah re-opens, Pocket Beach, Horsethief Canyon, a bonsai best, San Diego buses
A built to spec cheesesteak credited to Alex's Brown Bag, now part of an OB bar kitchen
A built to spec cheesesteak credited to Alex's Brown Bag, now part of an OB bar kitchen
Place

Mother's Saloon

2228 Bacon Street, San Diego

Just a few years ago, it made a list of “the best cheesesteaks outside Philly” compiled by the Food Network, but when I went looking for Alex’s Brown Bag at its home inside Pacific Beach pub Latitude 32, it was gone. I guess Food Network fame doesn’t guarantee longevity, I thought at the time. Tread lightly, Hodad’s and Blue Water.

A buffalo chicken cheesesteak, with provolone and ranch dressing

Turns out, the only problem here was my timing. Last year, the Brown Bag moved from inside one beach town bar, to another: Mother’s Saloon, in Ocean Beach. I have to imagine Alex’s regular customers were more on top of this change than I was. They’d already followed the business when it moved on from its original location in Bankers Hill a few years back. I can’t claim as much. Never-changing red lights and backed up traffic in left-turn lanes successfully prevented me from entering Pacific Beach for seven years, and by time I made it there, Calozzi’s Cheeesesteaks had opened.

But I know how to make it into Ocean Beach without getting stuck at a single traffic light, so off I went, looking for the cheesesteak I barely recall eating, it’s been so long. Full disclosure: I’d never entered Mother’s Saloon before, at least not since it was a would-be rock club called Dream Street, which only booked bands willing to sell tickets to friends.

Sports on TV, but no Philly sports paraphernalia at mother's Saloon

The place is apparently more of a sports bar now, with loads of TV screens showing replays of football and basketball games when I walked in. I couldn’t spot any signs of Alex’s Brown Bag at first, though I did see plenty of Mother’s Saloon menus, and wondered if I had once again showed up too late. Maybe the cheesesteaks had moved on to Imperial Beach or something?

But all I was missing this time was a flip of the laminated menu. Mother’s Saloon makes and serves its assorted burgers, wings, and nachos, but now shares its kitchen with the Brown Bag. I’m assured that, while the same cook makes both sides for their menu, the cheesesteak side adheres to the recipes the place always relied on, meaning the standard cheesesteak ($6.75 half, $11.50 whole) still grills onions, peppers, and mushrooms with its Philly-sourced beef, and still piles it on the traditional Philly-baked Amoroso Roll with melting American cheese, provolone, or cheez whiz.

Mother's Saloon, now an Ocean Beach sports bar and cheesesteak venue

Which, of course, makes it authentically cheesesteaky, and capable of satisfying all associated Philly cheesesteak cravings. Even less traditional fare, such as the chicken cheesesteak slathered with buffalo sauce and ranch dressing, makes a tasty belly filler to go with the beers being poured in this saloon. While this iteration of Alex’s doesn’t lose anything by moving from one back of the bar kitchen to another, it doesn’t feel special enough for national top ten lists. While I don’t miss the Philadelphia Eagles paraphernalia plastered on the walls of most standalone cheesesteak restaurants, some sort of Philly soul here would give these ‘steaks charm. They’re maybe third best in the city at this point.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Driving a Pinto like it’s a Porsche

The pinnacle of automotive coolness
Next Article

Ryan Bowers’ posthumous collaboration with Crhymes

“His fingers kept twitching. His sweaty head was a little shaky. His lips were moving, but no words were coming out.”
Comments
1
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
Jan. 4, 2020

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close