I found out about the Brown Bag when I spotted its menu in a window at Footsy Magoo’s, an eclectic, sign-less gem of a bar smack-dab in downtown Troy. (I would later find out that said menu was also taped at eye level above the urinal in the bathroom — a masterstroke of marketing genius, in my humble opinion.) Even though my friend and I had already eaten dinner, I suggested we check it out anyway because the concept was too good to ignore: The Brown Bag is open from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Owner Terry Matthews came up with the idea after a night out. He had just left the Ruck, a late-night Troy institution, and was craving a burger. The problem? At that time the only places open late at night were pizza parlors; if you wanted a decent burger, you had to cross the river. That’s when the idea popped into his head — a late-night place that made good, cheap food to satisfy both night owls and the inebriated masses. At the time, Matthews was working as a bartender at the Desmond Hotel, and it wasn’t until his shifts started to dwindle that he decided to go all in on this new venture.
Late-night lunch? Troy’s Brown Bag is open all night, offering a small menu of sandwiches and sides. Pete Liporace (below) spreads the word
Located at the corner of Fourth and Ferry streets, the Brown Bag resides in a space that was once a pizza shop. It’s sparsely furnished — there’s some built-in seating along the window front; a handful of small tables with a couple of chairs; a couch with a coffee table; and a larger table in the back. It’s got that coffee-shop vibe going; when we walked in, all the tables were occupied with students chatting and playing board games. You can also opt to sit at the counter, which offers a couple of bonuses. You can see your food being prepared, and you may get to chat with Terry or one of his friendly employees. It really feels like you are hanging out at someone’s apartment.
One thing you need to know before going in: You should be prepared to wait. All food is made to order. Even though Matthews has hired a few additional staff members, it’s still mostly a two-man operation. Most weeknights you’ll find Pete Liporace working alongside Matthews; he’ll happily take your order while slyly pushing their delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Their menu, which is described as “delicious American food,” is small, simple, and focused on items that one would be craving late at night — burgers, fries, breakfast sandwiches, and grilled cheese, with a small selection of toppings. The American fries are first deep fried, then quickly tossed in melted butter and a spicy seasoning. On Wednesday nights they offer the South Troy Burger — topped with applewood smoked bacon and served on a glazed doughnut with a smear of peanut butter. The Brown Bag purchases meat from Reliable Brothers in Green Island; their doughnuts from the Schuyler Bakery in Watervliet; and their spice mixes from Tom LaChapelle, owner of Kitchen Kick’N in Troy.
The Brown Bag
156 Fourth St., Troy. Open daily 6 p.m.-6 a.m. Now accepting credit cards
» Get directions to The Brown Bag in Troy, NY
» Go to www.facebook.com/thebrownbagtroy
» Go to the Hudson Valley Restaurants Guide
» Go to the Hudson Valley Food & Drink Guide