Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Not Just Any Old Spa

“BEER - WINE - LUNCH - GROCERIES.” With its old, plain sign, The Brookline Spa doesn’t look like much from the outside. It appears to be just another hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop. The moment you step inside, though, it is obvious that this tiny eatery is far from ordinary.

The wall of the interior is plastered with framed photographs of professional athletes, many of them signed. There’s the famous snapshot of Bill Russell blocking Wilt Chamberlain on one wall, and on another lies a colorful photo of Fenway Park with a thank-you note from Sox owner John Henry scribbled in the center.

If you’re looking for a place to dress up and treat your date to an elegant meal, you’ve come to the wrong spot. This is a place to stop in for a quick bite during lunch break or for a tasty hangout with a few buddies after work. There are no tables; the only seating is a long countertop against the window that can seat up to seven people. Tall stools are required.

It isn’t the layout or the decor, though, that distinguishes The Brookline Spa from other restaurants; it’s the menu and the people - staff and customers - that makes it so special.

It’s never a surprise to see a police car or ambulance parked outside of The Spa, and it’s not because people are having heart attacks. They are regular patrons, along with the townies, manual laborers, and students. If you are a frequent customer, and there are many, there is a good chance that the friendly staff will know you by your first name.

The most distinguishable character is Cliff, the loud, yet personable owner. In his mid-to-late forties, Cliff’s booming voice and mild Bostonian accent can frequently be heard making inside jokes to his most common customers. The rest of the staff is much younger, in their low-twenties, but Cliff only hires people who can serve up jokes along with the delicious food.

Choosing just one item from the menu, however, can be challenging. If you’ve stopped in for a sub or a sandwich, you’ll discover that there is much more to choose from than a chicken parm or a small Italian. Priced from $5.59 to $7.79, the dark, hanging menu boasts “Spa’s Top 25,” twenty-five original creations that will surely satisfy the needs of various palates. Most of the names are unique, too, ranging from “The Texan” (chicken cutlet with bacon, BBQ sauce, jalapeno cheese, lettuce, and tomato) to “The Goosey” (turkey on grilled marble rye with Russian dressing, Swiss cheese, and cole slaw). If you’re not in the mood to experiment, they serve all of the items you would find at a typical sandwich shop as well.

Then, of course, there are the Gangster Wraps: seventeen unique wraps that are named after famous gangsters, real and fictional. The Teflon Don, Al Capone, Marlon Brando, and Tony Soprano are a few on the list. All Gangster Wraps are $5.99.

A little over a decade ago, The Spa began offering pizza. Though a bit pricey ($2.35 for cheese, $3.45 for specialty), the slices are large and hearty. Their menu has just a few specialty options, and their list of toppings is limited, but they really hit the nail on the head with the pies that they do make. Their signature pizza is The Buffalo. It is pure buffalo chicken bliss: buffalo tenders, hot sauce, mozzarella cheese, and chunky bleu cheese complete this unmatched pie. One slice easily qualifies as a complete lunch. Their other specialty pizzas are nothing to overlook either, including the flavorful Ranch Pizza and the mouth-watering BBQ Chicken Pizza.

Though not as popular as their subs, wraps and pizza, The Spa covers all bases and also serves salads, burgers, paninis, and pasta.

The Brookline Spa has a warm atmosphere and an unparalleled selection of tasty food. If their menu sounds unhealthy, you are probably right. Such is often the case with delicious food. If you are on a diet, though, there is a small selection of healthy choice sandwiches for $5.99 each that are all under 400 calories. Just don’t expect to find any juicy, buffalo chicken in those tame sandwiches; if you’re looking for a healthy spot, it would be best for you to bring your business elsewhere.

The Brookline Spa’s menu can be found at They also sell a small selection of pastries, candy, chips, beer, and wine.

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