How Brown Bag Provisions Opened Just Before the COVID-19 Pandemic and Is Staying Open

Homemade jam is just a bit of what's created at Brown Bag Provisions.
Homemade jam is just a bit of what's created at Brown Bag Provisions. courtesy Stephanie Gilewicz
I first went into Brown Bag Provisions on my birthday. Which was March 17. Which was also the first day Dallas restaurants were closed for in-house dining.

But this Design District establishment, which opened March 9, was still busy. Sure, people were getting items such as a stellar pastrami sandwich to go. But the couple behind this place also was getting massive orders of yogurt going to Central Market.

“[It's] through the roof in sales; everyone wants to be as healthy as possible,” says Stephanie Gilewicz, who owns Brown Bag with husband Brent.

It turns out this local yogurt is also another thing that people are quickly swiping off grocery store shelves right now.

Their approach is simple.

click to enlarge How yogurt gets made; it's much prettier than watching sausage get made (whether we're talking the meat or politics). - COURTESY STEPHANIE GILEWICZ
How yogurt gets made; it's much prettier than watching sausage get made (whether we're talking the meat or politics).
courtesy Stephanie Gilewicz
“This is a homemade product. It's made by hand,” she says. “It's simple, it’s milk and live culture; if you get it flavored, it's fresh fruit flavor, a bit of sugar.”

Plus, the containers are simple, reusable and microwavable; and you're getting 8 ounces of yogurt, not 5 to 6 ounces like we normally see.

“We're keeping it as inexpensive as possible, and we want to make this affordable and accessible for everyone,” Gilewicz says.

Brent is the main one cooking in the kitchen, run by the two. So the yogurt really is coming from these two, with the exception of the occasional friend who may help with packaging crates.

The Gilewiczes started leasing the Design District property last May — they worked to have Stack's Sandwich Company formerly in it. The space was formerly a kitchen for Celebrity Bakery, so there's a modest front-of-house area and a fairly large kitchen.

“We’re in this kitchen most days anyway. ... So we turned what we thought was a really drab dining room to make it to feel more like home,” she says.

That's translated into plenty of light flowing through the dining room, with movie posters of their favorite films, cookbooks with their favorite recipes and a menu full of incredible sandwiches — think bread, cheese and meats that are all coming freshly made, produced or cured in the back.

Plus, some grocery items, which in the Design District should be a welcome addition.

click to enlarge Yes, they make their own butter. - COURTESY STEPHANIE GILEWICZ
Yes, they make their own butter.
courtesy Stephanie Gilewicz
“We wanted to do breakfast and lunch, but we loved the idea of provisions,” Gilewicz says. “There’s just not a lot of grocery places around here.”

It's true: If you live in the Design District (or in normal time work there), getting to a grocery store means battling Harry Hines, Interstate 35, etc. Some staples are nice. They're nicer when so many of them are made in-house, too.

Even though their concept changed to takeout so quickly after opening, the neighborhood's responding.

“We had a wonderful first week. We opened right before the crazy. Afterward, we didn’t know what we were supposed to do, are we supposed to close?” Gilewicz says. “The community has been incredibly good to us. ... People keep coming back.”

She relates it to when they started yogurt: People thanked the couple for producing something that was making a difference in their lives, and they're now doing the same with their efforts to keep the restaurant open.

click to enlarge House-cured bacon is better bacon. - COURTESY STEPHANIE GILEWICZ
House-cured bacon is better bacon.
courtesy Stephanie Gilewicz
It makes sense: Those sandwiches are the kind you think of when lunchtime rolls around, and you want that sandwich that's next level, one that you rarely have time to make in your own kitchen. (Again, you may have time now; but in normal time, not so much.) Back to that pastrami sandwich, for example: That meat takes seven days to prepare for the right amount of greatness.

“Brown Bag is a name that makes sense: When you’re a little kid and your mom makes a lunch, and maybe there’s a little note in there. You know that lunch was packed with love,” Gilewicz says. “For us, it's far more about this genuine hospitality. There’s no gimmicks, not a lot of machinery, everything’s done by hand. Brent cooks the same for me the same way he cooks for customers.”

Brown Bag Provisions, 150 Turtle Creek Blvd., Suite 202 (Design District). Call 469-317-7164 for takeout.
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Taylor Adams has written about the restaurant industry for the Dallas Observer since 2016. Now the Observer's food editor, she attended Southern Methodist University before covering local news at The Dallas Morning News.