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The bomb

Bold PB&J concept takes America's ubiquitous lunchbox stuffer into a delicious new realm



The line was proving me wrong. Way wrong.

After talking with Opb&j's Chris McAdams in early May, I couldn't shake a feeling that the vision he and co-owner James Killebrew had — for an organic-minded, peanut-butter-and-jelly-only restaurant — was more than a little crazy. Nutty, even. (Zing!)

My rationale: Who would pay $5 for a PB&J? You can buy a loaf of bread and jars of the smearings for little more; this was one sandwich versus a week's worth. And we aren't talking about an item that requires a lot of prep time or, really, anything more than unscrewing lids and waving a butter knife.

But there I was, seated at a long community table in a bright, clean, home-décor-magazine-ready dining room, watching a string of people extend past the sandwich-building station toward Bijou Street. And these people weren't sporting the universal waiting-in-line face. They were smiling and enthusiastic.

Apparently, if you give folks more than 700 mostly organic PB&J variations (with about 10 options each for bread, peanut butter and jelly), with New Mexico-grown Sunland peanut butters and exotic, Palisade-grown Colorado Mountain Jam jellies, damn Skippy they'll queue up in a Jif. (Truly, horribly apologetic.)

To be clear, Opb&j's sandwiches are a little heftier than the average homemade PB&J, thanks largely to thick-cut Great Harvest and gluten-free Ceres' Kitchen breads and generous smatterings of the goods. Choose a house-made fruit smash, a chunky purée, for the same price as jelly if you prefer. And then there are toppings ($1 for as many as you'd like) such as watercress and sprouts that help make up the aptly named bestselling sandwich, the Bomb: Thai ginger peanut butter and ginger pear jelly on wheatberry. It's got a little bite, a great flavor and a surprising amount of sustenance, actually filling you up for lunch.

Other, less decked-out options (though there is a $7 double-decker option) may demand a healthy side item, such as a bag of peanuts or a Mrs. May's Trio Bar or Bora Bora Bar (all $2). All sandwiches otherwise come wrapped in wax paper with a thin carrot and celery stick. A small cooler also offers milk, Naked Juice and sparkling water choices ($1.50 to $5).

Over two visits, we concocted the following sandwich combinations (bread, peanut butter, jelly or smash): rye, onion and parsley, plum; sourdough, cinnamon, Bing cherry; wheatberry, Spicy Southwestern, peach jalapeño; gluten-free herb, hickory smoked, ginger pear (plus veggies); gluten-free herb, vanilla cranberry, strawberry and pineapple smash; and wheatberry, dark chocolate, strawberry.

You can easily guess which played more of a savory role and which were super-sweeties. Each worked, in its own way. The Spicy Southwestern picked up the peach jelly's jalapeño, for instance, and the plum managed to fuse nicely with the veggie and herb tones on the rye sandwich. The most surprising flavors, like the hickory smoked peanut butter, just made me want to experiment more.

And that's what I immediately loved about this place: It invites play, reinventing a staid staple of lazy lunches.

Killebrew and McAdams, both 46-year-old former corporate event planners, not surprisingly envision growth into airports, schools and restaurants. And they certainly should. I stand corrected on their concept's viability. No doubt: They're some clever mother-Smuckers.

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