Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lunchbox Food Review

B'more Sandwich

Perhaps Chevy Chase Pavilion should turn over all its operations to Bryan Voltaggio: The Top Chef & Top Chef Masters runner-up seems to do no wrong. His latest enterprise Lunchbox just opened, and has already become my favorite sandwich shop in DC. It's a tad pricey (I spent $21.45 for a sandwich, soda, soup & applesauce) but I'd gladly pay it again (and probably will) assuming they stay courteous, creative and delicious.

It took awhile to open (over a year) but good great things come to those who wait. I missed its opening, but 10 days later... they already appear to be in mid-season form. Lunchbox is gorgeous to look at: It has a unique design... sleek and industrial, yet surprisingly comforting (it must be the flowers.) Rarer still, you feel completely removed from the hustle & bustle of the mall (truly amazing, given the eatery's relatively small size.) That's not to say that there isn't plenty going on inside: Employees rifle back & forth delivering drinks, food, etc. It's actually exciting to watch, and be part of.

Supreme Pizza Soup

I knew exactly what I wanted (Lunchbox offers 13 different sandwiches) so I went to the back register and placed an order for a B'more sandwich - pepper crusted pit beef, scallion bacon jam, tiger sauce and cheese (careful, it's not listed on the menu... I do my homework) for $12, a cup of Supreme Pizza soup (pepperoni, red bell peppers & tomato with focaccia croutons, $4) Roasted Applesauce (only $1.25!) and a fountain soda. Cashier Raven couldn't have been nicer, commenting on my Redskins' credit card (I apologized) and asking me how my day was going (after the transaction, so I knew it was genuine.) She also promised to bring my order (including flatware and napkins) to my table. Nice.

Roasted Applesauce

I grabbed a table in the back, and waited. The table wobbled (so soon?) but otherwise my surroundings were impeccable. Sanctuary-like, in fact. Clever too: Bar seats have convenient hooks at the ready, for purses, umbrellas, etc. The kitchen area (in plain view, right by the entrance) is manned by a professional staff that looks as impressive as it clearly is. One glance, and you just know your meal is going to taste good.

As you might expect, waits are a little longer than at the aforementioned Subway (30-minute lunches could be cutting it close.) My drink came first, then my tray of food deliciousness. Sandwiches come twice-wrapped and labeled (less mistakes) with soup and dessert in equally handsome packaging. Kudos also for stainless steel-colored plastic flatware. Very cool.

Food quality is extraordinary for fast casual, or any kind of style for that matter. The soup arrives at the perfect temperature (hot, but not too hot) with no visible grease or oil. It tastes as advertised (red peppers and tomatoes with a perfect bite of pepperoni). Focaccia cubes are on top, and smartly brushed with olive oil. It's like a creamy pizza. Delicious.

The party continues with the B'more... a panini of the first order. The bread (marble rye?) is chewy and tasty (so tasty, I even ate the crusts.) There's lots of good quality meat, although be warned... it's thick (keep a toothpick handy.) The tiger sauce is nice & rich, but I'd prefer a stronger taste of bacon (more jam/actual bacon?) I plan on eventually trying all 13 sandwiches; but the B'more makes a great first choice.

Smart packaging.

If you like applesauce, you're gonna love theirs. It's piping hot, lush and absolutely fantastic: I'll never look at my jar of Mott's the same again. I read one early review, which compared it to an apple pie; but I didn't catch the same sweetness. Still, it's as decadent as an apple pie (minus the calories, of course.) Did I mention it's only $1.25?

Lunchbox instantly becomes my new go-to destination for a quick bite in Friendship Heights. My movie critic duties take me to AMC Mazza almost every week; and I wouldn't be surprised if I stop here first, before each screening. Who knows? I might even like the movies better, with a good meal under my belt. Note to Hollywood studios: Send all freebies to Chef Bryan... Odds are, he's the one responsible for the uptick in positive reviews.