IF YOU GO
Where: Lunch Box Deli, 5959 Shallowford Road, Suite 201
Hours: 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday
Price range: 50 cents (cookie)-$8 (lunch combo with whole sandwich, small soup and drink)
The variety of businesses in the Shallowford Road Business Park and the car dealerships across Highway 153 on Chapman Road don't have a busy Brainerd Road, Highway 58 or Hixson Pike from which to choose in making breakfast and lunch choices.
So the Lunch Box Deli, a small restaurant tucked into a corner of the business park, has somewhat of a captive audience.
But to attract customers, any place has to be good or will be gone.
Fortunately, the restaurant, which changed ownership and changed its name from The Little Lunch Box just over a year ago, seems to have a handle on that.
Since the name of the restaurant now includes the word "deli," deli sandwiches are its bread and butter.
Customers can design their sandwich by choosing from seven kinds of bread, 10 Boar's Head meats or sandwich spreads, six varieties of cheese and 12 toppings, with a whole sandwich $4.75 and a half sandwich $2.75.
There are also six specialty sandwiches such as the Club ($6.25), Reuben ($4.75) and the Veggie Man ($4.25); three wraps ($5-$6.25); and eight salads (from $3.25 from a small Caesar to $7 for a large Chef or Grilled Chicken).
For further variety, there are Basic, Deluxe or Chili baked potatoes ($4.25-$5.50) and soups ($2.75 for an 8-ounce bowl; $3.75 for a 12-ounce bowl). Chili, Santa Fe and Vegetable are available every day.
Happily, if a customer is in the mood for chili but also wants a grilled cheese sandwich, or wants to pair tuna salad with fruit, he can do that.
For $7, you can get a whole sandwich, chips or small side and drink. For $7.50, you can choose a half sandwich, large soup and drink. And for $8, you can get a whole sandwich, small soup and drink. Or, for $7.50, you can pick from a variety of half sandwiches, soup, potatoes, salads and fruits cups.
Desserts range from a 50-cent cookie to a $1.50 slice of cake.
For the early-to-work crowd, the Lunch Box Deli also offers several egg sandwiches, or croissants, toast, muffins or bagels.
The restaurant also delivers ($15 minimum) and caters.
Since we were visiting a deli, I opted to create my own sandwich. I choose black-pepper pastrami with hot pepper jack cheese on whole wheat, accompanied by lettuce, tomato, onion, banana peppers, horseradish sauce and Creole mustard. As part of my $7 lunch combo, I also chose a small Greek pasta salad and drink, which you fill yourself.
The sandwich and salad arrived moments after I sat down, and I realized I had forgotten to ask for the sandwich to be heated. When I did, it was whisked away and returned warmer in short order.
I am not shy about grumbling to anyone who will listen about how national fast-food joints advertise mouthwatering sandwiches with an inch of meats, cheeses and condiments between two pieces of bread and then deliver what appears to be two pieces of bread with nothing showing between them.
At Lunch Box Deli, this is not the case. The soft wheat bread on my sandwich could barely hold all the ingredients inside, and the taste of black pepper pastrami, hot pepper-jack cheese, onion, banana peppers, horseradish sauce and Creole mustard made quite a spicy mouthful.
I could pick out black olives, onion, green pepper and feta cheese in the small salad, which was tasty if not a tiny bit too wet with dressing.
My brother pronounced his chili cheese potato, which came with sour cream, butter, cheese and a "very beany" chili, as "pretty good" and "slightly above average."
The chocolate chip cookies we topped off our meal with were good but did not appear to be homemade.
You order at the counter at the Lunch Box Deli, and your order is quickly delivered. I mean quickly. And, perhaps, since many of the customers have to rush back to their offices or dealerships, the speed is intentional. And that speed didn't seem to slacken as the restaurant filled up around noon.
The deli is bright and cheery with various walls painted red, mustard yellow, burnt orange and brown (or purple, my brother thought), with abstract artwork on the walls. If that sounds garish, it's not; it's actually calming. The restaurant will hold nearly 50 people with five tables of four, two of three, eight of two and a wall bar that seats five. There's even a couple of metal silver lunch boxes to tie in the name.
I love the variety of the menu, the prices are very reasonable and my meal was good enough that I would give it another try if I'm in the area at lunch. Sadly, though, I can't pick up dinner there since it closes at 2:30 p.m. But it seems to be a big hit and is located well for the area.
Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...