The Lunch Box

November 22, 2009

An old saying states, "Hunger is the best sauce."

After a strenuous hike, the Professor and I were indeed hungry. Thankfully, in the middle of the afternoon, we stumbled into the Lunch Box on Conococheague Street in Williamsport.

Many visitors come into Williamsport hungry. Bikers and walkers use the nearby C&O Canal towpath. Fishers and boaters use nearby waterways. Motorists drive down from Interstate 81 or come across the Potomac River from West Virginia along U.S. 11. Williamsport has always been a crossroads.

All the hungry people, locals and travellers, can enjoy a good down-home meal at The Lunch Box. A large, red-and-yellow sign directed us to the door of a three-story brick building in the middle of the block.


We entered a small antechamber and through a door to the left. We were in a small space with seating for about 20 people at square tables with folding chairs. We were heartily welcomed and seated by our waitress, Amy, who immediately brought us hot drinks of Lipton tea and coffee.

The whiteboard listed the specials of the day; we chose these over the menu of sandwiches, wraps, subs and soups. I asked for the turkey dinner special ($6.95), and the Professor ordered the cheeseburger ($4.95). As we waited for our meal, I looked out the window and read the name in reverse in large red script written on the window. On the ledge of the window was a display of 10 lunch boxes.

Lunch boxes! I was really hungry and not thinking clearly. It took me a while to connect the name of the restaurant with the presence of these antique lunch boxes decorated with Mickey Mouse, Pink Poodles, Betty Boop, Spider Man and the band Moscow. There were also several ancient lunchboxes that were used by workmen, not schoolchildren.

The turkey and stuffing came on a white china plate, served with two sides, succotash and potato salad. Heavy on starch, mainly white in color, the taste and texture were familiar, satisfying and delicious.

The turkey was a thick slice of real, cooked turkey. The stuffing was handmade by the owner and tasted like Thanksgiving dinner. The gravy on the side was flavorful and I poured it over the stuffing. The Professor pours gravy over turkey and we have discussed many times the value of pouring gravy over meat versus over starch.

The succotash, an old standard of my childhood, was basic lima beans and corn liberally coated with butter. The potato salad was a sweet salad with pickles.

The Professor's hamburger special came with one side and a drink. The burger was plump and tasty and served on a red plastic plate. He chose all the trimmings -- onion, pickle, tomato, lettuce, hot peppers and mayonnaise. The Professor especially liked the roll, which was high and firm. His side dish was cole slaw, a sweet slaw with good cabbage and carrots and a mayonnaise dressing but no onion or pepper.

Our waitress returned and told us that if we came on Wednesday, we could have meatloaf as the special. Then one of the owners, Diana Church, came to join us. She told us that she made the meatloaf herself. Although The Lunch Box just opened Oct. 5, the owners had run another Williamsport restaurant for eight years a while back.

These people knew how to run a restaurant. The food choices were all people pleasers. The restaurant was attractive, with golden walls and striped cafe curtains. A sign on the wall read "Good Food. Good Friends. Good Times." Another sign read simply, "Welcome."

There was a meticulous cleanliness about the place that was good. We had not planned to eat so much, but we were content now and decided to sit a while longer and enjoy dessert. The waitress strongly recommended the apple dumpling with ice cream, and she was right. It was outstanding and we both nibbled the apple-cinnamon glaze that covered the treat. The apple-spice cake with walnuts and a spicy, cream-cheese frosting was good, but I will order the apple dumpling when I return.

The waitress was very attentive and talked with us at length. We felt at home. The food was down home. The conversation was easy going. The outdoors was grey and wet. We could have sat all afternoon in the golden room of The Lunch Box.

Omni Vore is a pseudonym for a Herald-Mail freelance writer who reviews restaurants anonymously to avoid special treatment.

The Lunch Box

4 stars

Food: 4 stars (out of 5)

Service: 5 stars

Ambiance: 3 stars

Value: 5 stars

Address: 20 S. Conococheague St., Williamsport.

Phone: 301-223-7723

Hours: 11 a.m to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday

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