Here’s a question (notice Chow, Baby didn’t say it was a good question): When you were a little kid, what did you imagine lunchtime was like for grown-ups? There you are in the lunchroom, stroke of noon, pulling a ham sandwich, an apple, and a thermos of milk out of your Land of the Giants lunch box. Did you ever try to imagine what your parents were doing at that very moment?
The Lunch Box (6333 Camp Bowie Blvd.) feels like a little kid’s vision of big people’s lunch: It’s just like a kindergarten lunchroom, except the sandwiches are thicker and you can have seconds on dessert if you want. The menu, which matches the room’s color scheme of primary yellow and bright green, runs to noontime basics: American-style sandwiches and salads, with a soup or two. There’s also a tuna-salad-stuffed tomato ($6.75), something Chow, Baby hasn’t seen in about 25 years, about the same time it last saw a pimiento cheese sandwich ($5.50) – served with chips and a pickle spear, of course. There’s not a single post-1960s food invention, trendy spice, or architectural presentation at the Lunch Box, and its many zealous regulars like it that way.
It’s not hard to see why Lunch Box is so popular and has been since it opened in 1982. The pimiento-cheese spread is housemade with aged cheddar. A hot pastrami ($5.50) was meticulously trimmed and piled more than an inch high. (If pastrami is too exotic for you, go with the roast beef or the egg salad, on choice of white, whole wheat, or rye.) Chow, Baby’s combo ($7.75) was a trifecta: fluffy quiche buried in melted cheddar; chunks of fresh fruit with a marvelous poppyseed dressing; and black bean soup, rich and flavorful with small chunks of sausage. Housemade desserts include killer-sweet coconut cream pie, $2.25. Though Chow, Baby generally shies from revisiting its childhood fantasies, the Lunch Box is a delicious exception.
Life in Translation
Having conquered taco-ordering, Chow, Baby’s next linguistic goal is to understand the goings-on in its favorite telenovela, the Mexican soap opera La Fea más Bella. The title translates as “The Prettiest Ugly Girl,” and anyone who’s eaten in a taqueria or mariscos restaurante at 7 p.m. or 10 p.m. on a weeknight has seen it: The lead is a spunky señorita whose thick glasses, frumpy clothes, and geeky hairdo prevent people from appreciating her brains, charm, and genuine inner beauty. It’s like they stole Chow, Baby’s entire life and translated it into Spanish.
At 6:55 p.m. on a recent weeknight Chow, Baby rushed into Taqueria Eva (3401 N. Main St.), grabbed a guava from the full line of Jarritos in the refrigerated case, efficiently ordered at the counter, and settled into the corner table next to the tv. From the opening credits, Chow, Baby gathers that Lety is crushing on her attractive boss (will the parallels never end?), but it’s a fast-talking mystery after that. Trying to justify holding the table for an hour, Chow, Baby slow-munched its ceviche tostada ($4), an easy task as it was a bit none-too-fresh. Sort of like Irma, la mujer más vieja at Lety’s office. But Chow, Baby’s tacos de carnitas, pastor, y barbacoa ($1.25 each) were muy buenos – hola! Chow, Baby seems to be getting the hang of this! Maybe now it can figure out who Fernando really loves … sure, Chow, Baby could watch ABC’s upcoming English-language version, Ugly Betty, but that would be mucho too fácil.
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