Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Are we the only ones still watching Top Chef? With the in-your-face and completely awkward product placement (hello random shot of the GE Profile fridge label every five seconds) and sometimes tired story lines, it is safe to say the show is not what it once was. We still watch and will probably keep watching, but sometimes we yearn for the glory days of Top Chef: Las Vegas.

Oh how we loved the epic battles between the avant-garde Michael Voltaggio and his more reserved brother Bryan. I've always had a soft spot for Bryan and root for him in the much-hyped sibling rivalry. When Michael opened a sandwich shop (ink.sack) in LA last year, I was hoping Bryan would try to one-up him with an East Coast sandwich shop. Imagine my delight when Bryan opened Lunchbox on Carroll Creek in Frederick, Maryland at the end of the year.

We were on our way to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and hit Frederick around lunch time. As we neared Frederick and my stomach rumbled, I remembered my dear Bryan and his new sandwich shop. Not trying to set myself up for disappointment, I mentioned Lunchbox to B and asked him to check whether it was open on Sundays. Relieved when he told me it was indeed open, I aimed the car for darling Carroll Creek in Frederick.

From the second we walked in to Lunchbox, I knew I was going to like it. Every detail brings you right back to carefree childhood days. From the lunch-bench style picnic tables to the milk in the fridge, it just feels nice. And who else is giving out free apples with purchase these days?

I did an awkward little jig when I saw the daily special sandwich: nutella, peanut butter, and banana melted into heaven between two slices of bread. Yes, it was as good as it sounds, but how can you mess those ingredients up?

B went with the childhood classic grilled cheese. Bryan, (or B-Volt as the hip kids call him . . . ok maybe nobody calls him that) elevates the grilled cheese by adding a sprinkle of salt and herbs. It also helps that he's using top-notch ingredients in every sandwich.

So with the Top Chef name and the high-end ingredients, you probably assume you need to fork over about $10 per sandwich. Wrong! I don't see an item on his menu that is over $5. We stuffed ourselves silly with two sandwiches, a cup of butternut squash soup, two chocolate chip cookies (not as good as I dreamed), and two Cheerwines for $19.50. Oh, and we also shared a free apple.

Should you drop everything and drive over an hour to Frederick for lunch? No. Come on people, it's just a sandwich. It's not going to change your world and you'll probably be very annoyed at me for causing you to go out of your way for a grilled cheese.

I do highly recommend that you plan a little road trip to Harpers Ferry or Gettysburg or any of the local wonders of history and nature and include a stop in Frederick on the way. You could even hit Lunchbox on the way out and Volt on the way home (with a reservation) and get twice the Voltaggio.

Second Thoughts from B

I'm quite particular about my grilled cheese. In fact, there was a time in my life that "cooking to impress" meant two slices of whole wheat bread, a schmear of butter, a generous amount of extra sharp cheddar, and a hot pan. With an apple on the side of course. Oh, how the ladies swooned!

Though my culinary skills (and waistline) have certainly expanded since then, I still love going back to that reliably delicious combination with a few personalized modifications for J (read: ketchup for dipping). I have a feeling Bryan Voltaggio is no different. While he's a world-class culinary master and innovator, you can tell that he enjoyed creating Lunchbox. It is a warm childhood memory wrapped in wax paper. And while memories sometimes get sugarcoated over the years, Bryan's use of local, high quality ingredients ensures us that reality won't destroy the nostalgia of our youthful bliss. All that for less than the cost of the couple gallons of gas it'll take to get there...
Lunchbox on Urbanspoon


Lori Gardner said...

As an avid Volt (and Bryan) fan, I very much appreciate your review. It reminds me that I really must take a ride to Frederick....soon.

J said...

Great! Let us know how you like Lunchbox. Always fun to hear from a fellow Bryan fan!

Lisa said...

You're definitely not the only ones who still watch Top Chef! I can't wait to try Lunchbox - after a great experience at Volt, I'm sure it's amazing!