When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out — and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Tasty Box
Location: 621 North Seventh Street
Open: About a month
Eats: Bento boxes
We weren't sure what to expect when we first heard about Tasty Box. It's an interesting concept — a set menu of bento box-style lunches filled with items ranging from familiar to exotic in flavor. We couldn't help but wonder if these were just going to be glorified Lunchables for adults, but we went in with an open mind — despite the restaurant's questionable name.
Tasty Box's menu includes three options daily (one meat, one vegetarian, and one vegan option) and changes seasonally. There's one menu for Tuesdays and Thursdays and a different one for Wednesdays and Fridays, so be sure to check Tasty Box's website for that day's selection. And since the restaurant has only been open for about four weeks, we'll forgive the fact that we had to wait about five minutes for someone to show up at the counter and take our order.
We didn't order the Diablo, the vegan option, but got to sample the black beans in salsa sauce included in the box. The sauce was much more like a rich pasta sauce than salsa, but the deep flavors complemented the black beans well.
In hindsight, we regretted not ordering the full-size Diablo meal. Instead, we went with the meat and vegetarian options for the day, the Thai-no-mite and the Capri, respectively.
The Capri had a Mediterranean spin with chickpeas in a lemon caper sauce, roasted thyme eggplant and yogurt sauce, pita, and fresh fruit. The chickpeas were tangy and cooked perfectly — not crunchy but not mushy either and were our favorite item from either of the boxes we ordered. While the eggplant was too oily, the bit with yogurt sauce on top was flavorful — the bright sauce balancing the earthy eggplant.
The Thai-no-mite box was much less satisfying. Somehow, the stir-fried lemongrass chicken tasted like Fruit Loops and nothing like lemon or stir-fry. There was no sweetness, but the aromatic, generic all-fruits-crammed-into-one flavor was unmistakable.
(We did some research and found that it's fairly common to use lemongrass when trying recreate Fruit Loops flavor. One recipe for Fruit Loops frozen yogurt uses crushed up cornflakes and lemongrass. So, it might not have been an unfair comparison, but we couldn't get over our chicken tasting like cereal.)
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The Thai eggplant in this box fared better than the Mediterranean version, with a sweet and sour kind of flavor. The rice noodles had minimal flavor even with the addition of carrots, onions, and herbs, and could have been served warmer.
Tasty Box definitely seems geared towards vegans and vegetarians, and we found those two options much more appealing than the meat option. We still believe the concept — fast, healthy, and securely packaged lunches — could work, and maybe after a few more weeks they'll get the kinks worked out and really live up to the name.