What's Inside the Lunch Box?
Part Mexican joint, part American diner, part Italian sub shop, part espresso bar, and part old tables from Wendy's thrown in for laughs, The Lunch Box feels and looks as though a fast-food Frankenstein chewed up the world and then threw it up into a shoe box.
Yeah, it's charming.
And much easier to navigate than the menu. Featuring everything from country fried steak and eggs to menudo to meatball subs to pan-seared salmon and crab cakes (huh?), this is one bill of world fare in need of a tour guide. His name? Rafael. Nephew of Uncle Chílo, or Chef Chílo, as he's know by the regulars, owner and sometimes cook of The Lunchbox for the past five years.
"You want the hamburgers," Rafael tells me. "I'd take them over any of our burritos."
Now we're talkin'. The Lunch Box offers 13 specialty burgers featuring flavors from around the globe — each featuring a hand-pounded patty, each priced at about eight bucks, and each about the size of Madagascar. The Italian may be a favorite of Ken the cop (as indicated by the dry-erase board), and the Monte Carlo's got truffle mayo, but Rafael's picks for Fry Girl are the La Loca and the spicy Chihuahua.
"It's really spicy," Rafael warns me.
Sure, just bring it.
Holy Hades! Featuring chorizo, roasted jalapeños, Chihuahua cheese, and sautéed onions, no amount of RC Cola could fizzle this mouth fire. Which was tough 'cause the Chihuahua was so damn tasty. Good burger, fresh fixin's — just open those sinuses and keep the napkins handy.
With each ingredient calling attention to itself with every bite, La Loca is a delicious meal of a burger. Bacon, ham, avocado, mushrooms, and Chihuahua cheese are stacked so high and proud that you may not have room for the crazy-good homemade fries, made from spuds chopped fresh in front of customers.
The best part about the burgers? The bun. Screw the sesame seed; we're talkin' telera. A variation of the bolillo, a type of savory bread traditionally made in Mexico, this signature bun is made with the help of a local baker and gives these burgers gravitas.
And while Fry Girl would have like to have tried the popular menudo or a piece of Chef Chílo's crazy cake — chocolate, white, and pink cake formed into a monstrous mound and topped with white icing — my burgers put me in danger of breaking the counter stool (shaped like a bottle cap) and toppling a display of Chef Chílo's homemade salsas.
I paid my bill (cash only, please) knowing I'd be back to open The Lunch Box another day.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Phoenix dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.