When Bryan Voltaggio looks around Friendship Heights, the chef thinks the neighborhood is primed for cheap, quick-serve lunch options. The line of food trucks along Western Avenue NW tells him so.
It's this observation, among other things, that gives the celebrity chef hope for the relaunch of his retooled Lunchbox, the sandwich-salad-and-soup concept that Voltaggio first opened in late 2011 on the Carroll Creek promenade in Frederick. It closed last November, a victim of, well, too few customers. Isn't that what usually kills restaurants?
"The foot traffic was just not what we anticipated," Voltaggio says about the Carroll Creek space.
The new Lunchbox in Chevy Chase Pavilion — the same location of Range and Aggio, two other Voltaggio-branded restaurants — should not have similar troubles when it launches on Monday, July 14, the chef says. There's clearly an appetite in Friendship Heights for fast, casual lunches.
In the seven or so months since he closed Lunchbox in Frederick, Voltaggio and his team have reworked the concept top to bottom. They've expanded the menu, re-engineered some sandwiches and even tinkered with the logo. The new menu (see below) has 13 sandwiches, six salads, four soups and a small line of desserts, including soft-serve ice cream with your choice of flavors and toppings. Lunchbox also hopes to have its beer and wine license by the time it opens, Voltaggio says.
"We rethought everything and made it fresh and new," Voltaggio says. The revamped Lunchbox is "what I believe it should be."
Among the highlights are the "southern banh mi" (with fried chicken, pickled vegetables, liver mousse and herbs on a baguette), the "b'more" (pepper-crusted pit beef with scallion bacon jam and tiger sauce), the reworked Reuben (pastrami-smoked short ribs, seaweed sauerkraut, havarti cheese on marble rye), the "krunchie" salad (kale and collards with confit chicken, hearts of romaine and Parmesan granola) and a "supreme pizza" soup (wood-fired tomato and red bell peppers with focaccia croutons and pepperoni).
Some of the sandwich breads will be baked upstairs at Range, Voltaggio says. Most of the rest will come from Lyon Bakery.
Lunchbox will also make its own sodas, which is half the reason why Voltaggio bought his own beverage dispenser. The other half? The chef wants to sell both Coke and Pepsi, a rare duel between major brands, each of which prefers to rent out machines to restaurants and therefore reserve all the valves for its own sodas. You know that Coke and Pepsi don't like sharing, right chef?
"I know they don't," Voltaggio says, laughing. "But when you buy your own machine, you can do whatever you want."
Lunchbox, inside Chevy Chase Pavilion at 5335 Wisconsin Ave. NW (Metro: Friendship Heights). Open daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.