Jackie and Justin Lunsford, new owners of this venerable restaurant, vow to match the standard set by the previous owners while offering daily specials and a few new menu items.
- by Lisa Monti
Jackie and Justin Lunsford, both restaurant veterans who recently relocated here, learned the restaurant was on the market and decided to check it out. “We ate lunch on a Monday, and it was packed. We said, ‘we’re going to go for it,’” Jackie said.
When an earlier offer to purchase the shop fell through, it seemed to the couple that buying the restaurant was meant to be. “The owners were looking to retire and wanted it to be in the right hands,” Jackie said. “We’re very lucky to get it. We feel really good about it.”
Jackie and Justin met in her home state of New Hampshire and moved to the Bay area a year ago. She has 30 years of industry experience, most recently as a server at the white-tablecloth, award-winning White Pillars in Biloxi. Justin, who is from Baton Rouge, has 25 years of culinary experience, most recently as head chef at Blue Bayou Bar & Grill, Silver Slipper’s fine dining steakhouse.
Since taking over The Lunch Box on October 13, the Lunsfords have freshened up the restaurant with new paint and decorations on the walls and installed a large chalkboard listing its menu of po’boys, platters, and specialty sandwiches. Popular items such as New Orleans-style muffuletta are still served, along with some new choices on the slowly evolving menu.
Jackie said the current favorites of diners are the burgers and the famous roast beef, cooked in-house and served on a bun or as a half or whole 12-inch po’boy.
Po’boys are made with Reising French bread, baked by Leidenhimer Baking Co. in New Orleans and known for its crusty exterior and soft insides. Chef Justin uses beef from Claiborne Hill to make the burgers. The hot sausage, served on po’boy bread, is also made by the Waveland supermarket.
The Lunch Box recently introduced a wicked burger special offered on Wednesdays. Early versions include the chili-cheeseburger with house-made pickled jalapeños and a pizza burger sauced with marinara. “We also did a Cordon Bleu, a 7-ounce patty with Dijon mustard, grilled ham, and mushrooms, and our version of a Big Mac, with two smaller patties and Lunch Box sauce,” Jackie said.
New salads have been added, and chicken fingers are made fresh in-house. “We started serving catfish and oysters as well,” she said. The oysters are from Crystal Seas in Pass Christian, and the catfish are locally sourced, too.
Daily specials at The Lunch Box include the traditional red beans and rice on Mondays, spaghetti with scratch-made meatballs and red gravy on Tuesday along with chicken parmesan and meatballs. A new burger special is offered every Wednesday, and on Thursdays and Fridays, the kitchen mixes it up. On a recent Friday, the special was fried catfish with seafood sauce picante that caught the attention of several Facebook viewers. (See the restaurant’s Facebook page, which posts photos of specials and other dishes.)
The Lunch Box now has extended hours on Fridays, when it stays open until 7 pm, serving the daily special at lunch and dinner, along with its standard menu items. In the future, the new owners may offer catering and late hours on Saturdays.
Jackie said Mondays and Fridays are their busiest days, and the addition of the burger specials has bumped up the customer count on Wednesdays.
Not surprisingly, The Lunch Box has a large following that includes work crews and office staff from local businesses, who appreciate the quick lunchtime service. “We have amazing regulars,” Jackie said. “Some of them are here five days a week.”
Lunch Box customers fall in line at the counter to order and pay or pick up takeaway orders in a smooth rhythm. Diners serve themselves sweet or unsweet iced tea (Barqs in a bottle is served out of the cooler), and the orders are served through the window on the wall separating the bustling open kitchen and the dining room. Even on a first visit, customers will find the service feels familiar and friendly.
On a recent visit for lunch on a cold day, the shrimp and corn chowder sounded perfect but had already sold out, so I opted for my usual Lunch Box choice: the fried shrimp po’boy, dressed, of course. Even the half po’boy, stuffed as always with crispy shrimp and fresh shredded lettuce, was a generous enough portion to take half of it home for later.
Jackie said she and Justin have been welcomed by customers and the community since they bought the Lunch Box. Their goal, Jackie said, is to match the standard set by the previous owners and to continue doing what they did so well.
The Lunch Box
210 US 90, Waveland
Mon - Thurs 10:30 am - 2 pm, Fri 10:30 am - 7 pm
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