The Lunch Box opened in 1995 and Cathy Wellman said not much has changed since then (apart from the original restaurant being destroyed by Hurricane Katrina).
“First of all you’ve got to have something good,” she said. “You’ve got to keep it good, so that when they come they know what it’s going to taste like.”
The Lunch Box serves the favorites that have turned so many customers into regulars: muffalettas, poboys, roast beef, burgers, red beans and rice and spaghetti and meatballs.
And their emphasis on consistency has been rewarded by loyalty; some customers, such as Danny Brignac, who was eating when I stopped by, come every day.
“When you come here you know what you’re getting,” Wellman said.
The Lunch Box is only open four hours a day (10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.), Monday through Friday. Monday is red beans and rice day — a plate of beans, rice, sausage, salad and bread will run you $6.95. The Monday I visited they sold out of red beans and rice at 12:30 p.m. I was lucky to get one of the last plates.
The Lunch Box is super casual — food comes on disposable plates, with disposable silverware. There’s no pretense involved in preparation or presentation.
My red beans and rice came how grandma might serve it at home: a big scoop of long-grain rice spread out across the place, and a couple big ladles of soupy beans on top. A link of smoked sausage, split in half, garnished the dish.
There wasn’t a lot to the beans — no visible chunks of onions or celery or garlic — just soft red beans, bits of pork and a rich and savory gravy. The sausage link came hot and lightly smoked. Biting into the link resulted in a serious snap. The dish came with a small salad of iceberg lettuce and tomatoes and a couple slices of white bread.
I also tried the muffaletta ($9.50 for a half). If the red beans and rice are an example of a comforting homestyle dish, the muffaletta possesses serious panache.
The components of the sandwich — the round Italian-style bread covered with sesame seeds, the olive salad topping, the mix of thin-sliced cold cuts — scream New Orleans authenticity.
The care put into sourcing ingredients pays off — my sandwich was substantial, many-textured and delicious. The dominant flavor was the salty olive salad made up of green and black olives and covered with toasted cheese.
A Local Favorite
The dining room at the Lunch Box is open, and patrons can see right into the kitchen as food is being prepared.
Everyone seems to know one another at the Lunch Box. As we spoke, Wellman paused to point out and speak to different customers.
“You can ask Danny here about the spaghetti and meatballs,” she said, turning toward Brignac, who was eating at the table next to ours. “How is it, Danny?”
“Fantastic,” he said.
“I hear you’re being interviewed,” another man said, leaning down as he passed our table. “Don’t forget to tell him how good the muffaletta is.”
The Lunch Box
Specialties: A super casual lunch spot that specializes in sandwiches, burgers, red beans and rice and spaghetti and meatballs
Prices: From $5.25 for a ham sandwich on a bun to $18 for a whole muffaletta
Where: 210 U.S. 90, Waveland, MS 39576
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday