Quick Takes: Bryan Voltaggio’s Lunchbox

Bryan Voltaggio’s fast-casual cafe in Chevy Chase offers brown-bag staples.
At Lunchbox, cilantro, mint, and pickled vegetables punch up the fried-chicken bánh mì. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Bryan Voltaggio—the Top Chef runner-up and restaurateur—is based in his hometown of Frederick. Still, he’s making a play for dominance in Chevy Chase Pavilion, the once-swanky mall on the Maryland/DC border.

His latest restaurant, a takeout-friendly cafe called Lunchbox, is far more casual than its upstairs sibling, Range, but it suffers from similar issues: a sprawling menu, a slightly confusing setup, and wild inconsistency in the kitchen.

Sandwiches are the core of the menu, and they’re on the small side for their $7-to-$12 prices. While a riff on a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish came with nicely crisp catfish and a fried-chicken bánh mì was bright with fresh herbs, the “23 flavors” barbecue-pork sandwich had just one discernible taste: soggy bread.

A beet salad was a satisfying, well-dressed mix of goat cheese, peppery arugula, and roasted pecans, but “supreme pizza” soup tasted like the canned tomato stuff doused with pepperoni oil.

Our favorite thing turned out to be the simplest of brown-bag standbys—a cup of tangy, cinnamon-laced applesauce.

This article appears in our October 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.

Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.