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.