We Try the Whole Menu at Bryan Voltaggio's New Lunchbox in Frederick, MD

[Photographs: Meg Greene]

Bryan Voltaggio's new Lunchbox in Frederick, Maryland, takes over lunch service from his much pricier Volt on North Market Street, which will only be serving lunch on weekends starting in January. Lunchbox isn't fancy at all. It's located in a strip of shops along the new Carroll Creek Linear Park. One of the best parts about Voltaggio's new venture is the price: sandwiches cost between $4 and $5, salads are $4, and soups are $3.

But is it as good as his brother's sandwich shop ink.sack out in Los Angeles (where we also tried the whole menu)?

Walk in, stand in line, and peruse the menu board behind the counter. While you wait, you'll notice employees bringing trays of prepped sandwiches out of the kitchen that are ready to be pressed or toasted.

When Voltaggio sticks to the traditional preparations of sandwiches—like the Reuben, peanut butter and banana, even a grilled cheese—you're reminded of how good a simple sandwich can be done right. He adds small twists, like a sprinkling of salt and very finely chopped fresh herbs atop the grilled cheese. He uses overripe bananas in the PB&B that create a creamy, mouth-melty bite.

When he puts his own spin on other items—like the Pilgrim sandwich or the Caesar salad with a 63-degree hen egg—he misses what makes these classics a favorite in the first place.

In general, it's best to skip the salads. The Caesar and wedge suffered from flavor-less dressings and the vinaigrette on the Bibb lettuce was all vinegar and hardly any olive oil (total vinegar bomb). The soups were hit or miss. The hits included the roasted butternut squash and red onion, both homey and well-balanced. But the shiitake and split pea were unfortunate misses. The alphabet soup tasted slightly better than SpaghettiOs.

As for dessert, they keep it simple with cookies, oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip, that are tender inside, crisp on the outside, and not too sweet. The blondie and brownie had a great shiny crust but the insides taste like box mix. I like box mix just fine, but I expected more.

Lunchbox offers Mexican coke, Boylan sodas, Cheerwine, McCutcheon's sodas (a local brand that also makes my favorite peanut butter sandwich accompaniment, Black Raspberry Preserves), iced tea, and milk from nearby South Mountain Creamery.

In the last couple of years, Frederick has seen an influx of hip new restaurants. Many offer trendy, pricey dishes and extensive wine lists. While they certainly cater to the visitors antiquing or to locals who want something a little beyond the tavern burger, they don't seem to fit the slower vibe of Frederick itself.

Voltaggio, for the most part, tries to keep it simple, and when he does, he does it right. Lunchbox still has a small town feel in the up-and-coming Frederick food scene.

Check out the slideshow for everything we ate »


50 Carroll Creek Way, Frederick MD 21701 (map); 301-360-0580