08 Aug 2017
5 min read
M&S drops by The Lunch Box to find out what makes their fast food such popular grub among locals
No loungers means no need to cater to guests for an extended period of time. That allows fast food establishments to save time, cook more and cut back on labour costs. They can also operate out of a relatively small space and serve their to-go items—in paper wraps, with plastic cutlery—straight out of their grills or vats. After all, people come to these places for comfort food and quick service— and catering to them does not require much.
But that's in the West, where people lead a fast-paced lifestyle, and indulgent dining is a luxury reserved for evenings and special occasions. In Kathmandu, things are different.
A Western style fast food takeaway model just wouldn't work in Nepal. Not everyone is in a rush here, so they can easily find more time to dine and lounge around in a restaurant—and many actually expect to. That also means they don't mind waiting for their food. Then they want a diverse menu to pick from, and when it comes to single-use tableware, some still have slight reservations about them. Thus running a takeaway joint is a trickier business here—it’s the kind of venture that not many dare to attempt and only a few manage to sustain. Even so, The Lunch Box has had a pretty good run in its three years of operation.
Even from the outside, The Lunch Box seems like a quirky tavern, with information on menu offerings pasted all over the windows. Step inside, and things get even more interesting. You’ll come face to face with even more hand-drawn menu descriptions (inked on A4 sized pages) staring at you from M&S drops by The Lunch Box to find out what makes their fast food such popular grub among locals.
Ultimate Bacon Burger
We picked this one from their bestselling section of the mid-range menu. There are two options with the Ultimate Burger—one's heavy on the chicken and the other on bacon. This one's a bacon-heavy order with a well-done chicken mince patty, seasoned and deep fried, and all the essentials of a palatable Chicago-style burger: grilled sesame buns, a perfectly poached egg and plenty of salad consisting of diced lettuce, tomatoes and onions, ketchup, mustard and chilli relish. And not to forget, shredded cheese.
Mad Wrapper Hotdog
This is called mad wrapper because there are three layers of bacon that wrap the massive chicken sausage. The bun is thick and tender—not crumbly or chewy at all. The seasoning—which is the same as the burger (ketchup, mustard and chilli relish)—is a tad spicier than the burger’s. Lunch Box is not stingy about what goes inside the hotdog; the chicken sausage comes lathered with plenty of salad and condiments, all of which when sandwiched in a fluffy hotdog bun make for a jumbo bite.
all directions: for they are posted all over the walls. And once you’re inside this busy space— where you can hear the meat items sizzling just beyond the counter, and where the aroma of bacon being grilled blankets the dining area— you’ll immediately realise that you are at a serious fast food joint, oxymoronic as that might sound.
Listed on the full menu that comes to your table is perhaps the widest range of burgers in the city, along with some speciality sandwiches and hotdogs. The menu can be confusing for first-timers. The price starts from Rs 155 and can go all the way up to Rs 1,795, depending on what you order. And all the items have their culinary roots in the city of Chicago, where the owner, Jimi (it's a Newari name that means ‘ours'), spent much of his youthful years.
Almost all the dishes here are Jimi’s versions of fast food fare that Chicago made famous. For the more adventurous lot, there are items such as the Air Force One Burger (a burger so tall that you can’t fit the whole thing in your mouth)and the Meat Grinder, which features a whole lot of bacon and chicken sandwiched between buns, and of course the utterly singular Man vs Food offering—which is a food competition that you can take part in. If you can eat in under six minutes everything you’ve ordered, then The Lunch Box will foot the bill. If you can’t, then you pay for your order, and proceeds from it go toward his Food for Naanis—a Lunch-Box run charity programme that provides food to street kids.
Jimi knows that he's got a good thing going with The Lunch Box. That’s why, despite its success, he’s not thinking of expanding—because that might mean that he’d have to compromise on quality. That said, he has also tweaked things here and there to ensure customer flow. He haskept the dining area small so that patrons can enjoy their food but will feel obliged to leave once they're done eating.
The best thing about this place has to be the food. The grub here can be so enticing and so filling that it compensates for all their shortcomings to do with the cramped space and confusing menu.
Opening hours: 9.30 am till 9.00 pm
Price breakdown: From Rs 150 - Rs 1,795 for one, depending on what is ordered