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The Lunch Box beats brown-bagging it

For Buffalo workers, The Lunch Box’s three locations – downtown in the Lafayette Court Building, the Tri-Main Building in North Buffalo and the Seneca Building in the Larkin District – offer a wide geographical range of lunchtime options.

Each one boasts fresh sandwiches, soups and salads, as well as a bakery case for the sweet tooth. Both drop-off and staged catering are available. With daily specials and a menu that offers both vegetarian and meat-lover options, the Lunch Box has plenty for every palate in the cubicle block. Its options are similar to the longstanding Globe Market, since it was founded by Amy McCarthy, co-founder of that fresh lunch service pioneer.

[Read a Cheap Eats on Globe Market's Elmwood location]

We stopped by the Tri-Main location on a recent weekday to find a line down the counter at around 12:30 p.m. Service was swift and smiling though, and we got in, got our brown bag and got back in the car within 20 minutes despite the wait.

Ham and cheese flatbread at The Lunch Box in the Tri-Main building in Buffalo. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

Ham and cheese flatbread at The Lunch Box in the Tri-Main building in Buffalo. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

Most of the menu comes in at around $6.25-$8.50 for a sandwich or salad, and combo meals for $6.95 come with a half sandwich and soup, half sandwich and salad and half salad and soup, plus a can of soda. The portions here are large enough that half a sandwich is plenty to go with generous cups of soup. We had a whole sandwich and a cup of soup that just about did us in for the afternoon.

The Lunch Box’s options include both warm and cold specialty sandwiches, as well as a build-your-own deli option for $5.95, including Boar’s Head cold cuts for those mornings when packing a lunch just isn’t happening.

Take a look at the specials board before making your choice; we found a Cuban sandwich with whole-grain mustard, pickles, ham, pulled pork and melted cheese on a Costanzo’s roll that was just the right balance of salty, savory and stuffed with enough meat for two sandwiches.

Chicken tortilla soup at The Lunch Box in the Tri-Main building. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

Chicken tortilla soup at The Lunch Box in the Tri-Main building. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

Soups also hit the spot. A thai meatball soup was a homemade taste treat, with melt-in-your-mouth meatballs, tender cabbage and just the right amount of chili kick to keep us awake for the rest of the grind.

On the regular menu, the seasoned roast beef ($7.95) comes with roasted red peppers and pesto for an upgraded take on the classic Buffalo beef dip. The Italian Grill ($6.95) comes with enough capicola, salami and provolone to keep Tony Soprano full ’til he gets home to his pasta.

For the vegetarian crowd, there’s a roasted veggie sandwich ($6.95) with roasted eggplant, zucchini and rooted red pepper with pesto cream cheese on ciabatta, a lighter grilled cheese ($3.50), egg salad wrap ($5.25), hummus and veggie wrap with miso dressing ($6.50) and the now-standard Caprese sandwich ($6.95). Some lunch spots make vegetarians feel short-shrifted, but not here. Some of the best options are meat-free.

Sun-dried salad at the Lunch Box in the Tri-Main building. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

Sun-dried salad at the Lunch Box in the Tri-Main building. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

On the salad end, don’t miss the sun-dried salad ($7.95 for a whole) with caramelized walnuts, dried cranberries, apricots and goat cheese that tastes like a Paris sidewalk cafe. The Greek salad ($7.75) is one of the best in Buffalo (and we’ve done that research) with a healthy helping of feta cheese, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and chicken over romaine instead of the dreaded iceberg we find at most establishments.

Can’t get out for lunch? The Lunch Box also does catering for corporate lunches and events, and its appetizer platters are some of the best around. We have seen guests fighting over the broccoli salad, pearl couscous salad and thai chili pasta salad, all of which elevate that lunch meeting to an event we may actually want to attend.

Whether you work near one of the Lunch Box’s locations or stop by for lunch with a friend, these fresh, healthy options are a solid choice any day.

People enjoy The Lunch Box in the Tri-Main building. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

People enjoy The Lunch Box in the Tri-Main building. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

CHEAP EATS

The Lunch Box

Three locations: 2495 Main St.; Lafayette Court Building, 465 Main St.; and 500 Seneca St.

Info for all locations: 832-0475

Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday

Wheelchair accessible: yes

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