NOTE: I visited Laci’s Lunchbox and wrote this piece before going to Laci’s Tapas Bar and writing my piece on Nov. 9.
Is it lunch box or lunchbox? I tend to go with the singular word, as if the box’s sole purpose was to carry lunch. But, I think most people would go with two words, as in a box that happens to have lunch inside of it.
The lunchbox in question during Thursday’s midday forage for sustenance was one that belongs to Laci, or Laura and Cindy, the duo behind the raucously popular Laci’s Tapas Bar on Hawley Avenue. These ladies have earned a reputation as more than mere entrepreneurs and businesswomen, but as community leaders. Laci’s Lunchbox, their newest endeavor, is located near the Tapas Bar where Hawley Avenue and Green Street meet.
The Lunchbox is in a renovated Victorian home that contractors continue to work on. Drills and hammers made themselves known as my co-worker and I walked through the double doors, past the large staircase and to the cafe’s entrance. In another life, this space was a living room, dining and kitchen of a house. Today, seating for about a dozen people is mixed in with a walk-up counter. An iPod and speaker fill the space nicely with mellow modern rock music that doesn’t interrupt conversations.
Eight paninis are described on a menu board behind the counter. Roasted chicken and pot roast make up half of the options, while vegetarian options include tuna and egg salads. Two soups are available daily, and diners can order soup with a half-sandwich for $6.48, the same price as a full panini. The Laci’s salad ($6.94) was ordered to-go by a friend of mine in line behind me. The singular salad on the menu featured almonds, dried cranberries and bleu cheese over a spring mix with balsamic vinaigrette.
Toni and I each ordered a sandwich and soup ($3.74), the latter of which is served in an oversized latte mug. She spoke highly of her corn chowder, describing it as having a nice corn sweetness balanced by the chowder’s cream. The smokey tomato bisque had diced tomatoes in a smooth tomato-cream broth. An earthy smoke, likely the result of a smoked Spanish paprika, rounded out each spoonful.
The Laci’s Lunchbox sandwich is served on focaccia, though wraps and gluten free bread are available upon request. Massive may be the best word to describe the sheer size of the sandwich, which has to be sliced in half and stacked in order to fit in the paper-lined basket. Toni’s Hawley was loaded with pot roast, crispy onions, and topped with cheddar sprouts, tomatoes and horseradish.
I typically eschew hot tuna as a food choice (but not as a band), but opted for the Mulligan, a mix of albacore tuna, capers, and olive oil topped with cheddar, sprouts & tomato. The first three ingredients were mixed together fresh before the sandwich was assembled and grilled. The final product surpassed expectation, as the chewy focaccia kept the sandwich contents from getting too hot on the grill, and kept ingredients from falling out.
Sandwiches are served with carrot chips — 8 to 10 thin-sliced carrots — and a homemade chocolate chip cookie. We agreed that we probably should have only consumed half of the sandwich and brought the other half home, but that they were so good that we simply couldn’t stop. Will power is a quality we apparently eroded by our jobs.
A half-dozen fresh made juice blends round out the menu ($3.94), as do coffee, espresso drinks and cooler of sodas and bottled drinks. A small breakfast menu — the Lunchbox opens at 8 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday — includes bagels, muffins and egg sandwiches.
On-street parking is the only drawback to Laci’s Lunchbox, and a winter full of unpredictable weather and snow removal may keep new customers away on particularly blustery days this winter. But, one thing that Linda and Cindy do well is build loyal fan bases with their concepts. Not snow, nor sleet nor dark of night will keep their followers away.
Okay, maybe the dark of night. Laci’s Lunchbox closes at 3:30 p.m.
Laci’s Lunchbox is located at 115 Green St. in Syracuse’s historic Hawley-Green neighborhood. Its hours are 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Call ahead for pickup at 315-236-1040. A whole sandwich, soup, and a Mexican Coca-Cola was $14.