Thursday, November 12, 2009

Etta's Lunchbox Cafe

by Jessica Will

Etta’s Lunchbox Café combines my two favorite things: homemade food and random collectibles. While food is an obvious love for many people, my love of collectables is personal. I have collected everything from decorative socks to beanie babies, so when I found a restaurant with a massive collection of lunchboxes I had to visit and of course I had to drag my boyfriend along. So we hooked up the GPS and put in the coordinates for Etta’s Lunchbox Café. Located on State Route 56 between New Plymouth and Starr, Etta’s is in a remote area surrounded by residential housing and farms. Even though we were the only car in the gravel parking lot and neither one of us had cell phone service we bravely ventured into Etta’s.

Etta’s is located inside an old but still functioning general store. The outside of the one-story building is brick with a fenced in part of the land filled with llamas and a wandering rooster patrolling the front door. Avoiding the rooster we walked through the front door and were warmly greeted by, Tim, the gracious host. We had our choice of tables since we were the only people in the place. We picked a tall table and took in our surroundings while waiting for Tim to grab menus for us.

The inside of the building is divided into three distinct areas. The front of the building is the general store complete with various items a gas station would have like batteries, chips and band-aids. All the tables are located in this part of the building as well. Etta’s kitchen is located up a few stairs in the back while the lunchbox museum is located in a separate room with the entrance next to the sliding-door drink coolers.

Tim came back with menus containing “fresh, wholesome and nutritional meals.” The menu included sandwiches, subs and home-made pizzas. There was traditional fare like Philly steak, pizza sub and grilled cheese, but there were also non-traditional items like the Hobo Ham Steak, a one-inch thick bologna sautéed in onion. Every sandwich came with chips and a pickle. I ordered the meatball sub containing home-made meatballs, marinara and cheese. My boyfriend ordered the Etta Club- honey ham, smoked turkey, bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo.

After he took our orders, Tim told us to look around the place and browse the lunchbox museum. The room was lined from floor to ceilings with hundreds of vintage food containers and various vintage children’s toys. The lunchboxes ranged from traditional plaid hard-cased boxes with matching thermoses to popular television shows throughout the decades. I immediately found my childhood lunchbox- My Little Pony while my boyfriend discovered his long-lost G.I. Joe lunchbox. Tim found us amidst the lunchboxes to tell us our food was ready at our table.

My meatball sub was delicious. Two large home-made meatballs and overflowing marina and melted cheese, it was a little messy but still absolutely delightful. My boyfriend devoured his Etta Club. Although we were both satisfyingly full I like to push the limits of my stomach so I ordered a slice of apple pie- a la mode. I ordered it with plain vanilla ice cream but Tim suggested maple cinnamon walnut ice cream instead. I took his advice- the name alone made my mouth water.

The combination of warm apple pie and the complimentary maple cinnamon walnut ice cream was heavenly. I cleaned my plate and was very tempted to lick it since it was such a delectable dessert.

Shortly after we paid our bill, $18 for two drinks, two sandwich meals and pie. We left full and went into a food coma to nap off our meals.

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