This Durban burger joint hits the spot every time
The Lunch Box raises the steaks when it comes to hot sandwiches, writes Siphiliselwe Makhanya
I visited today's starring restaurant not once, nor twice, but three times to bring you this review.
Each time I visited The Lunch Box in Sydenham, Durban, I resolved to try something outside my comfort zone so as to give my unbiased thoughts on dishes for which I had no prior affection.
It was only on my third visit that I succeeded. Their steak burger is that good. Never a fan of overly complicated foods, I became attached to it the first time I read its description - steak strips, patty, cheese and jalapenos.
I found it deliciously warm, the strips tender, juicy and abundant; the patty thick, oozing the kind of savoury juices you'd shamelessly lick off your wrists; the cheese distinct but not overwhelming; the heat of jalapenos dancing on the tongue long after I'd polished off the lot.
When I finally switched on my third visit, it was to co-owner Amina Sheikh's suggestion when I asked what their most popular item was - the Philly Cheese Steak toasted sandwich.
Yes, it's not too different from my original go-to, but I had to find out what it is about it that gets the people going. In hindsight, I think it's the generous amount of barbeque steak for a R35 sarnie that does it.
I had foolishly ordered a creamy shake to go with it and realised my folly when its richness collided with that of the cheese to overwhelm my taste buds. On an ordinary day, the blueberry shake is a sweet-smelling creamy dream.
My partner ordered the Nacho Burger. An oddity of a circular sandwich containing the usual fixings - meat, chips, cheese - and tortilla chips. Just the idea of it gave me textural issues, but my companion was all for it. It's become his Achilles meal.
A big part of The Lunch Box's charm is in the young couple who run it - Hassen and Amina Sheikh. They began running the beta version of The Lunch Box three years ago out of a teeny Wendy house near a salvage centre on Burnwood Road.
"It could only fit one person," says Amina. "We started with just regular beef burgers at R8 each."
Enthusiastic foodies, the pair are self-taught cooks. Amina does most of the cooking and recipe development while Hassen runs the business side.
"We just winged it - it was a lot of trial and error at first. We worked on it until it was good enough for us. We make food that we would eat," he says.
NEED TO KNOW
When to go: The name tells you all you need to know.
What to drink: Amina persuaded me to try the bubble tea - she managed to track down a halaal version. It's a taste adventure - try some at last once. Besides that, they also have a selection of gourmet milk shakes.
Good to know: All food is halaal. They deliver. Mild versions of the spicy meals are available on request.
How much do you know? R15 will buy you a chips and cheese sandwich on the cheaper end of the scale; and R75 gets you a "gourmet polony parcel" on the other end.
The vibe: For when you want to show your home squad that you're not too fancy to eat off the top of the car boot, but that you have progressed in life.
Address: Physically, they're at 25 Bazley Avenue in Sydenham near Sparks Road. Call 031-207-2436.
• This article was originally published in The Times.