CMH Gourmand

Eat, Drink, Repeat: Culinary Discovery & Misadventure in Central Ohio

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Etta’s Lunchbox Cafe – As Seen on TV

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 19, 2009

Ettas Lunchbox Cafe / Ettas General Store * 35960 SR 56  * (in between Ash Cave and Athens) * New Plymouth *  740.380.0736

Etta's Lunchbox Cafe / Etta's General Store * 35960 SR 56 * (in between Ash Cave and Athens) * New Plymouth * 740.380.0736

En route to Athens with Hungry Woolf and Taco Drew we drove by a place I have passed many times before. I am not sure what prompted us to stop, maybe it was the llamas or maybe it was …….Free Kittens. Regular listeners of my podcast will know that kittens are the key to good vegan baking! We stopped with low expectations. I left kicking myself for never investigating this gourmand goldmine before.

We parked HW’s Subaru (what all good food writers drive) then I crossed State Route 56 with the intention of getting a menu for future reference.

I could not figure out where the cafe could be. After some awkward wandering and no eye contact searching and scanning, I found a laminated menu by the cash register that looked uninspiring. Then I noticed the Lunchbox Museum. I was now inspired.

A very large back room is filled with Lunchboxes from the early 20th century to present. I was greeted by the owner, Tim. It was a true trip down memory lane (even though I was a brown bag kind of kid – I did not want the attention or the pressure of product endorsement inherent to lunch boxes associated with me). Tim acquired much of this collection in yard sales, thrift stores and trading in Columbus over many decades and moved the collection to Etta’s several years ago. Tim has his entire pitch down from delivering it countless times per day for years. He is a wealth of knowledge about his collection and the lunchbox industry.

The collection includes old lunch pails, thermos bottles, metal boxes and plastic boxes. Some are in mint condition but many are not. The boxes include everything from Mickey Mouse to Hooters. There several unexpected and exotic examples on the shelves.

The blackboard on this box says:  I am personally responsible for the sins of the world. Reminds me of my not so happy days at Bishop Watterson.

The blackboard on this box says: "I am personally responsible for the sins of the world." - Reminds me of my not so happy days at Bishop Watterson.

The museum has been hailed by Ohio Magazine, numerous other publications and several TV programs. I finally found the cafe but I did not try the food. I did a bit of online research – by report the meatball sandwiches and pies are supposed to be good. One person reports having to pay $2.50 to see the lunchboxes. We did not pay anything, but we did not ask about admission.

We also discovered several hard to find pops (or soda) and other items of note in the cooler. At some future point I’ll drop back in and sample the food.

7 Responses to “Etta’s Lunchbox Cafe – As Seen on TV”

  1. Anne & I stopped in back in June. (Review here) The food was better than we expected, and pretty inexpensive. The ambiance is what really makes the place though.

    Anyway… maybe not worth the drive all the way from Columbus, but definitely worth a stop next time you’re in that area. And Tim is a hoot.😉

  2. bettyb said

    A few years ago my husband and I stopped there and saw the lunchboxes for free. I took some friends there a few months ago and they were going to charge us to see them. I was quite annoyed by that and we declined.

  3. Dave said

    I’m a sucker for Catholic swag, I would’ve made an offer (or tried to steal it, going to Hell anyway).

  4. Brenda said

    We have been to Etta’s a few times and have never seen anyone get charged to see the lunchboxes or the art gallery. the food was great and we love the atmosphere. Well worth the trip and we will go back. Wish I could go to Etta’s for lunch today🙂

  5. Rose Jamison said

    My Sunshine group from Ashville drove to Ettas. At first, some of our group did not want to go in because of the outside look. However, once inside, we were greeted, heartily, by Tim. The tables were full with customers, but Tim made room for us. His wife made us the most delicious subs and other foods. It is a delight and takes you ‘back in time’ to see all the old lunch boxes there.

    Tim even played the violin and (if I recall, correctly) the clarinet. What a ‘hoot’. It’s worth the drive. While you are there, drive three miles further and see Raven Wood Castle. A B&B worth seeing.

    Cedar Falls Inn is a quaint place, too. Lots to see in the Hocking Hills.

  6. Connie said

    Several girls are going Mon. to see this place and have lunch.Iit sounds very nice and hope to meet Tim too. Will let u know how we felt about it when we get back. I am excited to see all the lunch boxes.
    Like in AZ where u eat off tin plates and drink from tin cups. Would be nice to eat out of a lunch box.

    CMH Gourmand Update:
    Sorry everyone: Etta’s is closed. But here is a taste of what you missed.

  7. Connie said

    Much sympathy and prayers going out to the friends and family of Tim. I was so looking forward to coming last Mon. to meet and eat. I was saddened to find out it was close. Then I found out why and was even more saddened. We are hoping you will in time be able to reopen so many can again enjoy this wonderful
    place.

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