Etta’s Lunchbox Cafe – As Seen on TV
Posted by cmh gourmand on August 19, 2009
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 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.