NEW YORK - Remember in elementary school how you'd show up with a lunch box every day? Now a lunch box concept for adults is becoming quite popular. The boxes just look a little different. We visited three Manhattan restaurants, all with different cuisines, taking part in this new trend.
Little Wayla Thai restaurant owner Erika Chou is introducing the lunchbox concept to the customers at her Lower East Side eatery. It's not an actual tin lunchbox like we carried around as kids but it's that idea of a balanced meal.
"People are really curious because you're not limited to just choosing one thing or having one option so you never know what's going to be here," Chou said.
It's not so different from a bento box or what you might put on your tray at a buffet.
"It's like a new version of buffet, I guess. It's just a highly curated version I think. We definitely do the dishes so they pair well together," Chou said. "You have your vegetables, you have proteins, you also have seafood options, you can go with carbs or no carbs if you want."
The chefs prepare authentic Thai dishes, like different meats in curry sauce and sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf. Depending on how many proteins you choose, the boxes range from about $10 to $13.
Justice Tention comes often and is intrigued that the menu is always changing.
"It's kind of like a fun Thai take on the traditional American lunch box, like cafeteria set-up options but they are all really good authentic Thai food," Tention said.
"We want to concentrate all the food into one lunchbox and then New Yorkers can enjoy our food very easy," owner Hansong Kim said.
Kim said Korean food can be expensive, so he wanted to offer a variety at a good price. His boxes range from $11 to $15.
There are authentic dishes here like bulgogi, which is a beef ribeye. There's also japchae, stir-fried glass noodles. And of course, kimchi mac and cheese to add an American flare, which Dana Williams has trouble passing up. There's also an added sense of nostalgia for him.
"It reminds me of when I was young and my mother made certain things and just sending me off," Williams said.
Head over to Manhattan's West Side and you'll find a Mediterranean medley. Zizi in Chelsea has the Balkan lunchbox on its menu. You get bureka, which is a phyllo puffed pastry filled with spinach and feta, hard-boiled eggs, olives, pickles, tahini, harissa sauce and, of course, a salad to balance it all out. This box will cost you $15.
"I think lunchboxes are quick and fun, which is what New Yorkers are after—everything here should be quick and fun at the same time and sometimes it's hard to do this match of quick and fun and satisfying," head chef Liran Leibman said. "Lunch boxes just hit all the marks because it's something you can eat very quickly, you don't have to think about it, everything is already there. Everything that you need as part of your meal is already there."
So the next time you're looking to spice up your lunchtime adventures, search for lunchbox spots. If the trend keeps going, you might not have to look too hard.