ORANGE PARK – You’ve probably driven past the Lunch Box Deli 100 times and never knew it. But make no mistake: the regulars have worn a path to the small diner that serves breakfast and lunch in the shadow of the towering crane across the street at the Orange Park Medical Center.
Located at 1890 Kingsley Ave., it’s wedged between a beauty and barber shop in the Circle K strip center. Blink and you’ll miss it.
And regret it.
“People walk across the street (from the hospital) all the time and say they’ve never knew I was here,” said owner/bakery chef Anita “A.J.” Jones. “Believe me, the people who know where we are come back all the time.
Especially on Wednesdays for meatloaf sandwiches and Thursdays for the bang bang shrimp pita.
“We get slammed those days,” Jones said. “I used to make one pan of meatloaf every Wednesday for the special and I always sold out. Then I started making two pans and I still sell out. Now I tell people we will have it until it lasts.”
That’s because the sandwich is loaded with a third-pound of meat.
The bang bang shrimp comes with breaded shrimp tossed in bang bang sauce, spring mix, diced tomatoes, cheddar cheese, chopped cilantro on a flat bread.
Another popular sandwich that’s available every day is her gourmet chicken salad.
“I make the best,” she said. “It has walnuts, apples and dried cranberries.”
The restaurant walls and counter tops are stocked with old lunch boxes. Many still have the original thermoses. For many, the boxes bring back fond memories of popular sitcoms like “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Mork and Mindy,” “Taxi,” “The Lone Ranger,” “E.T.” and Shirley Temple.
“My son named the diner, so we started collecting lunch boxes,” Jones said.
While the deli is her “bread and butter,” Jones said a big part of her business is catering and her “over-the-top cakes.”
“One cake I remember looked like a welding machine,” she said. “Everything we do is really extreme.”
The Lunch Box Deli is open Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.