Dining out: Sandwich Box serves up tasty basics

By Courtney Sherwood, Columbian freelance writer

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Why: When I first started working in downtown Vancouver, I was excited by all the lunch options within walking distance of the office. It doesn’t take long, however, for the lower-priced restaurants to start seeming stale and for the cost of the others to add up. Sandwich Box is a new addition to the affordable downtown lunch scene.

Atmosphere: Despite a light remodel, people who visited this spot when it was operated by Quiznos will find a familiar setting. The restaurant is long and narrow, with tables near the window and a counter displaying chips and soft drinks. With no “order here” or “pick up here” signs, I was momentarily unsure where to go, but I headed for the cash register and was soon able to place my order.

What I tried: I ordered the Grilled 3 Cheese sandwich on sourdough bread and my dining companion ordered the Tuna Melt with provolone cheese on wheat bread. Unfortunately, my sandwich was delivered on wheat and his on sourdough — a minor mix-up for us, as we like both options, but certainly unfortunate. Because we ordered takeout, we didn’t notice the mix-up until we’d left the restaurant, so we did not bother to re-order.

Both sandwiches are under “The Classics” category on the menu, and the Tuna Melt was definitely a classic take on a familiar sandwich. Tuna salad offered the strongest flavor, followed by the cheese, with a very mild taste to the sourdough bread. This is not gourmet, nouveau or Portland-fancy food — just a basic Tuna Melt, like you’d expect to find in any of thousands of diners across the country. It hit the spot.

The Grilled 3 Cheese sandwich is painted with a garlic herb basting blend before it’s cooked, which imparts a subtle garlicky flavor. The provolone, Swiss and cheddar cheeses mingle well together. Cumulatively they add up to more cheese than I needed, though they were tasty and filling.

Both sandwiches are made on standard-size sliced bread. That was enough for my companion and me, but people accustomed to extra-large restaurant servings might find themselves wanting more.

Highlights beyond what I tried: In addition to other classics (such as the French Dip and Philly Cheesesteak), the Sandwich Box offers paninis, Italian hoagies, veggie burgers, hamburgers, sliders, wraps and salads. Or build your own whole or half sandwich on a hoagie, wrap, bagel, croissant or choice of breads.

Other observations: This restaurant is still fairly new, and until it builds up a following it’s keeping staffing to a minimum. That means that service is a bit on the slow side for fast food. I got my sandwiches 13 minutes after walking in the door — that includes a five-minute wait to place my order, while the only person on duty finished preparing an earlier order. If you’re in a hurry, you may want to call your order in.

Cost: Sandwiches start as low as $3.49, and the most expensive thing on the menu is the Chicken Fiesta Salad at $9.99 (a half salad can be had for $4.95). A box lunch, which includes a sandwich, chips, bottled water, fruit and a cookie, is $10.95. Kids meals are $3.99.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Telephone: 360-433-9324.

Where: 545 W. Eighth St., Vancouver.

Health score: Sandwich Box received a perfect score of zero when it was inspected on Nov. 30. Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.