New closet-sized lunch spot opens in Homan Square
A bite sized restaurant, aptly named The Lunchbox, has opened in the first floor of the Nichols Tower, 906 S. Homan Ave., in North Lawndale. Tucked into a tiny room the size of a storage closet, the business run by local resident Jeri Budwick brings healthy options to a typical fast-food menu.
“I serve breakfast,” Budwick explained. “For lunch I do the lunch nacho special. I also have lots of desserts and chili dogs as well. I also serve hamburgers and cheeseburgers.”
In a food desert like North Lawndale, fast food is often the only option available. The nearest restaurants to the tower are McDonalds, Taco Bell, and a neighborhood burger joint. On the surface, The Lunchbox seems to be following a similar pattern. However, Budwick has clear aspirations in her mind for The Lunchbox, and they start with the food itself.
“I want to tap into healthy treats because these kids need to stay off the Flaming Hots with cheese and peppers. I'm trying to do healthy treats so that we don’t get diabetes and you know, have heart problems,” Budwick said.“I really want to start at a young age with these kids.”
She hopes in the future The Lunchbox can be known as a lunch spot that has it all: a place you can find typical fast food as well as healthier lunch options. Budwick hopes that having a variety of food options will help set her business apart from others in the neighborhood.
“I have lots of turkey burgers,” Budwick said,”which a lot of people will get with grilled onions and toasted buns or good cheese. We have chicken sandwiches as well.”
The turkey burger is featured as a daily special multiple times a week. She also serves meals with veggie burgers, kale, avocado, and baked chips.
Even with her 25 year background in food service, setting up The Lunchbox wasn’t easy.
“I had to build this from the ground up,” Budwick said, explaining the process took about a year. “I had to do the lighting, and put the sink in, and then put the grill in and the cooler. So it wasn’t a huge investment, but it was an investment.”
Budwick now works between serving breakfast and lunch at The Lunchbox in Nichols Tower and at her second location in Homan Square Park. Since her businesses are nearby major community assets like Holy Family Ministry School, and DRW College Prep, Budwick believes the area holds a lot of potential.
“Hopefully I'm looking for a typical day to be a long line out door and around the corner,” Budwick said with a laugh. She wants to bring in customers from the local YMCA, police station and other businesses in Nichols Tower. Budwick herself lives in the neighborhood, making it easy to commit to providing the community with good food.
“I see that this area of really needed it,” Budwick said. She hopes that by providing students and other customers with healthy options, they’ll be more likely to reach for those foods when they’re at home. “I just can't do it myself. Parents have to be a part of it as well.”
In the future Budwick hopes to expand her Lunchbox business and open multiple locations across the city including Chicago’s airports and malls. Find The Lunchbox on the first floor of Homan Square Nichols Tower at 906 S. Homan Avenue. Jeri Budwick can be contacted at 773-265-5555 and at firstname.lastname@example.org