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Box Lunch takes to wheels

BY BEN VERHILLE | MARCH 13, 2014 5:00 AM

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Found in the outskirts of Iowa City, elusive and mysterious, exists a mobile diner just waiting for a chance to shine.

The Box Lunch is a ’50s/’60s-style food truck, owned and operated by Liz Wohlford, an Iowa native. Starting in September 2013, the truck quickly gained traction in the Johnson County area. Specially made in Florida, the Box Lunch was driven all the way back to the Midwest to create a new facet for Iowa City’s food culture.

But unlike the food trolleys found in the Pedestrian Mall, which are on many-year contracts with a limited number, food trucks must be in commercial or private spaces to follow City Code.

“It is a matter of parking and public space,” said Kellie Tuttle, administrative secretary of the City Clerk’s Office.

She brought out section 9-4-4 I of parking regulations, which states no vehicle can park or stop on any roadway for more than 10 minutes with the primary purpose of conducting commercial activity, including food sales. This does not apply to private properties with permission from the owner.

Having recently returned from the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival, in Des Moines with the only food truck in attendance, both Wohlford and operating partner Christopher George are very excited to be back in the Iowa City area.

Their ideal situation would involve parking along the perimeter of parks or events, but the City Code will only allow them to serve private and commercial audiences.

“We’re filling our schedule up now between graduation parties, small weddings, and employee stuff,” Wohlford said. “We can pull right in and feed everybody off the truck.”

Although the menu currently lists the food they serve off the truck, Wohlford said they are very versatile in their catering options.

“We can cook up anything you can think of,” she said.

Wohlford is proud of the ways the truck fills the market’s needs, available on nights and weekends, and George said he appreciates their attention to the ingredients.

“[The menu] changes, too,” he said. “Relying on fresh ingredients, our options change all the time. We’re not a big restaurant with freezers full of stuff.”

The Box Lunch hand-presses patties and makes its own sauces, which are more often served with the fresh-cut fries than the entrées.

Right next to the special onion rings are the crispy pepper rings — a thick cut of green peppers prepared almost identically to an onion ring. Delicious, innovative, and fresh.

A recommendation by George is the shrimp taco. Served with huge chunks of avocado and delicately seasoned shrimp, even the bed of lettuce will not be what sticks out. The sweet chili sauce will close the deal.

Looking similar to a yum-yum sauce, the Sriracha and vinegar are mixed to a delicacy, with a happy medium of sweet and spicy.

The Box Lunch is known for being present on game day at the Farmers’ Market and hopes to have a spot on Melrose in the coming years.


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