Okay, so we've all heard this before, right? Lunchbox Laboratory--the small and falling-to-pieces workshop where Scott Simpson and crew create some of the loveliest, most heart-attackiest burgers known to man (see some samples here), is closing. Or is about to close. Or closed last night without anyone knowing.
We've written about the rumors of LL's death and destruction that occasionally ripple through the restaurant world grapevine. And we've heard all manner of fanciful tales of imminent doom and disaster.
Only this time? This time it seems like the rumors are true.
Lunchbox Laboratory is closing. On December 19. Or to put it in the somewhat more poetic words of Simpson, they are "escaping the death hole," and moving on to a space that is "literally 10 times bigger" across town in South Lake Union.
They'll be taking over the space Southlake Grill currently occupies at 1253 Thomas Street. Which, I guess, makes this a double announcement because, in order to make room for the new Lunchbox Laboratory, Southlake Grill has to close. Which it will be doing on January 14, in order to clear out for a projected Lab opening at the end of the same month. Hopefully, it will all go smoothly because it's not like the Lab is kicking the Southlake Grill out of its home or anything. Because the folks behind Southlake Grill (Neighborhood Grills, which also owns Greenlake Bar & Grill, Eastlake Bar & Grill, Lake Forest Bar & Grill and Crossroads Bar and Grill) are actually going to be Simpson's new partners: they bought the concept and chose to bring it into this space.
With this new-found real estate, Simpson is also planning on ramping up the entire Lunchbox Laboratory operation. For starters, he's going to have an actual dining room with actual servers. There will be two bars. Oh, and also an arcade.
Yes, an arcade.
"Old Pac-Man, Defender, pinball. All the games of my youth," Simpson told me, almost wistfully, when we got to talking about the old stand-up, cabinet model arcade games that also featured heavily in my younger days.
He'll be supercharging the kitchen, too--bulking up the already impressive board of burgers by adding a touch of "Old-fashioned Americana" to the menu. This means sandwiches, corn dogs, TV dinners, a little bit of the re-envisioned white trash fine dining that he played with at the original Lab. He doesn't have a menu in place yet, but he insisted that he would be throwing "a little bit of everything into the mix."
And when I asked him whether or not he was worried about making the jump from such a small, easily-controllable space into the big leagues, Simpson was philosophical about it. "Everybody should worry a bit," he told me. But considering he knew that his options were limited in the old space--that, sooner or later, he was going to have to close it before it fell down around his ears--he knew that it was either expand or die. "So I might as well take the chance."