There is nothing I love more in life than enjoying delicious barbecue in a distinctive atmosphere. Richard's Lunchbox combines delicious, Santa Maria-style barbecue, with distinctive dining, as the dining room is inside the fuselage of an ex-airliner! Las Vegas has nothing on Tulare when it comes to a unique dining experience!
Photo: How about this for your dining pleasure? You have the option to dine, "indoors," inside the fuselage of a defunct, Convair airliner, or outside, under umbrellas, while enjoying the warm Tulare sun. I chose to dine "indoors," as I'd never enjoyed barbecue inside the fuselage of an ex-airliner. Richard's Lunchbox definitely has distinctive atmosphere! Where else can you enjoy delicious barbecue inside the fuselage of a defunct airliner?
Photo: You walk up to the aft end of the aircraft to, when the aircraft actually was flying, was the galley, which catered to the culinary tastes of the passengers, "back in the day." Today, airline travelers get bags of peanuts, and pre-made dinners... but I digress. The rear loading hatch opens to display Richard's Lunchbox's kitchen, order counter, and menu. Note the sign to the left of the photo, which explains Richard's philosophy: Fresh ingredients! May choice offerings, including my lunch of the "Pork 'N Heifer" burger aren't on the menu. So if you want it, just ask...
Photo: Co-owner of the restaurant, Shawna, takes phone orders. On Wednesday, October 02, 2013, I arrived shortly after the restaurant opened. By the time I left, they had a line-up of customers at the order window. Richard's Lunchbox is a favorite of the Tulare locals, as I was the only "road" customer at the time of my visit. They have a "low-tech" ordering system, as Shawna takes the orders, either in person or on the phone, writes the order, and when she's finished, she tears off the order, from the order pad, and tapes it to the overhead, above the preparation area in the kitchen. OK, it harkens back to the 1980's, but if it works, it's all good...
Photo: In "airplane-speak," the galley - in every day terms known as a kitchen - at Richard's Lunchbox is located near the tail of the aircraft, so the photo is taken from the closed door the flight deck crew compartment, looking aft, into the empty "dining room" in the fuselage of the aircraft. Photo was taken shortly after the restaurant opened, but it would be quite active a half hour later.
Photo: Shawna dishes up potato salad in the kitchen of Richard's Lunchbox, as a co-pitmaster looks on. Note the orders displayed on the overhead - it reminds me of those stainless steel wheels that were used in the 1960's to relay orders to the kitchen - but in keeping with the delicious food and low-tech atmosphere at Richard's, it fits right in. The ambience is further enhanced by classic rock from a local radio station. I love it!
Photo: Owners Richard and Shauna, hard at work in the kitchen. Richard is preparing my burger, and Shauna is taking an order from a walk-up customer.
Photo: Mr, Pitmaster grills my order over oak logs. Oak is plentiful in the Tulare area, so Richard's fires their grill and smoker with oak. If you're a "foodie" or a lover of barbecue, you know what different woods to, so you know that oak is very similar to hickory. Oak is abundant in the San Joaquin Valley of California, and almost everybody either grills or smokes using oak, so Richard's Lunchbox is no exception. However, I must add, Richards's makes great barbecue!
Photo: I ordered a "Pork 'N Heifer" burger and a side of beans, and Richard was gracious to take my photo. What is a "Pork 'N Heifer" burger? Check out the next photo...
Photo: My lunch of a "Pork 'N Heifer" burger, a side of beans, and a small Pepsi. Ok, we'll start with the beans, which are delicious, creamy, "cowboy-style" beans, with a bit of hamburger in them. The side of beans alone are worth the trip to Richard's Lunchbox. The Pepsi was a fountain Pepsi with lots of ice, and the mix was just right... OK... drum roll... on to the main event: "Pork 'N Heifer" burger. Of course the frame is the large, chewy roll, that was toasted perfectly on the oak-fired grill. Add a 1/3--pound grilled burger, pulled pork, linguica, hot link and... BACON! ... Top it with melted cheese... Then, garnish this creation with mustard, red onion, mayonnaise and lettuce. So, the "Pork 'N Heifer" burger is a vegan's nightmare, but to a barbecue addict, and a lover of fine food like I am, this burger is the best of the best! In Tulare, or for that matter, Fresno, there are no other options for such a superior burger.
I am Facebook friends with Richard's Lunchbox, so if you find this review interesting, you should "Facebook" them to, as they post a lot of interesting articles about what is going on at their fine restaurant.
Photo: Friday, May 14, 2014, on the way home from Las Vegas, Sharlene and I stopped at Richard's for lunch, as I had told her about the restaurant, and the wonderful food they serve. Sharlene and I both ordered from the "Richards" specials, from the blackboard, that can be seen to Sharlene's right... more on our food later. It was interesting that both Richard and Shawna remembered me from my previous visit last October. But, thanks to the wonders of Facebook, nearly anything can happen! Just in case you're interested, the order counter is near the rear exit, where airline passengers used to board the aircraft.
Photo: We "opened" the restaurant, shortly after their 10:30 opening, and Chef Richard has the wood pit going that will cook our food and give Richard's Lunchbox the "kiss of smoke" that their delicious food always features.
Photo: You place your orders, and pay for them outside, and you pick them up inside the fuselage/dining room. I photograph co-owner Shawna, working inside the kitchen, from the pick-up counter. Richard's Lunchbox features an open kitchen, which is something that I love to photograph.
Photo: Sharlene chose the "Wife's Choice," which the blackboard described as "Turkey, bacon, avocado sandwich, house-made, slow-smoked turkey. Garnished with provolone cheese, mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion and pepper." She ordered an optional bag of chips, and she absolutely loved her lunch!
Photo: The carnivore in me won out, as when I saw "The Randy" on the blackboard, and I couldn't resist. "The Randy" consists of a half-pound beef patty, cooked to your specifications - medium, in my case - hot link, bacon, and three varieties of cheese: Cheddar, provolone, and pepper jack. Of course, all of your favorite garnishes are included, including onion, lettuce, tomato, mustard and mayo. Quite a burger! Quite a feast! Interestingly, Sharlene and I both ordered the "specials" from the blackboard, in a "one-two" punch, but as usual, lunch was DELICIOUS at Richard's Lunchbox.
You can dine inside the airplane, or you can dine inside, but wherever you dine at Richard's Lunchbox, you'll enjoy delicious barbecue, grilled over oak logs, and served by friendly people, who enjoy what they are doing. Great barbecue meets distinctive atmosphere at Richard's Lunchbox in Tulare, CA. Go for it!!!
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