Tanya Hajj, the namesake and co-owner of Tanya's Lunch Box in Glendale on Wednesday, June 15, 2011, holds her restaurant's signature dish, the chicken kabob plate.

Tanya Hajj, the namesake and co-owner of Tanya's Lunch Box in Glendale on Wednesday, June 15, 2011, holds her restaurant's signature dish, the chicken kabob plate. (Tim Berger/Staff photographer)


I don’t know about you, but anything called a tahini chicken salad sandwich piques my curiosity. So I made my way down to the recently opened Tanya’s Lunch Box on Glendale Avenue to try one.

It’s a crispy, flavorful, unique sandwich that comes with fries and a soda for a mere $7.50. And there’s more at this modest eatery run by a mother-daughter team.

What started as a small catering company has become somewhat of a neighborhood hangout. Casual and friendly, Tanya’s specializes in your common Middle Eastern fare of lule and shish kebabs. And they’re perfectly delicious, especially with the sides of buttery rice, creamy hummus and a really good cabbage salad. But what will probably bring you back are the pressed sandwiches.

Top on the list is the tahini chicken salad sandwich mentioned above. It’s similar to American chicken salad, but instead of mayonnaise, Tanya uses a light tahini (sesame seed paste) sauce with special spices and extra toasted sesame seeds for punch. Lettuce, tomato and onion nestle in alongside the chicken in a nice big French roll that gets a fabulous crispy outside after it meets the press. Be sure to specify that you want it pressed.

They gladly substitute Fatoush salad for the fries for just $1 more (normally $3 or $5.50 as small or large sides). The delicious Fatoush has chopped radish, cucumber, green pepper, Romaine, tomato and pita chips. The lemony dressing and sprinkling of sumac are light enough to keep the salad cold and crunchy.

The garlic chicken pressed sandwich ($6.50) is also good, with tender chunks of roasted chicken, lettuce, tomato and pickle. The beef shish kebab wrap ($6.25) is made with tender grilled filet mignon and beautiful vegetables. Pass on the Soujuk and tomato sandwich ($6.50) though. Unpressed, it just tastes like a cold salami sandwich. But the falafel sandwich ($5.25) has that yummy tahini sauce and is quite satisfying.

They serve a soup of the day for $3 (or $1.50 with a sandwich). It was lentil on both my visits, and I think it’s the best lentil soup I’ve ever had. In an interesting twist: Yellow lentils are used, some pureed, some not, and chunks of tender potato are added. The seasoning is just right. It has the look and consistency of corn chowder but tastes like delicate lentils.

The decor is casual, colorful and features an enormous tropical fish tank. Children at neighboring tables and even my 16-year-old daughter were hypnotized by its aquatic residents. Newly planted shrubs surround an outdoor patio and in time should create a nice enclosed space.

Tanya’s Lunch Box should not be confused with Lunchbox (on Brand), a personal favorite. Still, Tanya’s makes an amazing soup, some great salads and a whole new taste experience called the tahini chicken salad sandwich.

LISA DUPUY has been reviewing local restaurants since 2008. She welcomes comments at LDupuy@aol.com.


INFO

What: Tanya’s Lunch Box

Where: 222 S. Glendale Ave., Glendale

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

Prices: Sandwiches $5.25 to $7.50 (includes can of soda); kebab and falafel plates $6.50 to $9.75; sides $3 to $5.50

Contact: (818) 484-7786