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LunchBox Bistro & Delivery

A bricks-and-mortar restaurant has always taken a back seat to Mark and Goozel Dyer's fast-paced catering service.

So I wasn't surprised — albeit disappointed — to see the former LunchBox cafe had left Central Point's Fourth Street Centre about a year ago. Operating a sparsely furnished establishment for about two years without so much as a sign, the Dyers gave no indication that LunchBox had actually relocated to East Medford.

Almost a year passed before I finally reconnected with LunchBox, tucked away in a State Street plaza that houses an integrative medical clinic and yoga studio. While health care professionals, patients and yogis had been enjoying LunchBox's signature sandwich and wrap combos, I'd been feeling bad the Dyers couldn't make a go of it in Central Point.

In reality, the move was intentional and strategic. So much of the Dyers' business was in Medford office complexes that an outlying location made their popular delivery service difficult. With catering still a mainstay, the couple's new bistro — sporting a sign this time — is still low-key, with a modern, whimsical decor that's as streamlined as the LunchBox menu.

Thirteen sandwiches, seven wraps and four salads all are priced at $9, both for the Dyers' and customers' convenience. If $9 seems a bit steep, read the fine print to find out what's included for the cost of a wrap or sandwich: a green salad, potato salad or fruit salad and chips; a homemade cookie, plus a pickle spear and chocolate-coated mint candy. If it's a salad, $9 also buys the cookie and a roll (dressing is on the side).

Even if you wanted to, you can't forgo the side dishes, nor can you get a half sandwich. Because delivery is free, the Dyers won't justify ferrying half orders for reduced fees and don't want to differentiate between a catering menu and a cafe menu. Sorry, that's just the way it is.

The good news, as Goozel Dyer points out, is each meal provides enough food for lunch and snacks throughout the day. Some of their customers even hoard stashes of mints for unexpected chocolate cravings.

Craving the full-meal deal when I arrived at LunchBox — the only customer at 1 p.m. on a recent weekday — I ordered a pesto-turkey sandwich, which comes on a croissant with slices of Swiss cheese and tomato.

Chips and fruit were an obvious choice, but I worried LunchBox would serve up mealy melon, which so many restaurants use as a cost-saving measure. I should have known this foodie couple wouldn't sacrifice flavor for economy. Blueberries, blackberries, grapes and sliced strawberries comprised the salad that day.

I also tacked on a homemade lemonade for $1.50. It was served in a huge, colorful, plastic tumbler and garnished with a fresh lemon wedge. I decided I'd be back in the summer for LunchBox's strawberry and lavender versions.

Likewise homemade, the pesto on my sandwich provided a bright burst of flavor. While the basil-based spread was generous, the other layers perfectly balanced the croissant's heft and richness. Also served on a croissant, LunchBox's "bistro" sandwich of Brie cheese, apple, cucumber, cranberry relish and honey mustard is a satisfying vegetarian option.

Apart from the croissants, Ashland's La Baguette provides LunchBox's whole-wheat and white sandwich bread. If a standard sandwich — such as BLT, club, pastrami or tuna — doesn't entice, customers can build their own from a choice of bread and turkey, roast beef or honey ham.

As for wraps, two chicken versions — Waldorf and Caesar — imitate the classic salads while turkey, ham, roast beef and even hummus put in appearances.

The salad section includes chicken Caesar, classic chef and two fruity options: "Oregon," with its poached pears, walnuts and blue cheese, and "Tuscan walnut," which swaps apples for pears and adds cranberries and grapes. LunchBox offers a half-dozen dressing choices from the predictable ranch to balsamic-tarragon.

— Sarah Lemon