By Sarah Skordas
Friday again. February 23rd. The sun’s not shining, birds aren’t chirping. The sky can’t figure out if it’s a dull grey or a pale, pale blue, the color that normally means snow if it were 10 to 15 degrees cooler. But school’s out, there’s poetry to be written, and food to be eaten, so I can’t really complain about that day’s circumstances, especially not with the Brown Box Eatery just down the road.
The unexpectedly charming restaurant is wedged right between the Pizza Hut and the Rita’s that I know many people wish was open year round. Pizza and ice cream: the two major food groups—only to be matched by donuts, of course. Conveniently, donuts are one of Brown Box’s specialties (their hand-cut cake donuts being a steal at just a dollar and some change per donut).
But a mere 13 minute walk down Annapolis Road, devoid of sidewalks, and around the Odenton traffic circle (you can cut it to roughly 8 minutes if you instead go through a path that brings you to Lisa Avenue and a small neighborhood), Brown Box is the epitome of convenience if you are looking for a quick and nearby place to eat. Don’t fret, however, if you are of the more lackadaisical variety, as the 1.1 mile drive from Arundel is even faster, averaging out to about 5 minutes.
Let me set the scene for you. It’s the end of the week. School just got out, or it’s just time for a lunch break, or you’re just hankering for something to eat. Unfortunately, it’s the middle of the day and you’ve still got a bunch of things to do, so you can’t take very long. You’re heading past the Odenton traffic circle, and you see the grey concrete building and the Brown Box sign atop a two-toned storefront.
Actually, let’s back up. You see a bright, neon open sign, mercifully placed in the upper-right hand corner of a window pane with the words “DONUTS,” “LUNCH,” and “BREAKFAST,” in large white font across the bottom. This place is open. And nearby. At this point, for simplicity’s sake, you probably think one of two things: either, huh, might as well try it, or, you go with the more disappointing option, which is to continue on down the road, or keep on driving around the circle until you end up at the McDonald’s or the Dairy Queen.
If you aren’t a disappointing human, you pull in and take in the rest of the building. You walk through the front door and you’re in a small room, a metal Brown Box Eatery sign hanging on the wall in front of you (in case you weren’t already aware of the establishment you just walked into), some business cards and pamphlets from other local businesses strewn atop a red countertop protruding from the same wall. An opening in the tan wall is carved out to your left, bringing you to the main dining area.
Dark floors, cool metal light-fixtures dangling from the white rafters, and an array of tables and chairs (some high-top, many low-top) are there to greet you, along with the sound of music (normally some genre of rock) and laughter floating from the back kitchen (and yet not enough that makes it distracting from all the studying that you should be doing). A large menu hangs on the far wall, painted a subdued yellow. To the left of said menu, another hole in the wall is cut out, this time to make room for the metal counter where a rather amiable host or hostess resides, ready for you to place your order so they can relay it to the kitchen beyond.
You go to sit down and make note of another feature worth mentioning: the large variety of decor within the restaurant (including but not limited to a vertical “Bakery” sign, a wall that holds paintings and photographs one could buy, and, my personal favorite, Jake’s Loaner Library, which in short is a small nook of shelves where you can donate your books and take one or two of the available titles that you think you may like to read). In short, Brown Box provides you with a comforting and cheerful environment in which you can enjoy a fresh meal, an environment one would be less likely to receive when sitting in a McDonald’s or Dairy Queen drive-thru.
“You can’t survive on donuts alone.”
Wise words from Stacey Hammel, the co-owner (along with her husband, Dave) of Brown Box. It’s great, then, that the establishment offers a plethora of options: classic breakfasts like eggs and bacon, pancakes, french toast, and omelets. For lunch: daily soups, salads, and sandwiches, and, for any time, gourmet donuts. And don’t worry, they have coffee (though I have found that the coffee’s quality varies depending on when I go. On Sundays, for instance, the coffee is usually very fresh, though, it kind of has to be, in order to not disappoint the crowd of families and teenagers that stop by for the brunch rush).
On Friday, I ordered the three-cheese grilled cheese with a side of house-made potato chips and an iced caramel latte, whilst my friend decided to get a breakfast option: a three egg omelet with tomato, spinach, and turkey bacon and a side of potatoes and an english muffin.
While I can only take her word that her food choices were not regrettable (her meal both looked and smelled delicious), I for one can tell you that my grilled cheese was great. The three cheeses—cheddar, provolone, and swiss, a blend I asked the young cook to surprise me with—were melted together perfectly and gooey enough that when pulling apart the sandwich, a lactose spider web was created. The bread was golden, and the chips were as well. I was pleased to come to the conclusion that the chips were crisp, and not of the soggy category that some homemade chips can fall into. My coffee, prepared for me by one of my friends who works there, was a substantial balance of rich coffee and sweet caramel.
The Brown Box Eatery, as stated previously, provides the customer with a laid back and family-friendly environment. The employees are pleasant, many of them being current students or graduates from Arundel High. I had the opportunity to not only briefly interview one of the owners, Stacey Hammel, but one of Brown Box’s employees as well.
Gabe Clark, one of the establishment’s cooks and an alum of Arundel High, had much to say about how it is to work there, juxtaposed to the other restaurants. Having worked in the food service industry for three years, Gabe made it clear how much he enjoyed Brown Box: “This is the only place I’ve actually wanted to stay at.” And it shows. The employees are like a really close friend group, who just so happen to work at the same place because, as another employee jokes, they’re “broke out of their minds and aren’t exactly sure how adulting works yet.”
“The people here,” Gabe continues, “are fun to work with. I mean, we’re listening to music, and dancing, and yelling and talking at the top of our lungs . . . so it’s a fun place to work.” And that was one of Stacey Hammel’s goals upon choosing to open this restaurant two and a half years ago, the others being that they would “sell fresh food that’s made to order,” and be family oriented. I think it’s safe to say that the Brown Box Eatery meets all of these requirements, and then some.
More information about Brown Box:
- Address: 1109 Odenton Rd, Odenton, MD 21113
- 1.1 mile 5 minute drive or a .7 mile 13 min walk from Arundel High School
- Hours: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. everyday except Friday (open until 6 p.m.)
- Number: (410) 674-2269
- Website: https://www.orderthebrownboxeatery.com/