Nostalgic lunch box meals growing in popularity

By Alexa Santos, digital producer
Busy people trying to get a healthy, filling meal during the workday have more options than ever.
Numerous restaurants around the tri-state are capitalizing on this need, as lunch-box style meals rise in popularity. 
News 12 checked out two restaurants of different cuisines getting on board with the trend. 
Little Wayla in the Lower East Side offers home style Thai cuisine in lunch trays that work great to-go or for dining in. 
The weekday lunch space is a branch of its sister restaurant downstairs, Wayla, which serves Thai dishes for dinner and weekend brunch.
Owner Erika Chou says creating Little Wayla was to serve a need in the neighborhood.
"We thought we could have a lunch version available of things that we're doing downstairs [at Wayla]," Chou says. "It's day-to-day foods that people in Thailand would eat for lunch."
At Little Wayla, guests can choose a base of steamed rice, sticky rice or salad. Then, they can choose two or three main items, which are constantly changing. 
Some staples include Pad Thai, beef Panang curry and tamarind-coated fried eggs.
"This is what we like to eat every day, this is what we actually cook at home, so I think that's really refreshing. It's comforting and nice," Chou says. 
At Zizi, an eastern Mediterranean restaurant in Chelsea, they're also jumping on the lunch box trend. 
The restaurant offers fan favorites like shakshuka, shawarma and lamb burgers.
Their new menu item, the "Balkan lunch box" blends a traditional Mediterranean eating style with the New York City way of life. 
It features Bureka, a stuffed phyllo pastry, with accompaniments like hard boiled egg, harissa, tahini, pickles and salad.
Head chef Liran Leibman says, "It's super Mediterranean. The more plates you have on the table, the more selection you have to play around with stuff, the better. But this is in a small, more refined New York way."
Leibman also says it's a great way to get different bites with different flavor profiles. 
"Every bite is a little bit different. Sometimes you do the egg with the Bureka, sometimes you put tahini on it, sometimes an olive, and it turns into a more fun adventure rather than everything tasting the same," he says. 
The lunch box trend is seen across many other cuisines beyond Mediterranean and Thai, and can be found in restaurants in neighborhoods throughout the tri-state.