Sally Bell’s started making box lunch in the 1950s, but the recipes for salad, sandwich spread, deviled egg, cheese wafer, and cupcake date back to the 1920s, when Sarah Cabell Jones opened her bakery in a building across the street. There is nothing singly spectacular about the meal you get here, except for its immunity to anything modern. Sally Bell serves the exact lunch it served a half-century ago, which is probably much the same as polite Virginians ate a hundred years ago.
There are two salads from which to choose: macaroni, which is fine, and spicy-sweet potato salad laced with onions, which is memorable. Of the several kinds of sandwiches, we seldom can resist pimiento cheese, but we have not regretted chicken salad (on a roll rather than white bread), cream cheese and olive (talk about a bygone taste!), and thin-cut Smithfield ham.
For dessert, there are frosted-all-over cupcakes, and small, single-serving pies. Among the latter, I am partial to coconut, which is simple, slightly creamy, and gently sweet. While cupcakes themselves are not spectacular, their frosting is: it completely covers the cake, top and sides.
Everything purchased at Sally Bell’s counter is packed to go — lunches in white boxes neatly tied with string –but there is plenty of on-premises dining space at broad tables in a big, sunny dining room.