407 N. 5th Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
QISA (4, 3.5, 3.5, 3), $7-10, Vegan
The Lunch Room in Ann Arbor is a small, intimate vegan eatery with a rapid turnover vibe befitting its college appeal. The food is well prepared and tasty, which is a good thing because obviously very little time was wasted on décor. In fact, other than the big jars of spices behind the lunch counter itself, the only decorations that I could see were cheap, store-bought Halloween cut outs on the windows and a decorative border around the ceiling made of blue-tipped metal quills. I am not sure what the decorators were going for, but it looked like they had sewn together the pelts of many paint-dipped porcupines.
Based on my single visit, the restaurant primarily draws a young female crowd, most of them pulled straight out of the 60s through a rip in the space time continuum. The party of four next to me comprised three attractive young ladies in native garb, and a mother who looked like she was actively accepting their lifestyles. The “earthiest” of this group, a pretty blonde woman in macramé and earth tones, was apparently eschewing the regressive confines of the spoken word and was communicating in a limited set of signs that seemed to indicate “love,” “look at that,” and “cell phone.”
But then there is the food. I really enjoyed the food. I ordered a tofu banh mi sandwich with a side of chili. The banh mi was a thick slab of tofu marinated and baked to a perfect texture and flavor, covered with carrots and cilantro, and served on hearty, chewy artisan bread. The chili was thick and busy with a moderate amount of heat. Loaded with kidney beans and lentils and complemented with tomato and onion, the chili had a wonderful “meaty” quality without the cheat of processed meat analogs.
When I go back, and I undoubtedly will, I will have to try the Tuck and Roll Burrito with cumin black beans, corn, cumin-lime rice, avocado, cashew sour cream, and fresh pico de gallo. Or perhaps I will come for the Sunday brunch and try the biscuit “sausage” and gravy or maybe the breakfast burrito with housemade seitan chorizo. Or maybe I’ll ask about the Flying Spaghetti Monster sushi roll mentioned on their Twitter feed. After all, what’s vegan food without a political statement?
However, I will have to time my next visit so that it does not follow a business meeting. I definitely need to lose the tie and suit if I want to blend in with the locals. I could be wrong, but I think the pretty blonde hippie was signing to her friends, “Check out Gordon Gecko.”