Wednesday, February 24, 2016


104 North Marion Street, Oak Park, IL 60301
QISA (4, 4, 3.5, 4), $7-14, Vegetarian (Vegan-Friendly)

Munch is a hidden gem in Oak Park, Illinois. It is a small cozy restaurant sporting local artwork on the walls, silver globe paper chandeliers, and an over-worked but still attentive, pleasant, and very friendly waitress who is more than happy to explain anything on the menu. Munch is a cash-only restaurant, with an in-store ATM for patrons (like me) who don’t automatically keep cash on hand. It is homemade comfort food that makes artistry out of meaty, or at least meaty-tasting dishes.

David Hammond, the food writer for, praised the restaurant in his video blog, “You Really Should Eat This.” Admittedly, at times, his review of Munch feels like an apologetic justification of vegetarianism to a skeptical omnivorous public nervous about veg heads indoctrinating their children. However, I agree with his general premise that one can not compare vegetarian food to meat-based food since they are different entities entirely. Munch, he explains, stands on its own. And he really, really likes the Wrap Italiano, a tortilla wrap of seitan breakfast “sausage”, organic tofu, marinara, and either provolone or vegan mozzarella. I personally can not vouch for this dish, although it did look quite tasty, but I definitely can say, to steal Hammond’s punchline…

You should definitely eat this: “Beefy” tostado plate. These tostados are definitely a fork food, spilling over with seitan-based “beef”, cheese, black beans, corn, red onion, tomato, and sliced avocado on top of a crunchy tortilla. The entire dish is served over a bed of lettuce, radicchio, and shredded carrot, giving it an artisanal feel. The proteins and veggies blend well, and the flavors and textures really pop. In addition, the avocado is at the perfect ripeness. Yes, it's those little things that count.

You should definitely drink this: Cacao almond sin smoothie. This thick smooth drink is a blend of cacao powder, dates, almonds, and bananas. Smoother than you would expect, this a decadent-tasting shake.

Although Oak Park is farther west than my typical route through Chicago, I may have to make a couple more side trips…for research purposes of course. I need to know if you should definitely eat the Groovy Breakfast Plate, an organic tofu scramble with sautéed portabella mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, garlic, and spinach. Or if it you should possibly eat the Tarragon “Chicken” Wrap, with marinated “chicken” seitan, caramelized onions, roasted bell peppers, leafy greens, cucumbers, and herbed veganaise. Or if you might possibly want to definitely eat the Groovy Plate with pan-seared “beefy” marinated tofu, mashed sweet potatoes, red quinoa pilaf, sautéed greens, and a kale salad with orange vinagraitte.

Who am I kidding? Of course you should. And wave to me while you are there.

Inn Season Café

Inn Season Café
500 East Fourth Street, Royal Oak, MI 48067
QISA (4, 4, 3.5, 4), $10-18, Vegetarian (Vegan Friendly)

Royal Oak, Michigan, a tree-laden northern suburb of Detroit, was the home of the infamous 1920s fascist anti-Semitic radio personality Father Charles Coughlin.

There, I said it. Now I can move on.

Royal Oak is also the birthplace of iconic director Sam Raimi, birthplace of bechinned actor Bruce Campbell, early home of Eagles founding member Glenn Frey o.b.m., the setting for 1990s sitcom Home Improvement, and the home of the Detroit Zoo. Add to that resume the Inn Season Café, an elegant, cozy 34-year old vegetarian restaurant that is destined to become one of my new favorite haunts.

It is possible that the restaurant is not nearly as good as I think, but somehow they managed to find, target, and exploit all of my weaknesses. The Budapest mushroom soup, for example, was possibly the best mushroom soup I’ve ever eaten; creamy golden broth, big slices of mushroom, bursting with visible herbs and exotic flavors. Or how about the 4th Street Burger served on an herbed artisanal whole grain bun that is soft but thick with a perfect yeasty flavor. I can’t help but praise stuff like that.

The burger itself was grain-based, comprising oats, lentils, brown rice, millet, cracked wheat, cornmeal, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds, and somehow it held together with just the right chewiness, crunch, and flavor. The banana strawberry smoothie was fairly standard, which is to say it tasted like a very decent smoothie. Even the coleslaw, while a little heavy on the raw onion, was a vibrant mix of cabbage, carrot, red onion, and a light sauce, using fresh herbs to bring out the flavor.

The restaurant defies traditional classification, mixing its elegance with a modern appeal. Interesting still life paintings, including one of floating artichokes decorate the wall. Bottles of olive oil complement the salt and pepper shakers on the wooden tables. Tattooed ladies with multiple piercings cheerfully take your order. And then there is the elderly ladies at the corner table discussing their grand kids. For all I know, they’ve been coming here for 34 years.

To top it all off, the restaurant is kosher certified by Kosher Michigan. Take that Father Coughlin.