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 oakpark.com, 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.