The Local Dish: You won’t miss meat at Munch
The Amazing Black Bean Burger at Munch in Oak Park is topped with goat cheese and tomato. While brown rice and beans are part of the patty, more than half of the burger is made from vegetables.| Photo by Melissa Elsmo
Lunch at Munch
When: Tuesday-Friday starting at 11 a.m.; brunch on Saturdays and Sundays beginning at 10 a.m., closed Mondays
Where: 104 N. Marion St., Oak Park
Kid Friendly: Yes! Kids are more than welcome at Munch. Check out a trio of kid-sized sides called The Groovy Plate ($6.50) or a half a banana and Nutella sandwich with carrot sticks ($5.50).
Cost: $3.50/cup of soup; $14.95/“Meaty” stuffed pepper; $1.75/Filbert’s Soda; $6/16-ounce Tropikale shake
Chew on this: Munch keeps things local. My “steakless” sandwich featured Upton’s Naturals Seitan. The Chicago-based company’s meat alternatives are 100 percent vegan
Updated: February 28, 2013 11:02AM
Nothing breaks up a busy week better than sneaking off with a friend for a leisurely lunch in a comfortable restaurant.
Last week, my friend suggested we catch up over lunch at Munch. Located in the heart of Oak Park, Munch celebrates all things vegan, vegetarian and gluten free. Skeptical? Don’t be. A meat-free meal at Munch is far from flavor-free.
Munch has been open for just over 18 months, but chef-owner and Oak Park resident, Robbin O’Harrow, has spent the better part of her life working in the restaurant industry and more than 20 years living a vegan lifestyle. “When my daughter was in high school, she brought home a PETA magazine,” O’Harrow remembers, “and I was just horrified by what I read about the cruelties of the poultry industry.” From that moment on, and long before vegan was an everyday word, O’Harrow changed what she and her family ate, and meat focused meals became a thing of the past.
O’Harrow’s passionate commitment to vegan and vegetarian fare is reflected her nutrient-dense menu items. “I am constantly taste testing,” O’Harrow muses, “so I know everything that we serve at Munch is delicious.”
If dishes don’t pass her frequent inspections they don’t make it out of the kitchen. This attention to detail keeps customers coming back for her creative sandwiches, soups and salads.
The Hippie Hemp Seed Salad is a protein-packed powerhouse and, like all salads at the restaurant, features handtorn greens rather than pre-packaged salad mixes. Munch’s perennially popular pasta and lentil soup is a homey and honest concoction that O’Harrow serves up as a flavorful homage to her Italian grandmother who developed the recipe.
Commonly wary of meat alternatives like Seitan, I was pleasantly surprised by the robust Philly “Steakless” Sandwich I ordered for lunch. Cooks at Munch marinate the wheat-based meat alternative in vegetarian soy sauce and fresh herbs for days before tossing it on a grill with loads of peppers and onions. The sandwich, served alongside a heaping portion of sautéed garlicly greens, left me more than satisfied.
My lunch companion ordered the Amazing Black Bean Burger, topped with goat cheese and tomato. While brown rice and beans are part of the patty, more than 50 percent of Munch’s burger is composed of vegetables, making it a nutritionally savvy menu option.
In addition to providing flavorful, high-quality dishes, the folks at Munch know how to serve it all with style. The welcoming wait staff rivals the ever-changing art on the walls of the bright and cheery establishment.
“I have the best employees who make our customers feel at home,” says O’Harrow, “and I always want people to enjoy friendly service and delicious food at Munch.”