The Lunch Room
Restaurant & Bar
407 N 5th Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Hours: Mon-Fri 11am–9pm; Sat 8am–9pm; Sun 10am–3pm
On a beautiful spring Saturday in Ann Arbor, my family did what every other family in Ann Arbor does: we went to the farmers’ market. After braving the crowds, we joined another next door at The Lunch Room Restaurant and Bar.
The Lunch Room opened in 2013 after two successful seasons as a food cart at the downtown food court courtyard, Mark’s Carts. The Lunch Room is a vegan restaurant located in the Kerrytown Market & Shops that aims to prepare nutritious and delicious plant-based food. Not being vegan, however, I wondered if my family could appreciate the restaurant’s offerings.
The counter service restaurant boasts sandwiches like the Banh Mi Chay with marinated baked tofu, carrot-radish pickle, jalapenos, cilantro, mint and garlic mayo. “Main Events” include dishes such as Pad Thai and Chili Mac. There are also sides including black beans and rice or wilted greens.
There is not a kids’ menu, but the Mac and Cheese ($8) appealed to my daughter, age 8. What did not appeal to her, though, was the topping: a crunchy almasen with almonds, lemon zest, and sesame seeds. We ordered it plain.
My son, age 11, quietly asked if he could have a Root Beer Float. I tried to sell him on the Mac and Cheese. Nope. Next I tried the T.L.T. with tempeh, lettuce, and tomato. No way. He mentioned a burger, but burgers are only offered as a special on Saturday nights. Finally I ordered him the float. Pick your battles I say!
My husband decided on the Tuck & Roll Burrito ($8.50) with Cuban black beans, corn, cumin-lime rice, avocado, cashew sour cream and lettuce, served with pico de gallo. He substituted kale for lettuce ($1 extra).
I ordered the Tempeh Reuben ($8) with marinated and baked tempeh, carmelized onions, sauerkraut, on housemade rye bread with tangy dressing. The Brinery in Ann Arbor makes the tempeh and sauerkraut, examples of The Lunch Room’s use of local, organic, and non-GMO ingredients.
Room saved for dessert
We rounded out our meal with an Oatmeal Dream Pie and Bumpy Cake from the bakery case. Oh the bakery case! It was filled with tempting items like “junk food” brownies with cookie dough, potato chips, and salt. Signs indicated if items were gluten-free or contained allergens.
There are tables and bar stools inside the casual interior, but we sat outside on sleek picnic tables. We sipped fresh limeade and iced coffee before our meals were delivered. The Mac & Cheese with cashew nut cheese, butternut squash and red bell pepper, was bland in a good way. My daughter tasted cheese with a slight nutty flavor vs. overpowering sharpness. My reuben was hearty; the bread thick and pleasing, the kraut and dressing tangy. The tempeh tasted meaty to me, although I missed the consistency of shaved corned beef vs. tempeh slices.
“It’s hard to beat avocado and kale,” commented my contented husband of his burrito. He liked the ingredients’ fresh, bright taste. The Oatmeal Dream bar was heavenly— crispy on the outside with a soft, sugary center. The Bumpy Cake had rich ganache covering a yummy lump of vanilla buttercream frosting over a moist chocolate cupcake. I might not know much about veganism, but I know delicious baked goods when I eat them.
And my son? He happily finished his Root Beer Float.
The Lunch Room opened a second location earlier this year aptly named The Lunch Room Bakery & Café. The Bakery & Café focuses more on grab-and-go items and is open for breakfast daily, located at 2200 Fuller Court inside the Huron Towers near North Campus.
The Short Course
To avoid wait: Try off-peak hours or prepare for a short wait.
Noise level: Moderate to high inside.
Bathroom amenities: There is a changing table in 1 of the unisex bathrooms. Bright murals painted, in each bathroom, might be worth a visit with little kids.
High chairs? Yes.
Got milk? No, but assorted sodas, juice, and coconut water are available.
Kids’ menu? No.
Anything healthy for kids? Pretty much everything (except desserts).
Food allergy concerns? Everything is 100% vegan. Nut and gluten free items are made in a shared space and on the same equipment. Allergens are clearly identified in all baked goods.