The mission of The Lunch Room is to prepare high-quality, nutritious vegan food, and to demonstrate the breadth and versatility of plant-based whole foods. The Lunch Room, when possible, uses local and organic produce, makes everything from scratch from fine ingredients, and emphasizes environmental sustainability.
The founders and owners of The Lunch Room are Phillis Engelbert and Joel Panozzo, good friends and next-door neighbors who love cooking and serving vegan food. They share a philosophy that “work” should be the pursuit of what you love and should reflect your values and interests. Work at The Lunch Room embraces freedom, creativity, fun, egalitarianism, social justice, and community.
The Lunch Room began as a twinkle in Joel’s and Phillis’ eye in the summer of 2010. They started out by preparing dinner parties and brunches for friends, featuring experimental vegan dishes. From October 2010 through February 2011 they hosted a series of “pop-up” dining events at local retail establishments.
The Lunch Room’s next step was to open a food cart, which operated during the 2011 and 2012 seasons at the downtown Ann Arbor food cart courtyard, Mark’s Carts. After completing a successful second season, The Lunch Room decided to sell the cart and move on to bigger adventures.
The Lunch Room went brick-and-mortar with a Restaurant in Kerrytown in August 2013 and added a bar a year later. A second location,
The Lunch Room Bakery & Cafe, opened in February 2015 in the Huron Towers Apartments on the north side of Ann Arbor. In 2016 Lunch Room Acres was founded in Belleville, to supply fresh produce and flowers to the Restaurant & Bar, as well as to the Bakery & Cafe.
The crew is now readying a third location, Detroit Street Filling Station, at 300 Detroit St., with a projected opening date of early to mid August 2017. The Detroit Street location will feature an international menu of seasonally changing items using the freshest produce possible – much of which will be grown at Lunch Room Acres.
In June 2017 The Lunch Room teamed up with local prisoner rights attorneys and advocates to start a new nonprofit called Youth Justice Fund. We are gathering an impressive group of board and advisory board members including a judge, state senator, and other influential people in the community. .
Some background about The Lunch Room and community giving: In January 2016 we started our 10% giving program by donating to local nonprofits 10% of sales on Saturday nights at the restaurant. We later added 10% of sales all day Tuesdays at our Bakery/Cafe. In a word, this project has been marketing magic. We have taken 2 periods that needed more biz and built them into some of our strongest sales times. The community loves that we are doing this and it's like advertising but cheaper.
A few months back we started thinking about how we could be more impactful in our giving; something more than a grand here, a grand there. And we focused in on the idea of helping young people getting out of prison to get back on their feet. Hence, the Youth Justice Fund was born.
The mission of the Youth Justice Fund (YJF) is to assist returning citizens, sentenced as youth to a term of imprisonment, with services and resources necessary to ensure human dignity and full participation in their communities.
YJF is a brand new organization (tax-exempt status pending), founded by The Lunch Room and local prisoner rights attorneys and advocates. It will provide formerly incarcerated persons, some locked up as young as 14 years old and many of whom are still young, with housing, clothing, transportation, job placement, mental health services, and the like.
The Lunch Room donates 10% of all sales on Saturday nights at the Restaurant/Bar and all day Tuesdays at the Bakery/Cafe to the Youth Justice Fund — the mission of which is to assist returning citizens sentenced as youth to a term of imprisonment, with services and resources necessary to ensure human dignity and full participation in their communities. Our 10% giving days benefit this fund to help young people returning from prison.
Recovery is good business
We have had a heart for our community from our early days of our food cart. We have been supporting the following orgnizations before our 10% after 5pm Saturdays program and continue to contribute to the work they do in the community:
We are hoping to expand our community giving with our Saturday program. We are not doing any additional giving beyond the lists above. Thank you!
Lunch Room Acres (is the place to be)
Yup, The Lunch Room started farming! In an effort to bring the freshest and highest-quality, pesticide-free produce right to their guests' tables, The Lunch Room this season began growing its own produce. On a friend's land in Belleville, Lunch Room staff are growing kale, heirloom tomatoes, string beans, cucumbers, sage, zucchini, mint, basil, tarragon, lemon grass, rhubarb, and all sorts of peppers and squash. This farm-fresh produce is used at both locations, in regular menu items, soups, and dinner specials. And the flowers raised on the farm adorn tables at the restaurant and
at the cafe.
The farming project was begun as an experiment, one which has already been deemed a success and for which there are plans to repeat next year.