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Posted on Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

The Lunch Room vegan food cart to announce restaurant location on Monday

By Lizzy Alfs


Phillis Engelbert and Joel Panozzo started their vegan food cart, The Lunch Room, in Mark's Carts outdoor food courtyard in 2011.

Lizzy Alfs | file photo

Vegan food cart The Lunch Room could be bringing its popular barbecue tofu sandwiches and Mexican hot chocolate cookies to Ann Arbor year-round.

Owners Phillis Engelbert and Joel Panozzo announced in an email to customers and on their Facebook on Saturday that they've secured a restaurant space.

The duo has operated The Lunch Room at downtown Ann Arbor's outdoor food courtyard Mark's Carts for the past two seasons.

They posted a picture on Facebook of them signing a lease for the space — although they have yet to disclose the location.

“The Lunch Room has a restaurant announcement,” the email says. “You can hear details first at a special Happy Hour event.”

With 300 vegan cookies in tow, the duo plans to reveal the details of the new restaurant at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 4 at downtown Ann Arbor’s Cafe Habana. Socializing starts at 5:30 p.m.

“Drinks on you, cookies on us!” the email says.

Downtown Home and Garden owner Mark Hodesh launched Mark’s Carts in May 2011 on a 2,700-square-foot parcel of land behind his retail store. The courtyard has already served as a springboard for food vendor eat, which opened a restaurant on Packard in September 2011.

Next-door-neighbors and vegan foodies Engelbert and Panozzo started hosting private group meals in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti in 2010. They later launched a Kickstarter campaign to help them open their food cart.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at


Jeff Gaynor

Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 1:41 a.m.

Please don't let 'vegan' keep you away. I am an omnivore; The food served by The Lunch Box is simply delicious. Best wishes to Phillis and Joel.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 7:42 p.m.

How do you know if somebody is vegan?


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 8:26 p.m.

The food is FANTASTIC! Great people as well, and I know they will succeed in making many folks very happy. I just had to post the joke!

Jessica Webster

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 8:15 p.m.

Don't worry, they'll tell you! (insert rimshot here) But seriously, I am not even vegetarian and I LOVE the food at the Lunch Room. I love dairy as much as ... no, strike that ... more than the average girl. But I don't miss it in their food.

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 7:35 p.m.

Ann Arbor's food scene just got a lot better. This easily will be my new favorite restaurant in town. I can't recall ever tasting better food than the dishes Phillis Engelbert and Joel Panozzo are able to whip up on a consistent basis at the Lunch Room. They always amaze me.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 6:24 p.m.

I can't imagine anything more unappealing than vegan food. Except raw vegan food.


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 1:41 p.m.

@Peregrine - All of those things sound great with a burger - especially if the fries/chips/onion rings were cooked up in animal lard.


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 1:25 a.m.

That's such an odd thing to say. French fries, potato chips, and onion rings, for example, are vegan; not that they're healthy. Think through what you ate in the last week, and I'll bet many items were vegan.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 5:50 p.m.

Congratulations to them both. I know "vegan" is the healthiest food and all the "animal" arguments, but I simply do not enjoy eating it and never will. I wish them both good luck, however, since their constituency is growing!

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 7:26 p.m.

Have you ever tried any of their food?

Bob Needham

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 4:20 p.m.

So great to see local food businesses start out as a cart and graduate to a permanent space. Congratulations to the owners.

Jessica Webster

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 4:22 p.m.

eat is another Mark's Carts success story. I love having them in my neighborhood.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 3:41 p.m.

I'm really excited about this. The Lunch Room is excellent, if you're vegan or not. I will definitely be checking out their new restaurant when it opens and recommend that everyone else does too!


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

Congratulations. Have never ate there and probably won't. But it is good to here they are doing well.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 8:36 p.m.

I've never eaten there either, but am glad to hear I'll have a chance to now!


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 3:04 p.m.

yay for the cookies!

Julie Halpert

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 4:34 p.m.



Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

Good news for them!, shouldn't the caption under their photo read 2011, and not 2012 as when they started at Mark's Carts?

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

Indeed! Thank you.

Jessica Webster

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 1:07 p.m.

It will be a happy day when I am reunited with their vegan pad Thai! Can't wait.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 12:57 p.m.

I'm not even vegan, but I have gotten lunch there a couple times because the food is really tasty.

Kellie Woodhouse

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 12:23 p.m.

Very exciting! I miss my mexican hot chocolate cookies.