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Thursday April 17, 2014
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A Room of Its Own



"Mac and cheese, Reubens, pizza. We've had people tell us our mac and cheese is the creamiest, best mac and cheese they've ever had." By "hearty," she also means accessible and familiar, at least in the end result, though maybe not by ingredient list. That macaroni gets sauced with a dairy-free mixture of cashew butter, nutritional yeast, and butternut squash.

She and Panozzo, who were friends and neighbors, stumbled into the vegan world unintentionally: "We both were mostly vegetarian and simultaneously developed lactose intolerance. We started cooking together," which led to pop-up dinners for large groups of people. When Mark Hodesh announced his Mark's Carts project in 2011, Engelbert and Panozzo were among the first to sign up, and the Lunch Room was born.

Kerrytown landlord Joe O'Neal gutted the space for them. The previous tenant, Yamato, had been around so long that nothing was up to current code, so they started with a blank slate. Husband-and-wife design team Adam Smith and Lisa Sauve, who graduated from the U-M architecture school in 2011, used inexpensive materials in inventive ways, like cutting cement board into rectangles and applying it to the walls to look like subway tile. To bring some texture and depth to the ceiling, they dipped thousands of bamboo skewers in blue paint--look up and you see something that looks like porcupine quills. Engelbert says she likes the look but admits she has no idea what it's supposed to represent. "It defines zones," says Sauve. "It's an aggregate of small details. You lose the individual, and everything becomes one."

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