Brookfield's Café Manna Is a Vegetarian's Paradise
While going through the maze of strip malls and big-box stores that comprise most of Brookfield’s commercial districts, it might be easy to miss Café Manna, a 100% vegetarian eatery located in the Sendik’s Towne Centre. But vegetarians, or anyone with an appreciation for healthful food, should make a point of seeking this place out.
3815 N. Brookfield Road
Handicapped access: Yes
CC, OD, RS, GF
Hours: M-Sa 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Patrons can have a seat at the one of the modern wooden tables or on a small outdoor patio with privacy hedges that comfortably block the sights of traffic from surrounding busy streets. Some of the restaurant’s ingredients are part of the patio aesthetics, such as potted tomato plants and a small garden.
Each menu section offers a few varied options that weave influences of world cuisines into scratch-made, raw, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. During a July visit, the Tasty Beginnings appetizer menu listed five choices ranging from spanakopita to steamed edamame. I was intrigued by the raw nachos ($13), made with dehydrated corn chips.
After placing an order, servers offer complimentary coconut-cilantro hummus and crackers. When the raw nachos arrived at the table, the chips were firm and crisp, topped with spiced nut meat, cashew sour cream, turmeric nut cheese, house-made guacamole, pico de gallo and green leaf lettuce. You’d never guess that nachos could be this healthy. The appetizer had an earthy, nutty taste and was mildly seasoned; different flavor profiles gently emerged with each bite. The portion was generous enough to share or be a meal in itself.
The More Yummy Food section consists of choices such as truffle cream pasta ($17), featuring caramelized mushrooms, orecchiette pasta and three-cheese cream sauce. There’s quite a buzz in the vegetarian world about jackfruit, advertised on foodie blogs as “able to fool any meat lover.” Café Manna’s jackfruit enchiladas ($16) feature the trendy fruit simmered in tomatillo sauce, topped with mozzarella cheese and a pumpkin seed mole. Grilled vegetable pizza ($17) or Manna’s unique stir fry ($17) topped with kimchi were other tempting choices.
I wanted to go lighter on that hot afternoon, so I chose the Tu-No Melt from the Exotic Sandwich Creations section. As a tuna lover during my meat-eating days, I’ve been on a quest to find a good meatless tuna substitute since going vegetarian over a decade ago. Café Manna nailed it by using tempeh, versus the usual chickpea mash found in most vegetarian tuna sandwiches. Celery, sunflower seeds and a touch of dill added a slightly salty, fresh flavor, and the sandwich was topped with soft turmeric nut cheese. A fruit cup with apples, grapes, strawberries and pineapple came on the side.
Desserts included a dairy-free raw cheesecake, carrot cake or Chocolacados—chocolate avocado truffles topped with chocolate ganache. A small drink menu offers red or white wine by the glass or bottle, and Lakefront Brewery and Capital Brewery selections. Non-alcoholic drinks consists of Zhena’s Gypsy Teas, specialty beverages like Limonade ($4), a tangy, lightly sweetened drink done up healthy with blended kale, Swiss chard and ginger; or Green Juice, loaded with detoxifying greens.