Healthy, Organic Options Abound at On The Way Café
On The Way Café is the brainchild of Jill Check, a natural health professional and busy mom of six who saw a hole in the market when it came to finding healthy, organic restaurant and carryout food. This past February, Check opened On The Way Café, an upscale establishment that’s counter service, but classy. Customers dining in or ordering carryout can choose from a broad menu featuring organic, non-GMO and antibiotic-free breakfast items, soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, bowls, desserts, smoothies and juices, and organic beer, wine and cider.
On the Way Café
6005 W. Mequon Road, Mequon
Handicapped access: Yes
CC, OD, GF
Hours: M-F 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sa 10 a.m.-3p.m.
This past summer, Chef Steve Perlstein joined On The Way Café as co-general manager and partner. Perlstein always had an interest in culinary arts but pursued journalism after high school. After 18 years as a reporter, he switched gears and in 2002 he graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago. He worked for restaurateurs including Bartolotta Restaurants and SURG Restaurant Group. He also owned Simmer Catering. As a classically trained chef, Perlstein was intrigued by the challenges of working with clean, healthy foods.
“Anybody can put butter and cream into something and make it taste good, so to start with the parameters we have and make something healthy and delicious, it’s more of a challenge and you have to be good at it,” he said.
Perlstein and his team make rotating soups and chili, and coleslaw and potato salad that changes daily. “We try to make coleslaw vegan so our vegan customers have a side they can get. Today we have a curry coleslaw,” he said.
Perlstein wants to assure people that “healthy” doesn’t mean just tofu and sprouts. While On The Way Café is vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free friendly, it’s not an exclusively vegetarian restaurant. Meat lovers will find grass-fed and free-range beef, lamb or turkey burgers, served on flavorful sprouted grain buns.
Bowls feature a veggie of the day mixed with a grain. A recent choice included green beans with chopped, sautéed carrot tops. One of Perlstein’s latest passions has been reducing food waste. “I’m horrified by how much food people throw away,” he said. “I recently used beet tops as greens, and they were really good.”
Pastry Chef Anita Su Jiivana crafts raw and vegan desserts, substituting ingredients like nuts and coconut for grains or dairy. Her key lime pie is a hit; the café goes through several per week. Dessert samples are offered, and plenty of non-vegans have been won over by her sweet treats.
Scratch-made smoothies and juices each have a crazy healthy assortment of produce and herbs. Perlstein and Co-Manager Dynami Al-Anjeri put together an organic beer and wine program. The café holds an on-sale and off-sale license so people can enjoy a beer or glass of wine with their meal, or buy a bottle of wine and take it home with their take-out order. Customers will find Lakefront beer, Island Orchard Cider and organic wines including Pablo Claro, Ramsay, Copla red or white sangria and more.
Always looking ahead, Perlstein is hard at work on new menu items and a catering menu. On The Way Café was one of the vendors for sustainable music festival Rock the Green, and they’ve established relationships with local gyms to provide a nutrition component for members. They host wine diners and partner with nonprofits including The Hunger Task Force.