The Green Owl Cafe gets a menu revamp with new ownership
But don't worry, the popular favorites are still on the menu
When Jennie Capellaro, former owner of the Green Owl Cafe, put her restaurant up for sale in February 2018, employee Erick Fruehling “didn’t think anything of it at the time,” he says. “But about a year ago I thought ‘I love living in Madison, I love this neighborhood and I love everyone I work with.’” Fruehling spoke with Capellaro, looked into financing and when things seemed to be working out, “I went with it,” he says. Officially becoming Green Owl’s owner this past November, Fruehling is excited to take over at the popular vegetarian restaurant on Madison’s east side where he has been working on and off for the past seven years. “I like the comfortable atmosphere and everyone is really laid-back,” Fruehling says. “And with the food we can be fancy but we can also be casual— being one of the only vegetarian places allows us to be really flexible with our menu.”
Opening on Atwood Avenue in December 2009 the Green Owl has an established following. While Fruehling, who has also worked at Stalzy’s Deli and vegan restaurant Surya Cafe, has moved some of the large collection of owls perched in all of the restaurant’s nooks and crannies to the storeroom (he’s definitely keeping the ones carved from stone, “I like the ones that are kind of spooky-looking,” he says), Green Owl loyalists won’t notice too many other changes. In regards to the menu, “we are keeping everything that is really popular,” Fruehling says. So the TLT (tempeh, lettuce and tomato) sandwich, crabby cake po’ boy and peanut macro bowl, with sweet potatoes, coconut quinoa and ginger peanut sauce, are staying put. Menu updates include replacing vegan cheese substitutes with a cashew “cheese” sauce that is made in-house. The sauce can now be found on menu items including the nachos and quesadilla. “I think even cheese eaters would like the cashew sauce — it’s really good,” Fruehling says.
Fruehling has also added a permanent burger section to the menu instead of running a burger of the week special. With veggie burgers made in-house using whole grains and mushrooms — Beyond Burgers are available for those who are gluten free — Fruehling created a house burger with arugula, pickled jalapeños, grilled onions and cheese sauce, a mushroom burger and a classic burger with American cheese, mayo, tomato, onions and lettuce.
Pastry chef Cara Moseley, known for her vegan desserts including chocolate lava cake and coconut cream pie in a coconut-almond crust, will stay on at Green Owl. “The desserts are staying the same,” Fruehling says. “Cara is not allowed to leave!” Moseley also makes Green Owl’s kombucha which rotates weekly, the current flavor is pepper rose. While Fruehling has reapplied for a liquor license, Green Owl’s drink menu has expanded to include natural sugar sodas, hot cider and two fresh-pressed organic juices.
Heading in the opposite direction from healthy juices made with golden beets, carrots and turmeric, Fruehling would also like get a fryer for the restaurant’s kitchen. “I would really like to add a few fried foods,” Fruehling says. “I would love to have the option of doing chili cheese fries. Any fried food can be good — not all vegetarians and vegans want to eat healthy all of the time.”
Since taking over as owner in November, Fruehling says he has received positive feedback from Green Owl customers. “People acknowledge the new menu but are also thankful that it hasn’t done a 180, it’s still the same idea,” Fruehling says. “I worked here for seven years, I know what is really good.”