Munch Punches It Up a Notch

March 5, 2008 at 10:11 pm 10 comments

image007.gifI had to take a hiatus from my search for a new freelance office, but today I got back on the block and made it over to Munch. Remember, the grunge-ish cafe on Yellowstone? Well, lately the place has been rethinking its image. The tatty upholstered chairs and wobbly wooden tables with butter-knife engravings have been replaced by a few newer stuffed chairs and sturdy tables with tablecloths and glass tops. The stale-looking transfat-laden croissants and muffins are gone, and the breakfast case is now filled with baked good from Martha’s.

As an office-away-from-home, it’s pretty cool. Other freelancers do their thing there too, wearing iPods because the music is a bit loud and high school, but that’s a small peevish corner in an overall good picture. The thing that makes working at Munch so pleasant is the service, which has always been a plus of the place. I love how whoever is behind the counter brings the ginormous cup of coffee over to me instead of making me stand around waiting for it. The food is also quite good. In fact, no other place in Forest Hills quite rivals Munch’s menu, which is virtuous without being self-righteous. Today I shared a vegetarian pannini with a friend and it was delicious, served with a cloth napkin wrapped around the utensils. It’s these small touches that make me appreciate how hard Munch tries and how much they’re getting right. Another example of that is their roster of “entertainment,” which includes psychic readings, open-mic poetry readings, and hosting a monthly Mah Jong Meetup. This kind of unself-conscious quirkiness really sends me.

Best of all is the attitude of Munch. The owner, Mark James, considers the place a real “neighborhood cafe,” meaning literally this particular section of Forest Hills, where there are plenty of people who don’t feel like crossing Yellowstone Blvd. for the uncertain rewards of coffee at Starbucks. James is not out to conquer the hood, as every other place seems to be; he just wants his small slice of it. In other words, Munch is a true (mom-and-)pop establishment, and if we can’t sustain that, then we can’t complain when other, larger chain and chain-type stores move in.

Consider hanging at Munch—and investing wisely in the neighborhood.


Munch Cafe & Grill
71-60 Yellowstone Blvd.


Entry filed under: Forest Hills.

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10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. tonic  |  March 6, 2008 at 9:34 am

    I hadn’t been in Munch for a good year or two, so I was pleasantly surprised when I stopped in recently for a bite to see that it had given a very cheerful make-over. The touches were small but they made a big impact, like the clothe napkin and the new chairs. All gave a light, airy impression of a neighborhood cafe, where you can settle into work without an annoying soundtrack blaring overhead or just as easily opposite a friend.

    And the menu is smart and simple–as is the food.

  • 2. Amy  |  March 6, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    We used to to go there all the time – when Sherlock was the owner, but haven’t been in a while. I loved it, my kids grew up there. Looks like I should really give it a try again.

  • 3. karbeth  |  March 6, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Who is Sherlock? I remember the woman who used to be there, before Mark bought her out.

    Lovely that your kids grew up there–it’s a great place for little ones still.

  • 4. Nancy  |  March 7, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Sherlock Sun was the original owner of Munch. I remember when he opened the place, the whole back area was filled with computers that kids would sit playing games on for hours after school.

    I haven’t been there since last spring and need to check out the improvements. I’m particularly glad to hear about the upgrade in the baked goods.

  • 5. karbeth  |  March 7, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    I’m guessing the place attracts a variety of cohorts now, which is what a good nabe hangout should do.

    Also, if something’s off about it when you go, just tell the owner; he’s very responsive from what I’ve seen.

  • 6. Dr. V. Pasupathi  |  March 8, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Thanks for posting about this–I used to work a lot in coffeehouses, but have been intimidated by what I can see from the road at Munch. I thought maybe it was turning into more of a restaurant and feared that it would no longer be okay to just sit there all day w/ occasional ordering. Plus, I thought I saw a big plasma tv, which usually equals no work for me. But i’ll take your word for it that I should go back!

  • 7. Marlene  |  March 8, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Thanks for the Munch update. I gave up on the place a few years ago when the bathrooms became too revolting to be tolerated (may have been under a previous owner). It sounds like this makeover is welcome. We’ll try it again!

  • 8. carlos  |  March 9, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Thanks guys for all the comments. i am the General Manager of Munch Cafe. I have been with Munch for over a year now, I worked with Sherlock and Lily the lady Karbeth mentions. All i can say is Mark (the owner) is a great guy and boss. He cares about his employees and his customers. We at Munch treat everyone that comes to Munch like family. For those who are worrying about Us kicking you out after you finished your meal, dont worry. We actually like when you come in and make us your office away from your office. Yes, Mark and I are working really hard to better the place. As Karbeth said, if you have a questions, comments or concerns just tell us and we will try our best to fix it. Remember everyone is FAMILY to us. And remember look in the local forest hills celebrity or the Queens Tribune for your complimentary cup of our Golden Cup awarded coffee.

    Thank You Everyone for your awesome comments,

    Carlos S. and Mark J.
    G.M and owner

  • 9. Anne  |  March 10, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Based upon the post, I ventured over there on Sunday afternoon and had a terrific meal that was very reasonably priced, with A+ service. The atmosphere was cozy and comfortable, and just quirky enough to be interesting. While I still mourn the closing of UJ’s on “Restaurant Row”, and accordingly the lack of another neighborhood breakfast eatery alternative, the rediscovery of the rehabbed Munch could be a silver lining. Waffles, anyone?

  • 10. Linda  |  July 14, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    I’ve been coming to Munch now for a few years even when Lily and Sherlock were at the helm with Mark. Now that Mark is running the place, I can only say that Munch is a family away from family …and truth be told, it’s a “munch” better family. I usually come in on the weekend for my New York Times crossword puzzle fix and of course, excellent coffee fix and end up staying the afternoon for a late brunch at a place where “everybody knows my name”. I used to live in NYC and have always been looking for a small slice of that neighborhood atmosphere in FH. Found it at Munch. You can be anonymous or get in on the quirky fun of an unexpected conversation with a cool group of patrons or just relax with the staff when they have a moment to breathe from dishing up some wonderful caffeinated brews or healthful (as munch as they can) dishes. Kudos to Mark and his staff for making me feel at home even when I’m running in just for a cup of that necessary java that helps you get through the day without wearing dark glasses, looking to the future with the psychic witch or hanging til my car gets towed.


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