An outside look into the Breakroom

There’s a good reason it was named Upton’s Breakroom. With four tables and only room enough to seat eight to a dozen customers (a dozen is being generous, by the way), the narrow cafe attached to the Upton’s seitan factory at the corner of Grand and Hoyne is meant more for the vegan to-go crowd than for those who like to linger. The all-vegan menu is short and to the point, with each of its simple sandwich concoctions wrapped in the same weird hybrid of aluminum foil and wax paper your junior high lunch lady used to handle.

“I just like that this place exists,” my fellow veg friend said as we stared at the giant painting of the mustached Upton mascot stamped on the wall (credit: Johnny Sampson). Agreed. We established this outside well before ordering, actually. A vegan to-go spot isn’t a typical venture—nor, it might seem, a particularly wise one on a desolate, commercially ruled stretch of West Town—but Upton’s Breakroom is an added bonus to the greater Upton’s empire (and right at a Grand bus stop). The factory it’s connected to churns out brick upon brick of seasoned seitan (“chorizo,” Italian, etc) for distribution all over the country (even Alaska!), in addition to prepared sandwiches you can find at spots like Foodsmart, Whole Foods, and Green Grocer. The operation, run by Daniel Staackmann and Nicole Sopko, has been expanding since it was founded in 2006 (this is already its third factory location).

The Breakroom is a simple extension of what Upton’s was already doing, only the sandwiches are made to order and there’s vegan soft-serve ice cream available (a big “and,” if you ask me). During my visit I had the pastrami sandwich—featuring a layering of pastrami-flavored seitan, mustard, and sauerkraut on marble rye—and the fried bacon mac. The sandwich was just OK, heavy on the vinegar in both the mustard and kraut—and I really like vinegar. It cleared my sinuses and nearly made my eyes water. The mac, however, was excellent vegan comfort food. There are few things better in life than greasy carbs. My friend went with the BLT and mashed potatoes, the sandwich a little skimpy on the bacon seitan but the mashed potatoes more than good enough to be dished up alongside your upcoming Thanksgiving Field Roast.

The cozy space also includes a variety of vegan baked goods, organic juices and kombucha, and vegan soft-serve (did I mention that?). Granted, neither of us was blown away with our choice in sandwich, but, honestly, that’s OK. Great, even. Give me a reason to return and try it all over again. I doubt I’ll ever be disappointed, because I’m just too happy that Upton’s Breakroom exists.

Sandwiches, unwrapped and ready, with a side of mac and potatoes
  • Kevin Warwick
  • Sandwiches, unwrapped and ready, with a side of mac and potatoes

Upton’s Breakroom, 2054 W. Grand, 312-666-7838,