By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Feb 03, 2008 at 5:27 AM

Robin Kasch is opening a vegetarian restaurant in a couple weeks. Not the kind of vegetarian restaurant that has poultry and seafood on the menu; nor the kind that hides beef broth, fish sauce or eggs in the recipes.

Although not totally vegan, Café Manna is slated to be 100 percent vegetarian, falling into an extremely slim category of Milwaukee area eateries. And, in fact, Kasch isn't even opening in Milwaukee; she's opening in Brookfield, at 3815 N. Brookfield Rd.

In a suburb that has in the last year welcomed several prominent meat and seafood restaurants like Bonefish Grill, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Mitchell's Fish Market, it's only natural to wonder is she's tapping the right market?

Kasch says absolutely.

"Almost every person I run into says, 'We need that in this area.' I have really received nothing but positive feedback."

The details of her fare show why.

To start, everything is organic (save for the bread, though she's working on that, too.) Secondly, the smorgasbord of options is varied enough to please just about any palate, from the light and delicate to the rich and hearty.

Kasch's menu pulls from a range of places; some recipes are adapted with permission from Real Food Daily, a famed organic vegan restaurant in Santa Monica and West Hollywood, others are from her Chef Jason Stevens, who helped open Devon Seafood Grill at Bayshore Town Center, and others still are her own family's creations that she's perfected since becoming vegetarian 25 years ago.

The "tasty beginnings" start things off with walnut feta pate and cashew coconut hummus, and the ginger macadamia nut carrot cake and banana fig pudding, if there's still room, are delectable ways to end the evening.

But between appetizer and dessert are some of the restaurant's most creative and exotic highlights. Sesame encrusted tofu sits atop asparagus and sun dried tomato in a rich risotto, spiced tempeh mingles with teriyaki soba noodles and sautéed vegetables, falafel sandwiches come baked rather than fried and deluxe salads feature everything from ribboned zucchini and torn herbs to quinoa and fresh mango.

Manna's food cannot be traced to one specific region or ethnicity. Miso soup and stir fry show up alongside baba ghanouj and Middle Eastern vegetable stew while the "meat lovers" vegetarian chili, thickened with texturized vegetable protein, takes a dip into American comfort foods. All seem to marinate nicely together on the full yet accessible menu.

Kasch plans to show off her restaurant's innovation in liquid form, too. Specialty drinks include potassium broth, a combination of root vegetables simmered for hours to extract the nutrients into a hearty, warm broth that ends up red in color from the beets. Other more traditional vegetable drinks are juiced to order.

Café Manna is Kasch's first venture into restaurant ownership, but even as a massage therapist for the past 23 years, food has always been on the front burner.

"I changed my diet over about 25 years ago for health reasons," she says. "I got healthy and it had a lot to do with the food I was eating."

Luckily for us, she's figured out how to match the quality of her food's nutritional value with the quality of its flavor. Café Manna opens Monday, Feb. 18 at 11 a.m. 

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”