This was not your average restaurant. Set inside a Spanish-inspired stucco building with red tile roof, dining service at Unity Inn in Unity Village offers a glimpse of employee dining at its finest.
Employees and occasional guests enjoy lunch or dinner amid linen-dressed tables in a spacious dining room illuminated by wall-spanning windows.
While the public is welcome, the primary goal of this food service is to offer terrific-tasting and healthy employee meals for a great price. For only $7, people who work at Unity can savor an entrée, two sides and a drink or spend just $8 for a large salad, a large soup and drink. Homemade dessert is only $1.
An informational sign posted near trays, silverware and napkins provides important nutritional education. Employees are reminded that the least healthy foods may include additives and preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats and GMOs as well as excess calories and high fat, sugar or salt content. The sign also notes that fresh fruits, vegetables and animal products and minimally processed grains and beans offer the highest level of nutrients and fiber plus the lowest amounts of fat, sugar and salt.
On a recent weekday a server plated large slabs of moist and flavorful meatloaf (nut loaf slices offered a vegetarian choice), big scoops of mashed potatoes smothered in brown gravy and tender, bright green beans. Healthy desserts included luscious lemon bars, warm rhubarb crisp and chocolate zucchini cake, as well as soft and satisfying banana and date “oaties.” There were also fresh apples and ripe bananas available.
The massive salad bar offered carrots and tomatoes, red onion slivers, mixed greens and red cabbage. Additional ingredients included chickpeas, sliced black olives, radishes and artichoke hearts, raw sugar snap peas and celery sticks. Nut bits, several cheeses, croutons and bacon bits were available too, alongside more than half a dozen dressings that included a tangy/salty Greek feta variety. Vegetable barley soup and freshly baked dinner rolls sat at the end of the bar.
Brewed iced tea? Think Hibiscus Raspberry Frenzy, Blackberry Jasmine or Watermelon-infused black tea as well as traditional, unflavored tea. Coffee and water were other healthy options.
Employees have even more options to look forward to, as finishing touches are completed on a small grill area where custom burgers and sandwiches will soon be available. Environmentally friendly brown cardboard containers above the salad bar allow diners to take leftovers when they leave or package entire meals to-go.
At a time when people have become increasingly concerned about the quality of food they eat, Unity cares for its employees’ health and pocketbooks inside the dining room.
Lisa Waterman Gray is a freelance writer based in Overland Park. She specializes in food and travel writing.