Chow Town

Living vegetarian while enjoying Kansas City’s cuisine

Westside Local’s Sweet Potato Quinoa Burger
Westside Local’s Sweet Potato Quinoa Burger Special to The Star

I try to be a pretty-easy-to-eat-with vegetarian. In fact, if not for my liberal stance on baked goods and on a rare occasion, cheese, I’d be a pretty-easy-to-eat-with vegan.

Here comes the question I get asked a lot: “So what do you eat?”

I’m pretty sure as far as most people can imagine, my diet consists of a plethora of salads and tofu. Oh, and beans. Maybe mixed nuts?

I went vegetarian in 2007 and knowing how to really enjoy food since then has been an evolution. It didn’t take the entire eight years, but in that time I had my fair share (and more) of salads.

There are right times for a salad, but I hold the philosophy that salads are really just a holder of the food people really want to eat. Trust me, just because I’m a vegetarian doesn’t mean I want to live off salad any more than anyone else.

The reality is, when we’re not cooking some pretty great things at home, my family and I (a mix of vegetarians, vegans, and one omnivore) are in restaurants a lot and we don’t have any problem finding great options at most decidedly non-vegetarian restaurants.

Here’s a secret from your new vegetarian friend: Every once in a while, we want a burger and fries too. I’m always on the look out for the country’s best veggie burger (The best so far is Fanelli Café in Soho New York City, but I’d be happy to try a Kansas City version if you have one you’d like to offer.)

My hands-down favorite in Kansas City so far is The Westside Local’s Sweet Potato Quinoa Burger. The burger is perfectly crispy on the outside and satisfyingly tender on the inside. They even give you the easy option of making it vegan by substituting the cheese with a new beet hummus. Just try it.

Even the Farm To Market bun is vegan, but you won’t enjoy it any less. You can get a few different sides, but I always get the fries without the Parmesan cheese. Bonus, Westside Local has a great beer selection of seasonal and local beers, as well as wines and good whiskeys if it’s that kind of lunch.

Even a humble sit-down burger is a mid-week luxury but I’m covered in the quick eats category too. The Bite in the City Market has been serving their own brand of “Sandwich Shop” meals for almost two years now.

The Bite is clearly on the “we know vegan” end of the vegan-friendly spectrum with two kinds of vegan tamales, a vegetarian Sloppy made with soy chorizo, two more vegan sandwiches and a handful of vegan and vegetarian sides including my favorite — the only Spanish-Korean fusion dish I’ve ever seen, Patatas Bravas with the obligatory aoli and the unexpected but welcome kimchi.

Sure, the trendy Westside, the hip City Market, but what about suburbia? There are notable options on both ends, but as a Northlander, I’m optimistic about some better-than-average restaurants there.

Morning Day Café has defied historical odds and succeeded in spectacular fashion on the square in Liberty. With her brand-new kitchen, the owner/chef/operator/decorator/architect carefully crafts her own creative twists on traditional favorites like a breakfast burrito with egg, black beans, a smoky quinoa, sautéed veggies, avocado and pepper jack cheese. The vegan version sans egg and cheese is great too.

The cafe’s a “Quinoa Krakatoa” with quinoa, spinach, avocado and roasted red peppers in a Sriracha cream sauce is served with a baguette.

The options are plentiful and aren’t likely to result in me running out of things to write about. So in salad-less solidarity, I’ll keep on the search for non-leafy vegetarian options.

Shane Wilson is in advertising at a Kansas City agency. The rest of the time he spends with his family and “working on” nonstop projects from construction to cooking.