Café Gratitude in Kansas City

Cafe Gratitude - vegan restaurant in Kansas City, MissouriAs I mentioned in a previous post – July is my very favorite month.  It is home to my wedding anniversary, vegan-iversary, and my birthday.  As far as celebrations go, July is up there with December for opportunities to raise a glass and give a cheer.  For this reason, David and I knew we wanted to get away for a little trip with sites that we can’t find in our small town.  With work being busy, we only had time for a mini vacation of a day or two.  I looked into a weekend in Chicago, but on short notice and for a weekend in July, hotel prices were high.  One night at a mediocre hotel in Chicago was the same as two nights in a lovely hotel in Kansas City.  Kansas City won out.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that we’ve visited Kansas City several times in the past couple of years (posts here, here, and here).  It’s a city that surprises.  It’s not a huge town, but they have two vegan restaurants, a vegan bakery and coffeehouse, a vegetarian restaurant, and lots of vegan-friendly restaurants beyond that.  As we were driving into the city, it was getting late, but we were able to squeak into Café Gratitude at 10 pm before their closing time at 11 pm.

I’ve been to Café Gratitude, a nearly-vegan chain (they do have honey in some of their menu items) which focuses on local and organic food, a few times.  I’ve visited their Berkeley location and their restaurant in Los Angeles in the Larchmont area.  Every time I’ve been delighted with the food.  My experience with their Kansas City location was no exception.  First off, the restaurant itself is beautifully put together with tall ceilings, hanging lights, a couple of raised dining areas, and stools down the center for large groups.  (The benches along the side could use a little help leveling, though.  I felt like I was playing on a teeter-totter whenever other customers would stand up or shift.)

Our server, Megan, was incredibly friendly and outgoing.  She was clearly excited about the menu and eager to share her favorites.  Topping her list was their Indian-inspired macrobiotic bowl called I Am Humble, their raw Pad Thai called I Am Terrific, and their kale salad called I Am Pure.  As it was nearing the end of the night, they were out of a few items on the menu, and I settled on raw nachos to share and the kale salad.  David ordered I Am Humble.

As you may have noticed, the menu items at Café Gratitude have unconventional names, which are mantras like I Am Humble, I Am Blessed, I Am So Happy to be Eating at a Vegan Restaurant Where I Can Order Anything on the Menu.  (Okay, so that last one was just my grateful feeling…)  I’ve heard many people complain about its goofiness or that they feel awkward ordering, but you know what?  I thought it was fun.  Plus, whenever an order is ready in the back, the cook calls out to the various servers, “Megan, you are dazzling!  Sara, you are vibrant!”  The yells of positivity sounded sincere, even if it’s just part of the menu.  It made me feel good to hear people yelling out nice things to each other.  If nothing else, you have to smile at how unusual of an experience it is to hear these kinds of things being called out in a restaurant.

Cafe Gratitude - vegan restaurant in Kansas City, MissouriAfter several hours of driving and making our hunger wait for a very late dinner, I was honoring the heck out of the Live Nachos made with sunflower bean pate, guacamole, salsa fresca, and nacho cheese.  With one decadent taste, I turned to David and said, “It was worth it.”  The cool, creamy, and spicy cheese was served in a mound with homemade crackers.  The cheese was wonderfully rich with a kick of heat.  It felt alive in the mouth and whetted my palate for what was to come.

I Am Pure, is a kale salad made with avocado, cucumber, carrots, cilantro, basil, and green onions, topped with teriyaki almonds and sunflower sprouts, and tossed in a ginger-tahini dressing.  (It generally comes with sea palm, but I requested that it be omitted.)  It was a large enough serving to easily cover a couple of meals, especially after sharing an appetizer.  I enjoyed the kale salad, especially the whole teriyaki almonds and freshness of the vegetables, but I wouldn’t say that it was anything extraordinary.

David’s Indian bowl, I Am Humble, came with a layer of brown rice (quinoa is also an option), raw spinach, and mounds of spiced red lentils and potatoes that were mashed together.  This hearty, stick-to-your-ribs bowl was wonderfully satisfying and a tamarind sauce gave a lift of sweetness to the dish.  Again, the portions are huge, and I had more than enough for a meal of leftovers once we returned home.  This would definitely be a good one for sharing!

I am Humble at Cafe Gratitude - vegan restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri

After looking at the dizzying amount of mouthwatering items on the menu, we couldn’t go wait to go back for lunch on Sunday, before we headed out of town.

Cafe Gratitude - vegan restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri

I am Terrific at Cafe Gratitude - vegan restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri

This time I ordered the Pad Thai-style dish called I Am Terrific, which our server, Megan, had raved about.  I’d never tried kelp noodles; although, I’ve read about them online many times.  Since I don’t like the ocean-y flavor of sea vegetables or nori, I’ve been hesitant in the past about ordering them for fear that they’d be too pungent for me.  Luckily, the kelp noodles don’t have any flavor of their own.  They just pick up the flavors of the sauce and give a light crunch.  This vibrant and flavorful dish comes with carrots, shredded kale, cucumber, tomatoes, cilantro, basil, and scallions.  It’s topped with teriyaki almonds and sprouts.  I asked for the tamarind sauce on the side for extra saucy-goodness.  There was easily enough to serve two people, and again, it was dinner for me once we got back from our trip.

Cafe Gratitude - vegan restaurant in Kansas City, MissouriDavid ordered I Am Extraordinary, a CLT made of chipotle-maple coconut bacon, romaine lettuce, tomato, and avocado on a seeded bun.  I’d heard about coconut bacon in the past, but this was my first experience of it.  The smoky flavors of bacon are very mild, and the taste of coconut flakes stands out on the sandwich, giving it a somewhat tropical flair.  It comes with a creamy cashew aioli, which is the star of the show.  Of all of the things we ate in Kansas City (and there were many more as you’ll see in tomorrow’s post), this was his favorite of the trip.  I have a feeling he’ll have a hard time ordering anything else on future trips, because he was so smitten!

We ordered a couple of drinks to go (not pictured).  David had the I Am Eternally Blessed, which is a vanilla nut milkshake blended with cold-pressed espresso.  It was amazing.  After I took the first sip, I told him that he wouldn’t like it and he shouldn’t even bother tasting it, but he didn’t fall for it.  Darn it.  I had a juice blend of kale, celery, cucumber, and lemon juice called I Am Healthy.  It’s offered that apple juice can be added upon request, and I should have gone that direction.  It was incredibly heavy on the lemon side and very tart.  I like lemon, but it would have helped to mellow it out a bit with some apple juice.

The server ends the meal by asking you the question of the day, which you’re free to give an answer to if you like, discuss with your table, or even write your answer with chalk on the chalkboard in the back of the restaurant.  Our question of the day was, “What brings you joy?”

Cafe Gratitude - vegan restaurant in Kansas City, MissouriCafe Gratitude - vegan restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri

Cafe Gratitude - vegan restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri


  1. Kristy says

    COCONUT BACON. I CAN’T THINK ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE!!!! Awesome review, Cadry… I think I need to plan a roadtrip to KS City!!!

  2. says

    I love that the cooks called out the servers that way! Maybe I’ll start doing that with my third-grade students. I love when a place like Cafe Gratitude actually leaves people inspired. Places like that just make me want to be a better person! Such an uplifting post. Thank you!

    • Cadry says

      It really does feel kind of lovely to have someone come to your table and tell you, “You are Extraordinary.” I mean, why not? And if people are going to be yelling things from the kitchen, it may as well be “You are Whole” as “Kale salad, hold the sea palm!” I bet your students would love it!

    • Cadry says

      It is! We really enjoyed our experience there, and I’m sure we’ll be back. I only wish we had one in my town. Their menu is incredible!

  3. says

    The first time I went to Cafe Gratitude, in SF, I was with my cousin and he would snicker every time the waiter, or anyone else in the restaurant, would do one of their “Cafe Gratitudeisms,” but I loved it. With so much positivity flowing around you, it’s hard not to join in.

    I just got that kale salad the other night (we called in an order for take-out), and I thought it was absolutely wonderful. I love those little teriyaki almonds!

    • Cadry says

      I agree! While I can see why others find it silly or dorky, I think oftentimes it’s the silly and dorky things that make life entertaining! Plus, it’s like when they say if you fake a smile your body will react as if it’s sincere, and you’ll feel happier. Those positive affirmations, even if they’re just part of their business model, did make me walk away feeling a little lighter and more connected to those around me.

  4. says

    No wonder July is your favorite month — it’s a non-stop cause for celebration! And I’m glad you got to celebrate in KC! We’re so lucky to have a Cafe Gratitude. I actually just had lunch there on Friday (I noticed the benches were a little wobbly, too, but they definitely weren’t like that opening week…hopefully that’s a testament to how many people frequent the restaurant!?). I’ve been interested in trying the Pad Thai, but wondered about the kelp noodles. Can’t wait to read more about your adventures in KC! :)

    • Cadry says

      Yes, you are so lucky indeed to have Cafe Gratitude now in addition to the already fabulous FUD and Mud Pie. What a boon for Kansas City! I noticed that the bench wasn’t as wobbly on the side closer to the bathroom. It was when I was sitting on the very end near the door that I was bouncing up and down as if I was on Santa’s knee. It made for a distracting meal! :) I hope you’re right that it’s because there are so many people coming through and sitting on those benches. It was pretty busy both times we were there, and I’m glad for that!

  5. says

    Your post made me hungry :) I’m going to have to remember this place b/c everything looks so yummy! I especially like the look of the Pad Thai with kelp noodles. oh and the milkshake sounds good too.

  6. says

    I am grateful for Cafe Gratitude. You are extraordinary for writing this review 😉 I like the affirmations. I also dig their sister restaurant in SF, Gracias Madre. I’ve always been happy with their food, not so much their drowsy service. Now I have a hankering for Cafe Gratitude, maybe tomorrow. What a great trip!!

    • Cadry says

      Luckily I have only great things to say about the service at their Kansas City location. Everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful. I envy that you can stop by Cafe Gratitude tomorrow! Enjoy a tasty treat for me! :)

  7. says

    I just wanted to pop in to quickly say thank you for this post. I read it on August 1st (the first day of my new Vegan lifestyle after 6 and a half years as a vegetarian). I loved the idea of a “vegan-iversary” and hope that like you I will be celebrating my vegan-iversary August 1st for many years to come. August is the month of my birthday too so it will be a month of celebration like your July. :)

    • Cadry says

      What a sweet message! That is delightful to hear! Congratulations on going vegan! Hopefully it will be a smooth transition after being vegetarian for 6 1/2 years. What inspired you to make the leap? Being vegan brings me so much joy. I hope it will do the same for you! Happy early birthday and thanks for stopping by!

      • Cathy says

        The transition has been quite smooth so far and am really enjoying it. I had been thinking about it for quite a while but was a bit of a cheese addict so it seemed impossible. I saw Colleen was having a 30 Day Vegan Challenge program beginning August 1 and I figured it was as good a time as any. I really feel a lot better living in line with my values.

        • Cadry says

          That’s so great to hear, Cathy! It sounds like you have a wonderful attitude about it, and I couldn’t agree more that the best thing about being vegan is living in line with one’s own values of compassion. Keep me posted about how the remaining 30 days go! :)

    • Cadry says

      I know the feeling! My gears are turning too, trying to bring some of these tasty restaurant finds into fruition in my kitchen. Let me know if you have any luck! I just bought kelp noodles yesterday, and so I’m on my way! :)

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