Kansas City is one of the Midwest’s best-kept secrets. I stumbled upon it 5 years ago while driving across country. Expecting to find another ordinary midsized town, what I discovered instead was a cool place with outstanding vegan restaurants, great shopping, and the benefits of big city living with the easy pace of a smaller town.
So while we were plotting our route for a road trip to the final Vida Vegan Con in Austin, Texas, David and I made sure to get there by way of Kansas City. In total, we spent 10 days on the road and in Austin, and now we are back home with kitty cuddling quotas to make up. (It’s a hard job, but somebody’s got to do it.) So I sit here, happily trapped under Jezebel, and looking back at a fun experience that has convinced me to do road-trips more often. (They’re cheaper, I don’t have to worry about my bag weight, and I can stop for vegan treats any time that I want. Plus, I can buy souvenirs of hummus, hot sauce, and Miyoko’s cheeses with no worries of them getting confiscated at the airport or exploding in my checked luggage. #veganproblems)
But back to the trip…
After dropping Jezebel and Avon off with my parents in Des Moines for a kitty vacation of their own, David and I continued to Kansas City, where we spent the night near the Plaza. We had dinner at Café Gratitude, a restaurant that also has locations in Southern California and the Bay area.
The menu at Café Gratitude features filling, substantive food that is simple without being boring. I ordered one of my favorites – I Am Humble. (That is the name of the dish – not an overt brag about how humble I am. Although, I am incredibly humble. It’s one of my greatest qualities.) 😉
I Am Humble is an Indian curry bowl with spicy and smooth lentils, spinach, and roasted sweet potatoes. It’s served over brown rice and drizzled with a sweet tamarind sauce and coconut mint chutney. I like the balance of sweet and spicy, and the lentils reminded me of the curried lentil soup that I like to make for a quick and inexpensive dinner.
David got started early on the 10 Days of Tacos with a dish called I Am Transformed. It includes butternut squash tacos on corn tortillas with black beans, salsa fresca, dollops of guacamole, and a drizzling of cashew nacho cheese. It’s served with a side salad. This is one of David’s go-to orders at Café Gratitude. He can’t say no to a butternut squash or sweet potato taco.
After dinner, I asked to see the dessert menu. This is what they brought…
With this sitting within reach in front of you, I had to wonder if there’s anyone who says, “Oh, no thanks. No dessert for me.”
All of the options looked fantastic, but we went with the blueberry meringue to share. It was mildly sweet, dense, and creamy.
Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffeehouse
The next morning, we went to Mud Pie Vegan Bakery & Coffeehouse to grab coffee and pastries for breakfast. Mud Pie makes some of the best coffee anywhere – rich and bold without being bitter. (It’s the Adele of coffee beverages.)
I got a soy latte and kolache. I don’t think I’d had a kolache since elementary school when we’d occasionally get them on our hot lunch tray. This pillowy pastry was stuffed with non-dairy cream cheese and sautéed mushrooms. It put me to the mind of a stuffed bagel, and I finished every last crumb. David got an enormous and quite tasty cranberry orange scone.
Whenever we go to Kansas City, we make a point to visit Mash Handmade. I love little stores like this with pottery, necklaces, cards, and prints. It’s small in size but well curated. I find it impossible to leave without buying something. Plus, they have postcards at the counter with the MASH game you may remember from elementary school. (It’s a fortune telling game for kids that helps you find out who you will marry, what kind of car you’ll drive, and where you’ll live, etc.) Since we’re always in Kansas City on road-trips, David and I enjoy playing it in the car to pass the time. To his credit, he took it pretty well that I’ll be marrying Usher. I tried not to gloat too much.
After walking around the Plaza and doing a bit of shopping, we ventured to FÜD for lunch. Their menu has grown since the last time I was there, and it made deciding even more difficult. On the one hand, I wanted all my favorites. On the other, I wanted to try new things. In the end, the favorites won out, and I have no regrets about that.
We started with a small serving of nachos with cashew nacho cheese & sour cream, salsa, and guacamole. It was just as messy and mouthwatering as this picture would lead you to believe.
Then I ordered a half order of the Eggy Sandwich. This was the sandwich that made me realize I needed to revisit that abandoned Vegg and kala namak (black salt) in my cupboard. The fried tofu is served on wheat bread with cashew cheddar, onion, tomatoes, and pickles. It wasn’t as eggy as I remembered from my last visit, but it still had me licking my fingers after every bite.
I also ordered a fried taco with Jack Chkn (young jackfruit that has been roasted with herbs & seasonings). It was stuffed with cashew cheddar, sour cream, lettuce, and salsa. You can’t go to FÜD and not get one of their tacos. It’s a must. (David ordered two of them.)
FÜD set the bar very high for the trip, and was actually one of my two favorite meals from the road trip. (Surprisingly enough, the other favorite meal wasn’t from Austin either!) For the first time, I had a chance to chat with the owner, Heidi Van Pelt-Belle, who was serving us that day, and let her know that I’m a big fan I am of what she’s doing. Kansas City is very lucky indeed.