Skip to content

A response to and refutation of the NY Times article

January 11, 2012

Last night and today, an article from the New York Times has been spreading through social media outlets like wildfire. Titled “Meatless In The Midwest: A Tale of Survival,” it’s written by a transplanted vegetarian New Yorker who recently moved to Kansas City (my hometown and place of residence, for those who don’t know). I’ll let you read it for yourself, but essentially the author, A.G. Sulzberger, decries the supposed lack of vegetarian options in KC and even criticizes some of the offerings we do have, while simultaneously reinforcing a number of stereotypes about meat-obsessed Midwesterners with bad attitudes towards (or downright ignorance about) vegetarianism and veganism.

Hold it right there.

My first reaction to the article was confusion. My second reaction was to laugh. My third reaction was anger. Though I already vented a little on Facebook, I feel a need to respond in full here.

This article really bothers me—in fact, it very nearly offends me. I’m tired of people thinking Kansas City is a rural, podunk little cowtown, when in fact it’s an urban metropolis of over 2 million people with thriving communities of vegetarians, vegans, raw foodists, and locavores. The author of this article seems to have barely tried to find vegan options here. In reality, they exist in abundance—I’ve been blogging about them for 3.5 years!

KC is no New York City. Or Los Angeles. Or Portland (yet). That much is true. But if anyone comes here expecting us to be – and, moreover, is disappointed that we’re not – then they need a reality check.

We certainly do have our share of barbecue restaurants and steakhouses…but to lament a lack of veg options at such establishments seems downright silly. (I will say, though, I’ve even gotten a decent vegan meal prepared for me at Jack Stack Barbecue before!) Most of the time, all you have to do is ask.  It’s not hard to do a little menu sleuthing and make some specific requests.

But that’s beside the point, because with Kansas City’s vegetarian/vegan eateries (FüD! Eden Alley! Mud Pie Bakery!), ethnic restaurants galore, hip tapas and wine bars, contemporary restaurants, artsy hangouts, and more, resorting to eating at a barbecue restaurant just isn’t an issue.  Whether you’re looking for a relaxing vegan brunch, a quick snack and soy latte, a meatless ethnic food feast, a stylish and date-worthy vegan dinner, or even veg bar food, you can get it, at dozens of non-vegan restaurants around the city. It’s shoddy reporting, in my eyes, to go to a meat-centric restaurant and then write an article (for the NY Times, no less!) about having to eat a salad.

The assortment of restaurants in Kansas City that are veg-friendly is downright dizzying.

Sure, you’ll encounter the occasional jerk here who wants to give you crap about being vegetarian or vegan. But those people exist everywhere. And as long as you are friendly (in other words, don’t be one of those vegans who go around scoffing at and lecturing omnivores all the time), the local meat-eaters are not only harmless, but most of the time are very understanding, even accommodating.

Besides all the stellar veg and veg-friendly places to eat here in Kansas City, we also have a 100% vegan meal delivery service, numerous health food stores (including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and some locally-owned ones too), several farmers markets (such as the impressive City Market), large vegan and raw food meetup groups, multiple CSAs and year-round organic/local produce home delivery services, a growing city-wide enthusiasm for local and organic foods, and even a new Café Gratitude location on the way.

We’re doing just fine in the veg department, if you ask me, and getting better every day.

A poorly-researched article like this simply shouldn’t show up in publications like the New York Times. I’m very disappointed that something so easily refutable has to cast another unfair blemish on the reputation of Kansas City’s culinary culture. Those of you that don’t live around here, I entreat you to NOT take A.G. Sulzberger’s word for it. Kansas City is not a vegetarian wasteland—it’s a wonderful place to grow up, live, eat, and be vegan.

Please feel free to share this on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Let’s combat the spread of the original article by sharing this post just as far and wide!

Need proof? Click here to see a list of 20+ vegan meal options available within a one-minute walk of each other in Midtown Kansas City—and that’s just off the top of my head!

148 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2012 2:00 pm

    Cafe Seed closed several months ago, btw – but Cafe Gratitude is will be opening soon and will be vegan. It’s definitely not hard to be vegan or vegetarian in this town.

  2. January 11, 2012 2:12 pm

    As soon as I saw this article I thought to myself, “Amber is gonna be PISSED!” Haha. I spent two years of college as a journalism major – my professors would have eaten him alive for his lack of reporting here. Amazing that he works for the Times.

  3. January 11, 2012 2:26 pm

    I saw this when looking for resources for my Veg-uary Facebook group (go veg for the month of February) and was also shocked. It looks to me like the author had already made up his mind as to what he was going to write before ever doing any “research” (I use the term loosely). Despite my omnivore status, I often choose a vegetarian meal when eating out because I prefer to know where my meat comes from (how it’s treated, what it’s fed, etc), and I’ve never had an issue. Most places will bring out an ingredient list without being asked–THAT is how accomodating our Metro is!

    To put it in the expected vernacular: It ain’t hard to get vegetarian/vegan fare ’round these here parts!

    Speaking of Veg-uary, I linked you and Conveniently Natural (a service I LOVE) on the page for my friends to check out in preparation for going veg. 🙂

  4. Matt permalink
    January 11, 2012 2:31 pm

    And besides, a famous vegan author / blogger and her handsome fiancé live in KC. Clearly worth a visit. 😉

  5. January 11, 2012 2:33 pm

    ok this is just silly. I lived in Kansas City for 3 years and had no problems finding vegan food nor did any of the several hundred other vegans/vegitarians that I knew. Meat eaters were usually curious but that’s all.

  6. January 11, 2012 2:35 pm

    This sounds like a case of Runaway Bride – take him down!

  7. Bliss Doubt permalink
    January 11, 2012 2:55 pm

    Being a Texan born and raised, I often experience this kind of frustration. We’re credited with originating or inventing everything freakish and weird, from big hair to deep fried turkeys. Most of the time, it just isn’t true.

  8. January 11, 2012 2:57 pm

    interesting topic. i’m also a midwesterner. in minneapolis. i think the options here for vegans and vegetarians are GREAT! raw food…not so much. there is a raw food restaurant. which is cool. but it’s definitely no NYC. and as a maker of raw food products, i would by lying if i told you that the audience here compared to there is similar. there’s definitely an enthusiastic audience here. but i think it’s more fragmented here. and requires a lot more leg work to connect with. and frankly, i’ve been getting a lot more business in NYC than I have here. that said though, i think if you can be flexible as a vegan (like you are), it’s not a big deal. if however, you have health issues or some other reason which inspires you to be more strict about it, going out to eat gets pretty tricky pretty fast. so all in all, i think it really depends on what your looking for. if you’re looking for gourmet raw food, for example, you’re going to be looking a long time. if you just need something gluten free and/or vegan, then there are like a bazillion and one options.

    • January 11, 2012 3:58 pm

      I thought Minneapolis was very veg-friendly! Raw food is always harder to find anywhere you are, so I’m not sure if I consider ANY city (maybe LA?) to be totally raw-friendly. But vegan? EASY.

      • January 11, 2012 4:08 pm

        it IS very veg friendly. not so much raw food. though it’s better than a lot of places. people more often than not don’t know what that is yet. but the people who ARE into it. are REALLY into it.

  9. bitt permalink
    January 11, 2012 3:18 pm

    Amber, I so appreciate your response and I am surprised they didn’t interview the person who runs the veg place in town instead of just take some pictures. I could relate to the person in the interview, as I have been places where it’s been very very tough to get a vegan meal, and even seemingly vegan items have hidden meat or dairy in them. Perhaps the author was being forced to go to those restaurants that weren’t so veg friendly, I’ve been in that situation and it makes it a lot harder. Having lived on both the east and west coasts, I can say for sure the average restaurant on the west coast will be much friendlier to veganism and I have to say I did feel like I might starve when I was traveling through the midwest past Colorado (especially the southern part). I hit up major cities that had veg restaurants and Whole Foods but the average town was a struggle for me to find much as a traveler. If I lived there, I am sure I would do fine, I’d buy beans in bulk and find some organic veggies somewhere (hopefully). There is a ways to go, but it seems Kansas City has more than the average midwest spot.

    • January 11, 2012 4:00 pm

      I say that yes, KC is better-than-average! Like I said, we’ll never be NYC, but we do REALLY well out here as far as veg options go.

  10. January 11, 2012 3:26 pm

    You tell ’em, Amber! I’d be equally pissed if some pretentious big city vegan wrote an article about a lack of options in Memphis. KC sounds super vegan-friendly to me!!

  11. January 11, 2012 3:27 pm

    Your response is very well-worded, specific, and appropriate. The NYT article appears incredibly one-sided. It would be easy to write an article about the visibly poor veg options in the mid-west but requires much more investigation and substance to find the truth.

  12. tdjakes permalink
    January 11, 2012 3:35 pm

    Organic veggies are w/in 10 minutes of everyone in KC practically – might be easier to find than world class bbq if you know where to look.

  13. Sherry permalink
    January 11, 2012 3:36 pm

    I too live in the KC Metro area and have been vegan since March of last year. I have had not any issues with dining out vegan. I think there are a lot of great options in town in addition to many vegan products available not only at specialty markets but even at my local grocer.

  14. Michele permalink
    January 11, 2012 3:43 pm

    If the author had said it was hard finding VEGAN places in the Midwest, then I would have agreed with parts the article. But vegetarian dining? I’m not a vegetarian, but I think there are oodles of options out there in KC. This article feeds the coast people that we are a bunch of backward idiots that choose to live in fly-over country with bad food options. That is just not true and I’ll defend us until the day I die. KC is a great foodie town for all!

    Thanks for your response to the Times article!

    • January 11, 2012 4:24 pm

      That is true – vegan can be a little trickier than vegetarian. But both are SO doable, and really without too much fuss!

  15. Sarah permalink
    January 11, 2012 4:01 pm

    Very well written.

  16. Gretchen permalink
    January 11, 2012 4:02 pm

    Certainly seemed like the all-too-common “if it’s not NY, it must be bad” attitude exhibited by so many transplants…. *sigh*

  17. Chris E permalink
    January 11, 2012 4:03 pm

    Well written. No offense to any east coasters out there, but (traditionally) they call us hicks and we call them snobs. Guess this writer needed something to complain about…sells papers.

  18. January 11, 2012 4:05 pm

    Thanks for sharing the good news about all the vegan/vegetarian options in KC! Always choose optimism over pessimism and open doors for folks. 🙂

  19. January 11, 2012 4:05 pm

    Excellent post! I dine vegetarian and have found that nearly any restaurant I have been to in the Kansas City Metro was more than willing to accomodate if they didn’t already have some great items available on the menu. Heck – even my favorite sports bar in south KC has a “Greek taco” on the menu that is veggie friendly and totally awesome. I agree that KC is not LA or NYC, but we definitely have great vegetarian/vegan options.

  20. January 11, 2012 4:06 pm

    As a New Yorker, we do tend to compare places. What I learned now from living out west is every place is unique and shouldn’t be compared to one another. I think you wrote a great response and opened peoples eyes to the TRUE city you love so much. Keep up the amazing work and know not all New Yorkers are like that writer : ) xx

  21. Milton permalink
    January 11, 2012 4:13 pm

    Boy I agree! I’ve lived in NYC (in Manhattan) and I had FAR FAR more resistance to my vegetarian diet there in Manhattan than I have EVER had in Kansas City.

  22. Jennifer permalink
    January 11, 2012 4:13 pm

    Wow, KC is a great place to be vegan! When I was in Jeff City, I always looked forward to going to KC for the food!

  23. January 11, 2012 4:15 pm

    I’m a gluten- and dairy-free vegetarian and have eaten my way across this country. It’s a relief to come home to KC, the veg life is good here! I’ve had an amazing vegan meal at Jack Stack and an even better one at J. Gilbert’s Wood-Fired Steaks. If it’s easy to eat at those places, imagine the amazing food found in our restaurants that focus on veg cuisine!

  24. Sara permalink
    January 11, 2012 4:16 pm

    I grew up in Baxter Springs, Kansas (a town of 5,000) and didn’t have nearly as much trouble as this guy claims to have had in K.C. I agree–K.C. has a lot to offer culturally and culinarily–not just mounds and mounds of bbq. I was disappointed this showed up in the NYT as well.

  25. cheryl m permalink
    January 11, 2012 4:16 pm

    Moving from the NYC area in the future to Kansas City, KS and was feeling worried about vegan dining options until I ran into your blog…feeling better already!!

    • January 11, 2012 4:57 pm

      Don’t worry, Cheryl, you’ll be in good hands here! Obviously it’ll be quite different from NYC, but I promise you won’t be starved for options here.

  26. January 11, 2012 4:17 pm

    I do not agree with this article. I happily eat a high raw vegan diet here in the KC area with no problem. Why would they go to the places known for BBQ and fried chicken????

  27. Ember permalink
    January 11, 2012 4:19 pm

    I don’t agree with the article either!! I live in Omaha and while it was right that meat and potatoes are the staple we grow up on and vegetarians or vegans were rare a few years back, it is completely wrong about everything else! There are several places around town that cater to Vegans and Vegetarians! My two young boys are Vegan so trust me when I say that there are some great options for them to eat out at. We also boast a huge farmers market during the summer and even have an indoor farmers market during the winter! So, whomever she spoke to about Omaha was gravely misinformed!

  28. Abby permalink
    January 11, 2012 4:19 pm

    Amber, thanks for defending the Midwest. I’d not read your blog before this came up, but I’m glad to know it exists. I agree with most of what you said about the author not sufficiently researching Kansas City and appreciate you sticking up for it. I do sympathize with the point about finding good vegetarian options in small towns, though, and being in the road through the Midwest is different than being on the road through the East Coast in terms of finding options (I’ve done quite a bit of both). When you have more options period, there are going to be more vegetarian options and when you are driving through a place built around the meat industry, literally, there is going to be more meat. I don’t need the Times to tell me that.

  29. January 11, 2012 4:40 pm

    Excellent post! As a Midwesterner in another veg-friendly city (Madison) I took offense on KC’s behalf.

  30. January 11, 2012 4:43 pm

    I knew this article would get people’s hackles up because it is based on so many stereotypes as well as hyperbole and downright errors. E.g., as another poster states, Omaha has had a successful vegetarian restaurant for years (I don’t live there and can’t think of the name of it, but it was a thriving concern last I visited it). Anyone who would report on non-meating opportunities from inside Arthur Bryant’s was OBVIOUSLY trying to take the p*ss out, as the Brits like to say. My family just visited KC and took advantage of Whole Foods a couple times, and in the past we’ve been blown away by your wonderful farmer’s market.

    I’m more of a flexitarian than vegetarian, but more and more, I keep an eye out for places where I won’t have to choose a meat item. And this is never a problem when I’m visiting any of the great Midwestern cities mentioned in the article, nor the closest one to us–Des Moines.

    Rebecca Burke
    Author, The Ahimsa Club

    • January 11, 2012 5:04 pm

      Yes! The article was chock full of exaggeration and misinformation.

      I’ve eaten vegan in Des Moines, too! Hello, Gateway Market. 🙂

  31. January 11, 2012 4:46 pm

    So my husband and I had a long chat about this article and he agreed with much of what the person was saying and I have come around a little bit. Yes they are 100% right that this place isnt NYC and like you said, it really never will be. Yes you cant just walk down the street everywhere you live in KC or the midwest and find places that suit your needs like you might in a larger city but that is the case with any city. If this is the point the author was trying to make that is common sense! HELLO we know that KC isnt going to be as easy as it might in a city where you can get food 24 hours a day delivered right to your door. BUT the fact they say its hard to eat in KC alone is silly, yes in the country you might have a hard time finding a vegetarian options but in reality you might find it hard to find many things! So the person wrote what seems like a blog post complaining about how hard it is to find a veggie place right next to the house they live in. Sorry thats most cities in the US, get over it. I also find it hard to believe it was hard for them to find because vegkc has a great website listing every single restaurant with vegetarian/vegan options! My favorite being McCoys! Anyway great response and in the end I am betting the writer loves this!! Any pub is good for an unknown writer!

  32. January 11, 2012 4:48 pm

    Great post! I think you should send this to the NY TIMES as your response; you never know, they might print it. Seriously, if you look at Meetup we have the largest raw food group in the nation. And you are right, everywhere I go I can find things to eat. It’s rare that I can’t, and mostly that’s at chain restaurants.

  33. jenniferwetzel permalink
    January 11, 2012 5:02 pm

    Sulzberger writes from the obvious standpoint of a outsider, though he is currently a resident of Kansas City. As a Kansas Citian, and a former vegetarian, there are plenty of places that offer substancial vegetarian menu options, i.e. Eden’s Alley, Chez Elle, Ingredient, BluBird Cafe, Room39, You Say Tomato, (and I’m just covering Downtown to the Plaza) and just about every restaurant that I have ever been to offers something other than an iceberg lettuce salad or baked potato as the only veg option. Why would he deliberately go to a restaurant such as Arthur Bryant’s BBQ, who specialize in meat dishes, looking for “a vegetarian option”? I wouldn’t be looking to buy a bicycle at a car dealership, nor would the car salesman cater to my bicycle needs.

    Sulzberger needs to take responsibility for feeding himself. A personalized diet takes work, which is ultimately the reason that I chose to eat meat again. That and my husbands’ family owns an established meat market here in KC. Who can resist?

    Thanks for the well thought-out response to Sulzberger’s NYT piece. I had the same series of reactions as you.

    • January 11, 2012 5:05 pm

      Your analogies are very apt, Jennifer. And you’re right, the author seems to lack a sense of personal responsibility regarding his diet.

  34. January 11, 2012 5:06 pm

    It’s not as though NY is entirely vegan either!

    You have my envy with the offerings available where you are. The writer should try any town in Alaska if they want to display a place that’s clueless about plant-based eating…

  35. January 11, 2012 7:28 pm

    I had a feeling I’d see a post like this after I saw your response to Erik’s post on facebook. Nicely written. I hope you copy the New York Times 🙂

  36. January 11, 2012 7:37 pm

    It’s true that there are many places in KC where a vegetarian and/or vegan can find something to eat, but the menu choices are limited. Finding a vegan menu option for breakfast (other than muffin, bagel or other bread product) has been difficult, if not impossible for me. Since there are people other than vegetarians/vegans who select non-meat, non-cheese items, and enjoy tofu or tempeh, it makes good business sense for the “breakfast spots” to offer one of these options. Tofu scramble, tempeh scramble, etc. Not hard to substitute and can be both delicious and nutritious. Thanks for your post.

    • January 11, 2012 8:17 pm

      I highly recommend both the vegan pancakes at Succotash and the scrambled tofu at Room 39!

      • January 11, 2012 8:20 pm

        and the tofu scramble at bluebird, and the great brunch at fud! breakfast is definitely the trickiest email in town but there are dozens of restaurants in town with multiple vegan options for lunch & dinner nowadays.

      • January 11, 2012 9:13 pm

        Don’t forget vegan crepes at Chez Elle! 🙂

  37. January 11, 2012 9:55 pm

    How frustrating! You’re right, the article shouldn’t have even shown up in the NY Times… that’s just poor on their part.

    Good thing you’re doing your bit to promote the Veg community in KC… it sounds like you have a pretty good scene there to me!

  38. January 11, 2012 10:56 pm

    First off, I am not vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or anything in the -arian arena. I am a writer, so I eat just about anything that’s put in front of me. Having just finished Sulzberger’s story, I performed a Google search of his name. To be honest, my reason for the search was because I was unsure whether the author was a male or female. I enjoyed the article, but I must say I enjoyed your post here just as much, if not more. I thought it was a very well-written debunking of Sulzberger’s claims, which, at second glance, did seem quite unfounded. Unfortunately for me, now I want to come to Kansas City, become a vegan, and join you in holy matrimony. Bravo, keep up the good work.

    • January 12, 2012 11:49 am

      Ryan, you absolutely cracked me up with this comment. My fiance Matt might have something to say about that, though 😉 I’m glad you found my blog; thanks for reading!

  39. Chris permalink
    January 11, 2012 11:41 pm

    He mentions something in the article about everyone eating iceberg lettuce and I asked myself: where? Where have you eaten iceberg lettuce. I’ll tell you, I’ve been to restaurants all over this city and I cannot remember the last time I was served iceberg lettuce (except at Pizza Hut). Maybe he ate there and did not realize that it is not a local restaurant (sometimes New Yorkers get a little confused when they cross the Hudson).

    PS: Even if he doesn’t like the lettuce those little tomatoes are pretty good.

  40. January 12, 2012 12:47 am

    goodgolly every time I visit your blog I am so pleasantly surprised! Not only are you a screamingly talented chef but you are so articulate as a spokesperson for our growing and thriving Midwest Vegan community! Super excellent post…yes, definitely send it to old Sulzie-poo but also send it directly to the NYT editorial page:
    The New York Times–How to Submit a Letter to the Editor
    Also may I suggest planning a vegan restaurant hop sometime this year and invite him along. (He has been promoted to NYT Bureau Chief there…hmmm, now how did that happen?)
    Educate the man! In this case ignorance is not bliss, it is just plain ignorance!

  41. January 12, 2012 12:54 am

    *slow clap* So well put! Great post. I hadn’t heard of the article until now, but that’s just ridiculous. We don’t have very many veggie restaurants where I live (though more seem to be showing up everyday), but I have NEVER had issues trying to find something to eat! There are ethnic restaurants like Indian, Japanese, Mexican…you can also ASK to have something put together for you, as you suggested. I asked my favourite pizza place to get Daiya in, and boom! They got it 🙂 Businesses are often happy to accommodate. Again, just ask

  42. Jim permalink
    January 12, 2012 5:07 am

    My family loves to visit Omaha. The kids love the zoo and the childrens’ museum and we all love McFosters – the story of it and the little garden where they produce so much for the restaurant. We try to eat at other restaurants in Omaha, but go in, look at menus, and then someone says something like, “Yeah, that sounds OK, but at McFosters…” Five minutes later, we’re in the car heading there for yet another meal. Here, I’m still in absolute awe of Fud and we have many favorites – many of which have been mentioned and are not “vegetarian” restaurants. What progress has been made in KC in the last few years! I haven’t had a portobello on a bun in years! Not that they’re not good, but for years, that was to me, the manifestation of a restaurant seeking, but not yet having found, enlightenment about their mysterious veg clientele. Let’s not be too hard on the author; he certainly has gotten a little help with his thinking since he wrote what he probably thought was an innocuous article. Clearly, if his ears work, he’ll embark on a path of personal responsibility for his diet which will culminate in an eloquent refutation of his prior writing 6 months, or a year from now. Or, maybe Calvin Trillin will enter the fray – he certainly romanticizes KC’s barbecue history, but loves KC enough to explore and rattle bad mythology about it. Anyway, I don’t think WE have anything to fix. KC is alright. Except maybe, did someone here mention Mr. Sulzberger being “eaten alive”? ‘didn’t see that coming… Great post. Thx!

    • January 12, 2012 11:53 am

      I haven’t been to Omaha in a long time; I’m due for a trip! And yes, KC’s veg scenes has grown by leaps and bounds in just the last couple years.

  43. January 12, 2012 6:21 am

    I love this post. The attitude of the article really felt defeated, and being vegan in ANY part of the country is about being assertive and creative. DC (believe it or not!) is not a vegan wonderland, but one can always make it work by asking for vegan food in normal restaurants.

  44. January 12, 2012 9:59 am

    The entire idea that eating veg out west is impossible is a silly assumption. When I started photographing out west a couple of years ago I was convinced I’d be living on my McDougal soups and energy bars. I’ve found delish veg food everywhere I’ve gone and even the most meat-centric restaurants have been very accommodating and friendly. The hardest places have been very small town diners that didn’t have much fresh ingredients on hand, but I’ve been repeatedly impressed by how hard they will try to find something for a random vegan traveler!

    • January 12, 2012 11:55 am

      I have too! Last summer I got an amazing meal (hummus with crudites, black bean burger on focaccia with avocado, and olive-oil-sauteed veggies!) made for me at Reba’s Restaurant in tiny little Newton, KS!

  45. Jazz permalink
    January 12, 2012 10:22 am

    Damn, what a ridiculous article. I’ve always been a bit jealous of KC’s veg options. But, Columbus has exploded with our own vege culture, which I am proud of. Like you, people judge us too quick. I love Columbus and we have an awesome underground culture, you just have to stop and open your damn eyes…. Much love from one “cowtown” to another…. Jazz

  46. January 12, 2012 10:48 am

    One of the very best Indian restaurants in America is 12 minutes from the Kansas City International Airport: Swagat in Zona Rosa. Family owned and always delicious, their lunch buffet is the only meal you need in a day.

  47. January 12, 2012 12:22 pm

    What a ridiculous article.

    I go to Kansas City simply FOR a vegan meal! I love it there!

  48. January 12, 2012 2:01 pm

    Just ate at Fud myself for the first time last weekend. Yummy! Was wondering where I could get green juices/smoothies downtown and they whipped up something just for me.

  49. Matt permalink
    January 12, 2012 3:44 pm

    Thanks for writing this blog response. A friend posted the original NY Times article and I couldn’t believe how ridiculous it was. Who goes to steak houses and BBQ joints in search of vegetarian fare? I’m an omnivore, but enjoy fresh locally grown veggies and our array of creative KC chefs that prepare them in fun and inventive ways. This guy was obviously just looking to do a “Aren’t Midwesterners so uncultured?” piece.

  50. Jessica permalink
    January 12, 2012 4:10 pm

    As a student at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, I completely agree with you! There are so many places to indulge in vegetarian and vegan food. All it takes is a visit to city market or just walking down the streets in Westport or downtown to know that KC is a good place to be vegan! I’m even suprised sometimes when I ask at restaurants the variety that vegans and vegetarians can get if they request something a little different. One example—I was at Jack Stack barbeque and was able to get delicious veggie kabobs! It’s that simple!

  51. Amy permalink
    January 12, 2012 4:35 pm

    Most people have hit on the same points I would like to make, so I will just mention a few things. In Omaha, the vegetarian restaurant he talked about that closed, (it was actually vegan/local), went out of business due to a sewer reconstruction project that would have closed off the neighborhood that the restaurant was located in for an extended period of times (6 months or something like that). It did not go out of business due to a lack of customers. Vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters alike all went there. Contrary to what he reported, there is another vegetarian restaurant in Omaha called McFoster’s that has been there forever, and is and always was successful. The author doesn’t list it as vegetarian (I’m guessing) because it does offer approx eight dishes with free range chicken/and/or fish. This is on a menu of approx 50 vegetarian items, and almost all of the items can be made vegan on request. In addition to these two places, there are an enormous amount of restaurants in Omaha (we are spoiled) and a large majority of them offer at least a few delicious vegetarian options, that can be made vegan with a little adjustment. We have a thriving vegetarian and vegan meet up group, and restaurants are lining up to have one of our meetings held at their place (they create special menus and buffets for the occasion). And we have one of the best (I think the best, Isa Moskowitz/Post Punk Kitchen) vegan cookbook authors living in Omaha and spreading her vegan influence all over (for example: one of the best homeade ice cream stores in town recently started having a vegan flavor). And she is talking (seriously) about opening a restaurant here in Omaha. Why wouldn’t a legitimate reporter talk with the two restaurant owners (mentioned above), Isa or someone from one of the Meetup groups before making such stupid and uninformed statements. I think what makes us all so mad is that we have fought (with a smile on our face and patience) to make our cities as vegetarian/vegan friendly as they are today, and articles like this one will just set us back.

    • January 12, 2012 5:04 pm

      Very well said, Amy. It sounds like the vegan situation in Omaha is very similar to here in Kansas City – i.e., thriving, yet underappreciated!

  52. Mama Reads2Much permalink
    January 12, 2012 7:39 pm

    Great response to the undoubtedly crappiest article I’ve read in a long time. I’ve lived near KC and now in Omaha and my family has no problems being vegan. Most restaurants are quite accommodating, whie most people are merely curious, not rude. I’ve shared on twitter and will share on FB. Good job.

  53. January 12, 2012 9:44 pm

    Hi, Amber! Just found your blog tonight. I’m also a fellow KC-er, not native, but proud to call this city home. True, KC may be known for cows and pigs, but the journalist obviously didn’t spend enough time exploring all the wonderful culinary options this city has to offer. It’s like like when I visited Manhattan two summers ago, I was very surprised to find a BBQ restaurant that I thoughts was nearly as good as Smokehouse here in KC. So one can’t go around with subconscious stereotypes and then expect to find anything good.

    I am a pastry chef (brand new!) to a wonderful little organic market, just north of the river, called Green Acres. I am ‘sort of’ new to vegan baking. I come from the school where eggs are needed to build structure in cakes (was a cake designer and home-baker for ten years and worked ‘freelance’ with a friend’s catering biz). But inside the store we serve great vegan, raw, and gluten-free options such as raw, vegan cheesecake, very similar to Cafe Gratitude type desserts. They go like lottery tickets! There are grown men who come in and order meat from the deli but then walk away with 2, sometimes 3 pieces of raw cheesecake, practically eating it on the way out. And the chefs for our deli make wonderful tofu burgers, quinoa patties, and other yummy organic, vegan meal options. So again, this reporter must have had on some dark shades during his visit in KC. I can’t call myself vegan or anywhere near a raw foodiist, but I follow my blood type diet pretty closely and try not to ingest too much animal products, mostly eggs and fish when I do. I’m really loving the raw dessert world, and I’m adapting quickly to making desserts that are both vegan AND gluten-free…and getting lots of compliments on my ‘experiments’ at home.

    • January 13, 2012 8:06 am

      Hi Trish! Nice to “meet” you 🙂

      I’m very familiar with Green Acres! My fiance Matt and I live out south at the moment, so Whole Foods and TJ’s are our usuals, but when we move further north in a couple months, Green Acres is likely to become one of our regular grocery stores. Stop me and say hi if/when you see me there! They’ll be carrying my cookbook when it comes out in March, right? If so, maybe I should hold a book signing there!

      Raw desserts are where it’s at! May I suggest my famous famous 5-minute blondie and award-winning caramel-fudge brownies? 😉

  54. suzi permalink
    January 13, 2012 10:46 am

    I am vegan and have lived in KC all my life. I find that you have to seek out the places that are willing to adapt to your ways. Unless you would simply like to have a salad, please hold the cheese etc… It is getting better I have to say. I make an effort to get to know the staff and they understand our needs when we come in and are happy to take care of us. When we go out of town, I have to take some time to research and maybe make a call ahead, but it is just part of the process. Kansas City is really growing and waking up to healthy alternatives. I just enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition program in NYC, to get the proper training and credentials to share the knowledge and the delicious flavor of a healthy vegan lifestyle. I find that if you stay in the ethnic food vein, you will eat well. It is the American cuisine that is actually the meat and cheese, barbeque-esque experience that the writer speaks of in the article. That, I believe, you can find to be the case in pretty much any American city in 2012.

  55. ksmms permalink
    January 13, 2012 11:01 am

    The real shame is that the reporter missed an opportunity to lambaste government subsidies for the corn industry. If the government would subsidize fruits, vegetables, and grains at the same rate, we could cure obesity in this country in a heartbeat and variety would be the norm everywhere. It’s not a KC or midwest problem, it’s a national problem. What a snob!

  56. January 13, 2012 8:15 pm

    I didn’t know KC was getting a Cafe Gratitude!!! Yay! 😀

    As for that article, it’s ridiculous. I was a vegetarian in KC for years, and had NO PROBLEM dining out at restaurants!

  57. Kat T permalink
    January 14, 2012 6:56 pm

    When I initially read the article I felt that the journalist was frustrated because she was traveling around to different cities, for work, that had no options.

    As a longtime vegetarian, and recent vegan convert in Springfield Mo. I have found that most of her complaints I experience here on a daily basis. Now true, Springfield is certainly NOT KC. But in a town where only 1 restaurant has a supplementary vegan menu in addition to its meaty fare – I can understand the frustration.

    As a new resident of any city its hard to know where to go for things… maybe this journalist just needs some like-minded new friends!

    Oh… and Amber, now that I have found your blog I have some great ideas of places to try on our next trip to KC. Thanks! 🙂

    • January 15, 2012 10:42 am

      Ah yes, Springfield is tough. (Matt’s parents live near there, so we go several times a year.) At least you’ve got Mama Jean’s! 🙂

      Glad I could point you to some great vegan eats in KC!

  58. January 15, 2012 7:58 am

    I like your rebuttal to the NYT article much better than KC Star’s!

  59. January 15, 2012 3:13 pm

    Amber, after reading through your post , I went to the NYT article and read it. Twice (well, OK, about once and a half, first time was more of a skim). Didn’t get the gender of the author, which would make it easier to use pronouns, so I’ll just say “he”. Didn’t get the exact time he has spent living there, but there is a mention of “first three meals” and “three days” so it doesn’t sound like this has been a lengthy period of residence. However, it does sound like there are a lot of angry fans here, and probably because it’s not my hometown, I don’t get the anger. What I came away with is that this guy is a bit panicked and may have been too quick to the pen, so to speak. I suspect he’s been to dinner those times with other people who made the restaurant selections, hence his mention of finally going off alone and “feasting” on meatless Ma Po tofu.

    I wonder if it wouldn’t be more productive to channel the disagreement with the author’s description of his initial experience with a direct response outlining what he can look forward to after having had time to explore the new digs. It could be issued as a challenge- the author has to try every restaurant/market/locally adored veggie dish the community recommends at least once before he writes another word despairing the local offerings. Frankly, there could be a new foodie TV show in the works…(“Kansas City Confidential- The Dark Veggie Underbelly of the Midwest…”)

    The midwest vegan/vegetarian community potentially has a powerful ally in this writer, and it would be a shame to toss that away. After all, what do some businesses do when their computers get hacked? If they’re smart, they get the hackers to work for them!

    • January 15, 2012 5:17 pm

      Hi Carolyn, thanks for your input. There’s a lot of indignation because we all, as vegans in KC, hear just about nothing but “BBQ, BBQ, BBQ” all.the.time. This guy reinforced every INCORRECT stereotype about eating in our city. That’s just bad journalism (no one should write an article, especially not for the NY TIMES, in a state of panic!), and it never should’ve been printed. Many people have tried contacting him, and apparently his stance is that if it’s not a 100% vegetarian restaurant, it doesn’t count. I don’t know if that’s just east coast snobbery or what, but no one outside of NYC, LA, or Portland should expect more than a handful of 100% veg restaurants in any given city. If he really cared about the veg options and community in our city, he would’ve taken a tiny bit of time to actually EXPLORE it before writing a nationally published article like he did, casting us in such a negative light. To us here in KC, that’s just a huge insult no matter how you look at it.

      • January 15, 2012 6:40 pm

        Amber, I’ll keep playing eternal optimist and just throw the hope out that he writes a followup article saying wait a minute, remember my panic attack? Well let me tell you how wrong I was…

        Apparently “mea culpa” admissions are really popular right now (Newt G has wrought an entire presidential campaign out of them) so you never know. Seriously, given the reaction to this article, I bet there’s a followup in the near future.

      • January 15, 2012 7:45 pm

        I hope so! My fingers are crossed for that, too. 🙂

  60. January 16, 2012 10:10 am

    Sulzberger’s piece and the criticism it got made me wonder: How tough is it to be a vegetarian journalist? Thought the readers of this post might be interested in a related story I wrote about it:


  61. Missy Hueben Murray permalink
    January 16, 2012 4:08 pm

    You keep those New Yorkers informed. I guess they didn’t do their homework or research…big mistake.

  62. January 18, 2012 7:58 pm

    Thanks for defending the Midwest!!! I’m in MN and there are plenty of places to find vegan food options here too.

  63. Cindy permalink
    February 12, 2012 6:17 pm

    wow, he should come to where I live!! I live in the middle of the Nevadan desert and have to drive 50 miles to the only restaurant I have found so far that has a wonderful, although very limited, veggie menu along with the typical fare. I have to drive 50 or 70 miles to go to Raley’s, which has a SMALL , health food section. As for a Whole Food’s or a Trader Joes, how about 230 miles one way!! Our towns 2 little local grocery stores don’t carry any organic foods, but one has been more than willing to order me full cases of organic greens and fruits. It’s not easy here but I manage! We have no farmers markets either! We do grow or own garden but this is high desert so believe me, it’s not an easy thing to do! If I can do it in a very small town of less than 4000 people you can pretty much find something anywhere in the US!!

    • February 12, 2012 6:20 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Cindy! Wow, you definitely have a FAR tougher time than anyone in my area, but clearly you still manage – good for you!

  64. April 4, 2012 10:57 am

    Wonderful article! We are linking to this particularly great content on our website. Keep up the great writing.

  65. June 6, 2012 10:00 pm

    I love reading NY times articles. May I simply say what a comfort to discover someone who genuinely knows what they’re talking about online. You actually realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people must read this and understand this side of your story. It’s surprising you aren’t more popular because you most certainly have the gift.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: