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!