Food Critics: The best plant-based food in Kansas City in 2023
Vegan and vegetarian diets are getting more popular in Kansas City, and options at local restaurants are expanding. From sandwiches that mimic their meat-made counterparts to dishes where vegetables are the star, there's something for everyone.
Whether it’s for health, ethics or a quest to find the right balance of flavors, there are a lot of reasons to eat a plant-based diet.
“I think it's growing the segment of diners who are hoping for vegetarian and vegan options,” food writer Liz Cook said. “That's become something that people are thinking about a lot more both for sustainability and ethical reasons, but also, really, climate reasons — we know how carbon intensive meat production is.”
Food blogger Chuck Munson has been a vegetarian since 1989. When he created his blog in 2019, he dedicated it to exploring the meatless options around our barbecue town.
“I've been through the challenges of trying to find vegetarian food in restaurants for decades, and it's gotten a lot better,” Munson told KCUR’s Up To Date on Friday.
Below Cook, Munson and Kansas City food blogger Mary Bloch give their recommendations for restaurants around town with the best vegetarian and vegan options. Some make their entire menu meatless. Others provide plant-based options that keep diners coming back for more.
- Kinship Cafe – MVP Burrito. This cute, bright coffee shop on Strawberry Hill always has a few hefty vegan burritos available, all made with nicely browned Yoli flour tortillas. The MVP Wrap is stacked meaty portabella mushrooms, peppers and onions layered on top of fluffy turmeric rice and covered in gooey vegan mozzarella.
- Tacos Valentina – Vegan Crunch Wrap. While not veg-only, the pop-up taqueria offers vegetarian and vegan tamales and tacos that never feel like an afterthought. Try the vegan crunch wrap with soy chorizo for a fun (and far superior) take on a fast-food classic. The pop-up has a regular presence Thursdays at Casual Animal Brewing, Fridays at Alma Mader Brewing, and Saturdays at Big Mood Natural Wines.
- The Fix – Fried Chicken Sammie. Since The Fix opened, it’s had a reliable menu of all-vegan comfort food, including jalapeno poppers, “chicken” tenders, burgers, and fries, but the house-made fried “chicken” sandwich should shoot to the top of even omnivores’ lists. The restaurant was taken over this summer by Sav Brady, of The C Word Cakery, and the selection of vegan baked goods has expanded.
- Mattie’s Foods – Brisket and Mac & Cheez. Head to this Brookside institution for Mattie’s loaded vegan nachos, and one of the metro’s best meatless barbecue offerings: a glazed tofu “brisket” sandwich with a side of vegan mac and cheese.
- Mildred’s Cafe – Vegetarian Sandwich. The sandwich is stacked with pillowy steamed eggs, guacamole, swiss cheese and pepper-Dijon mayo on sturdy, toasted wheat bread. Swap the pepper-dijon for the chile-basil aioli for variety. The cafe also offers a vegan breakfast burrito.
- Joe’s KC Bar-B-Que – Portobello Z-Man. It’s impossible not to mention this iconic KC sandwich. I like it every bit as much as the original Z-Man, with the added benefit of not feeling like I need a nap and a cigarette after eating it. Smoked mushrooms, smoked provolone, and two thick and crispy onion rings.
- XR/Lazia – Pizza. The pizza at the Crossroads Hotel, available nightly at Lazia and on Fridays and Saturdays at XR, remains criminally underrated. It’s got a chewy, speckled, Neopolitan-leaning crust and vegetarian-friendly toppings. Start with the fonduta, topped with a “mushroom ragout,” shaved cremini mushrooms, shallots and a gooey taleggio fondue.
- Vegan Jurnee - Boundless Cheezeburger. I accidentally discovered this vegan pop-up restaurant recently on 63rd Street. It has the soul-food, vegan vibe I’ve long been looking for, with burgers, fries, tacos, pasta and veggies.
- Aladdin Cafe - Jasmine’s Vegetarian Combo. This is a favorite of family and friends, and a good bet on 39th Street. Mediterranean food is a dependable go-to for vegan and vegetarian options. The food presentation here is always impeccable.
- You Say Tomato – Cold carryout. Annie and George Rousis run this neighborhood cafe south of the Crossroads District, which always has vegetarian and vegan items on the menu. It’s open Fridays and Saturdays for breakfast and lunch, and on Wednesdays the restaurant has a cold carryout dinner that you heat up at home. They also have special dinner and pizza on Sunday nights.
- Rudy’s Tenampa Taqueria – Create your own veggie plate. They have a special vegetarian section on the menu which allows you to pick two mains and multiple sides. Go for the veggie fajitas or chile relleno and don’t skip on the great chips and salsa.
- Café Gratitude – I Am Flourishing (Mushroom Tacos). Everything here is plant-based. The mushroom tacos are great. Mushrooms are not something you normally find in tacos, but they add a lot of flavor so it was a very interesting experience.
- Waldo Pizza – Vegan Tex Mex Pizza. This is the place to go if you are looking for vegan pizza, and their mighty little salad bar is one of my favorites around Kansas City.
- Blue Koi – Vegan Delights. Try their vegetarian appetizers like the eggplant pockets, scallion biscuit, crispy tofu and veggie lettuce wrap. They’ve been featured twice on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Their 39th Street location has since closed, but they have a big space in Leawood.
- Chewology – Three Cup Mushroom Ramen. This is maybe the best mushroom dish I’ve ever had. The broth has a mind-blowing basil and onion sauce, and the mushrooms are locally sourced. It’s perfect on a cold January evening.
- Brewer’s Kitchen – Brussel Sprouts. I could easily suggest the french fries here as my go-to vegetarian dish, but it’s impossible to go to this hamburger joint without getting the Brussels sprouts. They are fried, sweet, and spicy, with crushed peanuts on top. I usually get the appetizer portion because a side just isn’t enough.
- Chingu – Jjajang Tteokboki, Vegetable Bibimbap and Pajeon. This new Korean restaurant in Westport has the same ownership as Sura Eats. The Jjajang Tteokboki is rice cakes tossed with mushrooms and veggies in a fermented black bean sauce. The Vegetable Bibimbap is full of rice and vegetables with a spicy Korean chili paste. Don’t leave without trying the Pajeon, an herb-and-veggie, savory scallion pancake.
- Corvino Supper Club – Rotating vegetable dishes. Corvino always has several interesting vegetable dishes on the menu, currently featuring broccoli with whipped tofu and chili crunch and a rather compelling cabbage dish. (Cabbage is having a moment, not as coleslaw, but roasted.) Michael Corvino’s is roasted and served with kimchi butter, sesame and shiso.
- The Antler Room – Any vegetable dish. Any vegetable dish at Antler Room is worth ordering. Try the carrot fritters when they’re on the menu, and you can’t go wrong with any broccoli or cauliflower dish. Many of the pastas are vegetarian — right now they are offering a pasta made with cocoa, mushrooms, celery root, swiss chard and pine nuts.
- Taco Naco KC – Potato Pipian Tacos. My favorite tacos here have green pumpkin seed mole, sesame seeds and pepitas on a 5-inch corn tortilla. The wild mushroom taco with mild mole, sesame seeds, and red pickled onion on a 5-inch corn tortilla is also great. Don’t skip out on their street corn either.
- Billie’s Grocery – Beet Hummus Avocado Toast. Layered with sourdough toast, herb butter, avocado, beet hummus, organic wild greens, basil-infused olive oil, and sea salt, this toast has a gorgeous magenta color and is topped with a soft egg. Their Thai Bowl is also a nice, light fresh bowl.
- Princess Garden – Mapo Tofu or Harvest Vegetables. This long-standing Chinese restaurant has several vegetarian dishes on the menu, including a very fine Mapo Tofu. Their Harvest Vegetables, with a garlic and black bean sauce, are a can’t-miss. This off-menu item is a riff on the harvest pork and beef.
- Tailleur – Garden Burger. This burger is similar to their meat version, the Bistro Burger, but is made with a rice, bean and sun-dried tomato patty. It’s topped with honey cider onions, truffle aioli and brie.
- Westport Cafe – Vegetable risotto. This dish is visually stunning and tasty. It’s incredibly Instagrammable, and the featured vegetable changes seasonally.
- Banksia Bakehouse – Moroccan Salad. Made with Israeli couscous, arugula, roasted pumpkin, marinated chickpeas, ruby grapefruit, grilled halloumi, pomegranate, and a tamarind vinaigrette, this dish is great for carrying out. The flavors meld together well and each bite is fun.
- KC Girl on the Move offers vegetarian or vegan cooking classes so you can make your favorite dish at home.
- You Say Tomato garners high praise from our food critics for its vegetarian take-out options. Listeners also love the vegan meatloaf, made of mushrooms.
- The Brick offers a hearty vegetarian meatloaf.
- The Peanut has a great vegetarian burger, but beware that it’s cooked on the same flattop as their regular burgers.
- The Corner Mexican Food Restaurant in Grandview has an extensive vegan menu that is worth the drive.
- Pot Pie has a delicious root vegetable vegan option that listeners love.
- Urban Cafe, a Black-owned business off 55th Street and Troost Avenue, offers an Urban Bowl that includes egg on yams, tomatoes, fresh spinach and quinoa.
- Blue Nile Cafe in the River Market has many vegan and vegetarian dishes to choose from. Listeners recommend the Vegetarian Sampler, which serves two and comes with eight dishes.