You would think that I would have finally learned my lesson. I'm one of those people who procrastinates over every decision, including visiting restaurants — sometimes waiting until it's too late. I mean, after years of watching those late-night TV commercials for the semi-legendary Rockwood Country Club (where Lou Jane Temple says she was once served Grand Marnier or some other fancy liqueur in a Styrofoam cup and watched the booze melt through the bottom of the cup), I decided one night I wanted to go there. It was closed. Permanently.
Same story for the iconic Gold Buffet ("Where the superstars dine!"), that combination smorgasbord and "show room." I was finally convinced I should go there ... two days after it closed. And although Zoe LeGrece — the owner of one of Kansas City's first truly vegan restaurants, Zo's Cafe (it operated from 1984 to 1994) — is a friend of mine, I regret to say I never actually dined in her namesake restaurant.
And that brings me to the local vegan meal-delivery service, Conveniently Natural, run by Brian and Kim Gordon. Last summer, the Gordons began serving a vegan buffet lunch on Thursdays at their location on Southwest Trafficway but recently discontinued it. Before I could eat there, of course.
"It was very popular," Brian Gordon says, "and we were making money, but it was a lot of work. We're already running a food business, and adding a restaurant component, even one day a week, was incredibly time-consuming. Our customers keep begging us to bring it back, but at this point, it's not in our plans."
Back in the 1980s, when restaurateur Zoe LeGrece was running Zo's Cafe on 26th Street — long before the neighborhood became known as the trendy Crossroads District — her idea of a vegan restaurant was way ahead of its time. Nearly three decades later, Heidi Van Pelt-Belle is having great success in her tiny bistro, Fud, located at 813 West 17th Street. The cafe turns two years old next month, and Van Pelt-Belle's biggest question from customers is, "When are you going to move to a bigger location?" (The answer? She's opening satellite locations on two local college campuses.)
Van Pelt-Belle says vegan cuisine has moved far beyond the "weird" and "hippie food" perceptions. "Most of my customers," she says, "are not vegans. They're just people who want a healthy meal that tastes good."
That might explain why Fud's current best-selling sandwich is a "barbecue" of jackfruit that looks amazingly like traditional pulled pork. (The texture is a little mushier). Van Pelt-Belle uses classic Gates Barbecue sauce as the base for her slightly spicier sauce. "We sell out of the sandwich almost every day," Van Pelt-Belle says.
I didn't procrastinate this time. I went right over and ate one.