Over the years, I've eaten grain burgers, tempeh and tofu burgers, and faux-meat patties created out of everything from millet to mushrooms. Some of them were good, some inedible, but none could pass as an all-American hamburger, no matter how you dressed them up.
I can't imagine a world without all-beef hamburgers, but last week I heard a segment on NPR about one serious way to save the planet: Avoid red meat and dine exclusively on grains, vegetables and fish. That's a daring concept for unrepentant carnivores like me, but I know one place that might be able to help.
In Kansas City, Kansas, the United Nation of Islam operates the tiny Food for Life Supreme Diner (formerly known as Your Diner) at 1846 Quindaro. My friend Richard Mabion is passionate about reviving the fortunes of this historic community and had been encouraging me to dine at the Supreme Diner, which serves breakfast, lunch and an early dinner Monday through Saturday. "Enjoy delicious food," the menu exhorts, "in an environment of righteousness." The restaurant's cooks and servers are students at the nearby University of Islam. (I avoided asking tough questions about the United Nation of Islam, unlike my former co-worker Allie Johnson in a story The Pitch published back in March 2003.)
Food for Life Supreme Diner is a cozy little place with a surprisingly elaborate bill of fare, though it's definitely not all-veg. In fact, most of the dishes are prepared with fish: fish chili, fish taco salad, a Cuban sandwich with grilled salmon, a salmon burrito, barbecued fish tips and a BLT made with "nautical bacon" (smoky seasoned fish).
Luckily, I'm a fish lover, so I was thrilled with the citrus fish, a hunk of flaky whiting that's tempura-battered and fried until light and crispy, served over rice and stir-fried vegetables. Also excellent were the breaded fries made from sliced sweet carrots, deep fried and served with a side of honey-Dijon dipping sauce. Richard had the club sandwich made with fried whiting and a slab of bean pie for dessert.
"People need to know about this place," Richard says. "Where else can you get carrot fries?"
Not to mention nautical bacon in an environment of righteousness.