Kansas City's Growing Health-Food Trends: Bowls
Can a bowl a day keep the doctor away?
Let’s talk bowls.
No, not the pretty ceramic ones you’ve had your eye on at Crate & Barrel. We mean food bowls: colorful bounties of acai, chia seeds and yogurt; grain bowls piled high with more fiber than you get in a year; the all-encompassing “Buddha bowl,” which is whatever you want it to be, really. You’ve probably noticed these orbs of veritable food art dominating your Instagram feed for a hot minute, and the trend shows no signs of slowing.
That’s why we’re declaring 2018 the Year of the Bowl. We’re celebrating these mosaics of healthy food at its best and most beautiful – and we invite you to do the same. We’ve got some guidance on where you can start, but first, let’s dig a little deeper. Where did these bowls come from, anyway, and why are they so popular?
When Robin Krause opened Brookside’s Unbakery and Juicery in December 2015, bowls weren’t on her menu. Later, on a trip to New Zealand, she ended up in a restaurant eating a tuna poké bowl that brought her to tears.
“It was so amazing and fresh, and I drilled the server about how they prepared their seaweed and what they did to their ginger and where they got their tuna from,” she says. “It’s so full of protein.”
After that, Krause says, she was sold – and bowls started cropping up on her menu at Unbakery. At first, she just did one or two – a tuna poké, an ode to her New Zealand inspiration, and a seared tuna bowl – but the response was so enthusiastic that she quickly expanded her offerings to include salmon poké, spicy tuna, green goddess, macrobiotic vegetarian and fall Buddha bowls.
In a city known for its heart-stopping barbecue platters, Krause says it’s no wonder that nutritious food bowls are in high demand.
“I think we’re seeing that people want to be healthy, and they want healthy food that still tastes good and is still fun,” she says. “So at Unbakery, we try not to be too limiting – we’re not vegan-only or raw-only. You can still have eggs, and fats are important. But we’re just showing people that heavily processed food is not always better and it’s not always easier. In one of these bowls, you can get almost all the nutrients you need for your day.”
Krause is a certified health coach and is currently in school to become a nutritional therapy practitioner. For her, food bowls get at one of the central themes of her pedagogy: “What I am learning and working back into what we do here is how to cleanse your body right, and I think that’s what this trend is really about.”
It doesn’t hurt, Krause adds, that there’s something intrinsically restorative about scooping out hefty forkfuls of fresh rainbow-patterned food from a bowl shape. We’d have to agree – which is why we’ve rounded up some of the best bowls we’ve found in Kansas City. Go taste the rainbow!
Unbakery and Juicery: Spicy Tuna Bowl
There are so many bowls to choose from at Unbakery and Juicery, and they’re all stunners. For your first trip in, though, go with the best-selling classic: the seared tuna bowl, featuring perfectly pan-seared ahi tuna sliced and fanned atop brown rice and quinoa with pickled ginger, seaweed salad, sweet peas and mango, tossed with a gluten-free tamari-sesame dressing and topped with microgreens. Every single grain and ingredient appears to be chosen by the most loving and attentive hands, and no matter how dubious seaweed and mango together may sound, you’ll find yourself enchanted down to your final forkful.
Unbakery and Juicery, 634 E. 63rd St., Kansas City, Mo. unbakeryandjuicerykc.com
Evolve Paleo Chef: Orange Teriyaki Chicken Bowl
In Kansas City’s Crossroads, Evolve Paleo is one of the best spots for quick, healthy grab-and-go lunches. Chef Caleb Fetcher and Dr. Jacob Fetcher take a holistic approach to health and wellness, creating custom meal plans for their clients and running a successful meal-delivery business to complement their brick-and-mortar juicery cafes (the Fetchers have nine locations in five states). Whether you’re ordering your meals through their website or swinging by the shop to pick one up, we strongly recommend the orange teriyaki chicken bowl, super-stocked with vegetables and cauliflower rice. A guilt-free Chinese takeout alternative? Yes, please.
Locations in Lenexa and Kansas City. evolvepaleochef.com
Zoës Kitchen: Cauliflower Rice Bowl
Zoës Kitchen, a fast casual restaurant chain headquartered in Texas, pulls inspiration from the 21 disparate countries that border the Mediterranean. There’s a Country Club Plaza and an Olathe location, which means you have twice as many opportunities in the metro to score their delightful cauliflower rice bowl. The Israeli skhug, a thick and spicy sauce, is a heart-warming blend of green peppers, cilantro, lemon, extra-virgin olive oil and spices, but the house-crafted tzatziki – made with yogurt, onions, cucumbers, garlic, mint and dill – is downright addictive. This bowl is gluten-free and vegetarian if you order it without a protein, but we love ordering it with either the lamb kafta or harissa salmon.
Locations in Olathe and Kansas City. zoeskitchen.com
Ruby Jean’s Juicery: Acai Bowl
Ruby Jean died of complications from diabetes and kidney disease before she ever saw the work her grandson, Chris Goode, would do as he began a juice and health food empire in her name. Today, Ruby Jean’s Juicery has three locations: downtown Kansas City, Troost Avenue and Springfield, Missouri. (Two more stores are planned for 2018, including a Westport location.) You’ll love swinging through this joyful, colorful space – an ode to the eponymous woman who inspired the business – and you’ll love the acai bowl even more, high as it is in antioxidants, fiber and heart-healthy fats. Acai berries are pureed with strawberries, a banana, a chunk of pineapple and agave syrup until the consistency is similar to soft-serve ice cream and the color looks like it could be inspiration for a Troll doll. It’s layered in a bowl with house-made granola, sliced strawberries and bananas, blueberries, coconut shavings and a drizzle of agave. One spoonful and you’ll feel like you just treated yourself to an island vacation.
Locations in Kansas City and Springfield. rubyjeansjuicery.com
The Mixx: Tuna Niçoise Salad
Okay, so, technically, the tuna niçoise salad at the Mixx isn’t a food bowl – at least not in the traditional sense. But is it an ample mountain of delicious, fresh goodness? You bet. One of the most popular salads at this Kansas City health-food institution, the Mixx’s niçoise stays close to the classic recipe with ahi tuna (served rare with a gentle sear, of course), haricot vert, a perfectly boiled egg, roasted potatoes, plump pitted Kalamata olives and tomatoes over mixed greens and romaine, all tossed with a tarragon-shallot vinaigrette. Ever since Jo Marie Scaglia opened her first Mixx location in the Power & Light District in 2005, we’ve watched her empire grow – a testament to Kansas City’s desire for more nutritious dining options (and maybe a testament to that tarragon-shallot vinaigrette, too).
Locations in Kansas City and Overland Park. mixxingitup.com
Enjoy Pure Food + Drink: Heart-Y Veggies
Staci Cross, the owner and founder of Enjoy Pure Food + Drink in the Mission Farms Shopping Center, wanted to create a restaurant concept that could easily welcome people with all kinds of specific dietary requirements. She tapped James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Smith to direct the menu, and the result is indeed a spread that works for anyone adhering to a vegan, gluten-free or paleo diet. The Heart-Y Veggies is our top choice: With brown and black rice, red beans, sautéed spinach, eggplant, squash, mushrooms, broccoli and roasted carrots – topped with a rich sherry-date dressing – you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything.
Enjoy Pure Food + Drink, 10573 Mission Road, Leawood. enjoypurefood.com
ProteinHouse: El Jefe
ProteinHouse, in the Power & Light District, is a Las Vegas import focused on nutrient-dense meals designed to appeal to anyone from, say, a Crossfit professional to someone passingly interested in swapping a burger for a bison bowl. And speaking of bison bowls: You can just try and pry the “El Jefe” bowl from our strong, healthy hands. Ground bison plus chopped turkey burger meets broccoli, red peppers, red onions and pineapple for a bowl that is as filling as it is tasty.
ProteinHouse, 1345 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. protein-house.com
t.Loft: Spicy Chicken Bowl
Jill Minton founded t.Loft with her husband Brandon in 2013, and today, the growing company has four locations – two in Kansas City, one in Leawood and one in Lawrence. If you’re the type who can’t resist anything labeled “buffalo chicken,” boy, have we got you covered. Or, rather, t.Loft does. The spicy chicken bowl piles grilled chicken breast, diced celery, shredded carrot and sliced avocado atop a bed of quinoa – with a sprinkling of blue cheese crumbles and a drizzle of buffalo sauce to finish the dish. There’s no deep-fried element to this bowl, and you won’t miss it, either.
Locations in Kansas City, Leawood and Lawrence. tloft.net
Urban Café: Urban Bowl
In January, Justin and Rashaun Clark opened Urban Café at 41st and Troost in Kansas City, bringing a bright spot of healthy, locally sourced and organic breakfast-and-lunch options to an area without a huge selection. There’s sandwiches, wraps, a grab-and-go section, build-your-own smoothie options and – chiefly among our must-haves – a bountiful “urban bowl.” Basmati rice is layered with mixed greens, tomato, mushrooms, fragrant house-made pesto and topped with egg or, if you want to go vegan, seared tofu. Pro tip: Stop by on a weekend and enjoy being served by the most precious waitstaff of all time – the Clarks’ own kiddos.
Urban Café, 4104 Troost Ave., Kansas City, Mo. urbancafekc.com
Café Gratitude: I Am Whole
Café Gratitude has been open in the Crossroads since 2012, and remains the only location the California chain has opened outside of its home state. This all-organic menu caters to a variety of diets and palates, and all dishes have a name meant to inspire a feeling. We’re betting the “I am whole” macrobiotic bowl will inspire a bunch of feelings. Macrobiotic diets largely draw from Zen Buddhism and a principle of balance – or, in more definite terms, lots of grains and very little animal products. In Café Gratitude’s “I am whole” bowl, that means we pile on the sweet potatoes, brown rice and Japanese adzuki beans and add seaweed, kale, a spicy-sour house-made kimchi and sprouts. A zesty garlic-tahini sauce and teriyaki almonds finish off a dish that is sure to be the yin to your yang.
Café Gratitude, 333 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. cafegratitudekc.com