Café Gratitude: Healthy Vegetarian Dining in the Crossroads

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I have adhered to an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet since 1989, so dining at a totally vegetarian restaurant isn’t just a treat, it can be overwhelming. I can order ANYTHING off the menu? I remember that! Oh no, decision paralysis! Fortunately, Café Gratitude has a large menu of vegetarian options and a friendly staff. It’s no wonder that they are one of Kansas City’s favorite vegetarian restaurants.

For over a decade, Café Gratitude has occupied the space that was formerly the original location of Lulu’s Noodles (which is now located elsewhere on the block. Café Gratitude is part of a small national chain of organic, sustainable, plant-based restaurants. This Kansas City location was opened by Michael George in 2012. The restaurant is powered by solar panels and much of the furniture is made of recycled materials.

After you seated, the hostess or server will sometimes give your table a prompt to talk about. My impression is that this prompt changes daily. It’s not consistent, which is fine with me because I tend to find performative things by restaurant staff to be a bit cringe (one reason why I refuse to step foot in a Cold Stone Creamery). But this goes with the concept of Café Gratitude and it’s low key, so I was game to pursue a small discussion on the prompt during my recent lunch here.

I love the food here. They offer classic vegetarian dishes, kicked up a notch for restaurant diners. The flavors, formats and presentation are an example of what could have popularized vegetarian dining over the decades, beyond veggie burgers. Restaurants could be doing some fun, innovative takes on plant-based dishes, in the style of restaurants like Café Gratitude.

On a recent trip here with my mother, we split the Garlic Roasted Potatoes. I am a bit of an odd vegetarian and perhaps outlier American in that I don’t like French fries. I like baked potatoes, but really prefer when they are loaded up with flavor that doesn’t add many calories. At home, I like to add salsa (Herdez Guacamole Salsa) to my baked potatoes. I love these potatoes as they are roasted and drizzled with a sauce, in this case, a cashew “cheese” drizzle. Mom is a lifelong baked potato fan. I’ve written about how she, who is an octogenarian and lifelong vegetarian, comes from the era of “Meat and Potatoes vegetarianism.”

I Am Grounded (Garlic Roasted Potatoes)
Garlic roasted potatoes topped with cashew nacho cheese and green onions.

On the same visit, I tried the Mushroom Tacos. Those of us who live in the Kansas City metro area are a bit spoiled when it comes to taco options. There are plenty of vegetarian restaurant tacos out there, but they usually are some variation on whole beans or refried beans. Which is OK, but give us something different. These Mushroom Tacos were awesome. The right mix of wrapping shell, protein, fresh greens and sauce.

I Am Flourishing (Mushroom Tacos)

My mother had the Italian polenta and squash noodles, which she really enjoyed.

I Am Warm Hearted (Italian Polenta & Squash Noodles)

On a more recent trip, a friend and I both tried the Community Bowl. I really liked this. Always on the look out for a simple rice and beans combination with some twists. It’s also filling enough that I don’t crave a tortilla to go with it.

I Am Grateful (Community Bowl)
Fresh kale, brown rice, seasoned black beans, garlic-tahini sauce, farm fresh sprouts.

If you are looking for other vegetarian restaurants or places that have lots of veg options on the menu, please check out my comprehensive guide.

333 Southwest Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64108

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