Food Critics: The Best 'Healthy' Dishes In Kansas City

Jun 14, 2017

Beets with grapefruit glaze.
Credit Stacy Spensley / Flickr -- CC

Once, our idea of healthy eating revolved around the salad bowl.

But we’ve discovered that some salads can be deceptively unhealthy … and that there are other satisfying options on local menus.

On Friday’s Central Standard, KCUR's Food Critics explored what “healthy eating” really means.

“I believe there are so many personal definitions of what ‘healthy’ is,” Lisa Murphy told host Gina Kaufmann. “Every individual has to make their own choice and have their own personal philosophy.”

Murphy, along with Jenny Vergara, searched out the best — and tastiest — “healthy-ish” dishes in Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Jenny Vergara, Feast Magazine:

  • Howard’s Grocery Café & Catering — veggie burger. This might be one of the most well-conceived burgers in town. It's made with a mixture of French green lentils, red beans, rehydrated porcini, brown rice, quinoa, carrots, garlic, nutritional yeast and vegan Worcestershire sauce. It is hard to make a great veggie burger: one that is flavorful, eats like a burger (and not a bean burrito) and will caramelize and hold together well.
  • Blended burgers at Stock Hill, Bluestem, Hank Charcuterie, Happy Gillis and Julep. The chefs at these restaurants are participating in the 2017 James Beard Foundation Blended Burger Project. Until the end of July, they will make a burger that is at least 25% cultivated mushrooms for a healthier burger. Vote for your favorite online, and the top five winners in the country will prepare their burger at the James Beard House in NYC.
  • Enjoy Pure Food & Drink — Gobble It Up sandwich. Features turkey, cheddar, coconut bacon. Chef Michael Smith had a culinary hand in creating the menu.
  • Enjoy Pure Food & Drink — Take on the World bowl. With quinoa, avocado, kale, broccoli, shredded beets, a crave-able ginger-miso dressing and more.
  • The Homesteader — scallion fries. Green onions are lightly dusted with flour, flash-fried and served like French fries with a spicy Sriracha mayo for dipping.
  • The Homesteader — vegetable galette. A rustic veggie pie filled with whatever the farmer brings.
  • Krokstrom Klubb — lavender beet salad. Lavender goat cheese, roasted ruby and golden beets, orange dressing.
  • Krokstrom Klubb — creamy carrot salad. Ribbons of carrots with horseradish cream, Aquavit-soaked golden raisins and pickled onions.
  • Krokstrom Klubb — figgy green bean salad. Toasted walnuts, blue cheese, fig dressing.
  • Ignite Wood Fire Grill — rotisserie chicken. Get the half chicken or the Eskie salad, which features the rotisserie chicken. There's a nice selection of side dishes like Mexican street corn, heirloom carrots and more.
  • Unforked — veggie quesadillas. Made with a griddled crispy flour tortilla and filled with blistered onions and poblanos, queso fresco, avocado and tomato pico. Order a margarita or glass of wine to keep the scales in balance.

Lisa Murphy, mindfulness expert and blogger:

  • The Mixx. You can design your own salad, sandwich (gluten-free bread available), plate (protein + two sides) or quinoa bowl. There are plenty of healthy ingredients from which to choose.
  • Howard’s Café — veggie burger.
  • Howard’s Café — green salad. Served as an entrée or side. Mixed greens, seasonal vegetables, queso fresco and a farm egg.
  • Bob Wasabi Kitchen — sushi. The quality of their seafood is amazing.
  • Westside Local — seasonal quinoa entrée. It’s delicious; quinoa is tossed with seasonal veggies and can be topped with grilled salmon or chicken.
  • Westside Local — kale salad. Cruciferous heaven: kale and shredded Brussels sprouts with a maple tahini dressing.
  • Blue Bird Bistro — tofu scramble.
  • Blue Bird Bistro — veggie bowl.
  • FuD — jackfruit BBQ sandwich. FuD is a completely plant-based restaurant.
  • FuD — kale tacos.
  • FuD — rainbow taco wrap. A large collard green that’s wrapped around a vegan pate, cashew cheddar cheese, pico, peppers, vegan sour cream and more.
  • Café Gratitude — I Am Terrific. This is a pad Thai with kelp noodles, an almond sauce and carrots, kale, cucumber, fresh herbs and sunflower sprouts. This is another plant-based restaurant with a complete menu of cold-pressed juices, smoothies, sandwiches and entrees.
  • Taqueria Mexico — ceviche. Fresh and delicious. It comes as an a la carte tostada or as an entrée. Both are topped with fresh slices of avocado.
  • Extra Virgin — cucumber peanut salad. One of the lightest, freshest dishes in town. Perfect with a glass of rosé.
  • The City Market Coffeehouse — vegan breakfast burrito. It’s the best in town. Also offers some healthy grab-and-go options, including fresh-pressed organic fruit and vegetable juices.
  • Urban Café — chickpea tacos (vegan). Ground-up chickpeas in lettuce wraps with a fresh tomato salsa.
  • Unbakery & Juicery—  kale Caesar salad. Mix of kale and romaine, with goji berries instead of croutons.

Listener recommendations:

  • Blue Koi — tofu with black bean sauce. It’s the best tofu I’ve ever had.
  • Peaceful Pig Vegan BBQ food cart — pulled pork sandwich. Made with jackfruit. It was really good; it felt like a pork sandwich.
  • Unbakery & Juicery — poke bowl. It's fantastic, especially with seared tuna and Asian dressing.
  • Café Gratitude — I Am Sensational. A nostalgic take on alfredo. The sauce is made from Brazil nut parmesan. With spaghetti squash and mushrooms.
  • Can I Have A Bite
  • Green Room — veggie burger. My favorite in town. Great texture, topped with goat cheese and served on a fantastic bun.
  • Eden Alley. Everything is so fresh and high-quality. Last time I was there, I had an amazing quiche with an incredible side salad, but it really doesn't matter what you order. It is all sumptuous.

Jen Chen is associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to her at jen@kcur.org.