Fast, wholesome, organic food is a hot commodity these days. Just drive by a Chipotle during a weekday lunch hour and the line of hungry office workers snaking out the door is proof that people are starting to want more out of fast food.
The owner of a local chain of custard shops has certainly taken note of this, to the benefit of the greater Kansas City area. Sheridan's Frozen Custard has been a favorite summertime staple for date night and family outings for many years in KC because of its fresh ingredients and friendly service. Now its owner, Jim Sheridan, has set out to prove that organic and local can pair well with the traditional fast food model in his new concept restaurant, Unforked
. So far, judging by the consistently long lines, it's working.
Unforked is all about one thing: knowing and working closely with the local farmers that supply its food. As Sheridan told the Kansas City Star
, "We take total responsibility for the food we serve. That means we can tell you where our food comes from. We know the farmers who produce it for us. I think there is a serious need for good food that comes from high-quality ingredients." Unforked's Web site proclaims, "We promise to buy clean, local, seasonal ingredients first; if not local, then family-farmed organic; if not organic, then fair trade; if not fair trade, then the most unique highest quality possible. We take responsibility for the food we serve while giving customers the flavors they crave."
And those high-quality ingredients make a difference. Since it opened June 9, I've visited for lunch twice (Unforked also serves breakfast). The food is flat-out delicious — incredibly fresh without tasting too "grass and twig-like." The lunch/dinner menu is mostly tacos, quesadillas, burgers and salads. Of particular note is the Barking Pig taco, shredded pork in a bacon glaze with scallions and queso fresco, which is melt-in-your-mouth amazing (strictly vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options are available, too). The restaurant also serves a line of "acqua frescas," one being an authentically vintage-tasting lavender lemonade. Prices are very affordable, comparable to (if not cheaper than) Chipotle or even McDonald's.
Sheridan even went so far in his desire to "think local" as to hire an area architecture firm to design the building and a local graphic design shop to provide the logo and branding. The restaurant building itself is a beautiful blend of industrial chic with a nod to mid-century modern. It includes outdoor seating and fireplaces and uses recycled materials like reclaimed wood for the outdoor cladding, recycled glass bottles in the concrete floors, and bamboo tables.
Unforked is a very welcome alternative to usual drive-through fare from other fast food providers. I hope to see these spread throughout the area and the Midwest. Once people get a taste of what truly organic, local and fresh can be, they'll never darken the door of a McDonald's again.
Photo: Shawna Hampton