a delightful lunch stop
I wasn't born a road warrior, but I recently realized that my life is headed that direction: my husband just bought a 1970 slide-in camper for his almost-classic Ford F150. The camper needs some improvements before I'll call it my vacation home. In the meantime, I've been acclimating to the asphalt-loving lifestyle, which kicked off with our recent trip from Nashville to Santa Fe, NM.
We drove the westward leg in one go, stopping regularly to walk our dog and stretch, and completed the route (almost exclusively on I-40) within one day. I had brought a hefty supply of cold salads, PB&J, and favorite snacks from Trader Joe's, so we didn't face the challenge of trying to find vegan food at truck stops along the way. After spending a fantastic week in Santa Fe (more to come on that topic), it was time to pack up the car for our return leg, which took us north through Colorado before heading east on I-70.
Our decision to take a less-direct route was rewarded: the Colorado countryside and rolling green fields of Kansas were worth the extra hours on the road. And then, my thoughtful husband suggested a stop in Columbia, Missouri, which he thought was the kind of town that might have a vegetarian restaurant. A quick look at this resource confirmed his suspicion, and we pulled off the Interstate in search of Main Squeeze Natural Foods Café.
Main Squeeze was perfect: the vibe was warm and fun, the decor was funky and creative, and the menu offered a variety of yummy-sounding sandwiches, salads, and wraps, in addition to fresh juices, smoothies, and baked goods. The staff were friendly and helpful, and all of the customers seemed peaceful and content, enjoying their healthful lunches while chatting or reading.
I ordered the Tempeh Ruby sandwich, which would be my first Reuben-style meal ever, vegetarian or otherwise. It was totally delightful, with mildly spiced soft tempeh, crisp and tangy sauerkraut, and sweet, creamy dressing. The soft, savory rye bread from Uprise Bakery completed the combination (or should I say, made it complete). The freshness of all of the ingredients was palpable, and the flavors were perfectly balanced. I wanted to order another Ruby to take home, but knew that a second helping couldn't provide the same satisfaction. So I simply savored the moment, pausing to enjoy my perfect company and the wonderful handmade goodness that we were served.
Charles had the Sunshine Burger, a vegan patty topped with fresh tomato, lettuce, and Russian dressing and served on a wheat bun. I could tell by how few words we exchanged how much he enjoyed it. We each had a cup of (vegan) creamy soup with local greens, smooth and satisfying. We agreed that the meal was the perfect respite from our long car trip, and returned to the counter to further reward ourselves with dessert. About half of the desserts were vegan, and they ran the gamut from full-on-sugary cupcakes to heartier bar cookies and muffins. I opted for the latter, choosing a chocolate coconut bar. It was tasty, but I could tell that Charles would've preferred something of the sweeter variety. I'll have to let him choose, next time!
I loved our visit to Main Squeeze, an establishment that seems to address all facets of being a responsible restaurant. In addition to using organic produce almost exclusively, and local produce when available, they offer filtered water, avoiding the packaging and inhospitable expense of bottled water. The restaurant's waste is minimized by composting, recycling, and use of earth-friendly to-go packaging. They also support the community by participating in fundraising events and providing space for local artists to sell their work. According to their website, the mission of Main Squeeze is to be a sustainable business, basing their decisions on this question: "Is this the very best that we can do for the health of our planet, our employees, our customers, our community?"
Clearly, Main Squeeze made a happy customer out of me, and I highly recommend that you check it out, whether you're a local or a cross-country traveller.
Main Squeeze Natural Foods Café
28 S. 9th Street
Columbia, MO 65201