If A.G. Sulzberger wanted a vegetarian option, he could have just asked for one. And no, it's not just because his dad is the powerful publisher of The New York Times--anyone could take this option. Sulzberger, who last year was moved from The Times' Metro desk to its Kansas City bureau, wrote an article in Wednesday's paper made, "Meatless in the Midwest: A Tale of Survival," that suggested he was on the verge of starving in his new home. "After the first three dinners in my new hometown, where I moved from New York to cover the Midwest for this newspaper, even this veteran vegetarian was flagging," he wrote.
And where did he go? Well, where pretty much all out-of-towners go first when they're in Kansas City: The Golden Ox steakhouse, Arthur Bryant's barbecue, and Stroud's fried chicken. As those descriptors suggest, they are not known for their vegetarian menus. "If his co-workers knew he was a vegetarian and took him there or suggested places like those, then they're putting one over on him," Bill Teel, owner of The Golden Ox, told The Atlantic Wire.
"We're a steakhouse," Teel told The Atlantic Wire. "We shouldn't have to apologize for, you know, serving steaks." Arthur Bryant's Gary Beribiglia said simply, "The story should have been where you can get vegetarian food, not where you can't." (No one from Stroud's returned our calls before we published.)
We may never know exactly what was said when Sulzberger asked about the elusive vegetarian option on these meat palaces' menus -- Sulzberger declined our request to comment for this story -- but we do know what he ended up ordering:
So, yes, I’ve “eaten” at some of these famous restaurants. There was the meal at the Golden Ox steakhouse (baked potato), Stroud’s fried chicken (rolls) and Arthur Bryant’s barbecue, where, searching for vegetarian options on the menu, skipping over the lard-bathed French fries, pausing to consider the coleslaw, I ordered the safest option (a mug of Budweiser).
In the circumstances, Teel thinks Sulzberger chose wisely at his restaurant. "We serve as large a baked potato as anyone serves in Kansas City," Teel said, noting that of the many toppings available bacon bits are not mandatory. "It's a good half-pound baked potato." Could you have a vegetarian meal at his steakhouse? "I would start with a garden salad. Then have a baked potato, a side of asparagus and, for dessert, creme brulee," Teel said. And it all sounds nice enough. "We routinely get vegetarians at the restaurant. Had he said something we could have made a nice spread for him."
Sulzberger's visit to his restaurant was evidently uneventful, since we had to inform Teel that "A.G. Sulzberger" is a man, not a woman. This elicited a hearty chuckle from Teel. "Oh! He's a guy? It's even worse if he's a guy!" he said, demonstrating the palpable Midwestern zeal for meat and "superlative decency" that Sulzberger writes about.