Step Aside Big Mac, Vegetarian Gets the Drive-Thru Treatment

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Fast food joints have a place in our culinary history, if we like it or not. Some would say it started as far back as 1921 when White Castle opened its doors in Wichita, Kansas. Others say McDonalds, the Mac Daddy of fast food, was the originator in 1948.

Whatever its true origins, perception and quality of cheap burgers, fries and shakes delivered through a convenient window, have declined. The crusade against GMO foods and low quality ingredients is being fought alongside the growth of the vegetarian, whole foods evolution.

Too much sugar. Not enough quality meat. Too many calories. Too many underpaid employees.

McDonalds has felt the greasy weight of these complaints, closing 350 of their struggling restaurants in mostly the United States, Japan and China this year.

The call to make healthy eating more normative is one many of us can stand behind, but sometimes it’s only feasible in concept. 

Whether its good or bad, the system in which many Americans eats is based on convenience, late hours and low costs. If families, especially low to middle income ones, are going to be convinced to make the switch to vegetarian or partially vegetarian diets, they have to have an option comparable in price and ease.

In comes a slowly, quietly growing idea of making vegetarian food as easy as pulling up to Burger King’s drive through window late at night. Outside Arizona, vegetarian fast food is gearing up to be supersized.

On June 13, 2013, Earth Burger became the first all vegetarian fast food restaurant in San Antonio, Texas, complete with a drive-thru. Their menu is strikingly comparable to the namesakes we know so well. They offer meatless burgers, ranging from $5.25 for a single patty to $7.25 for a double, tofu “fish” sandwiches, hot dogs, salads and fries. They even offer kids meals for $5. 

Customers are eating it up, enjoying the reasonable prices, convenience, taste and the fact that all ingredients are GMO free and as locally sourced as possible.

While California has a few veggie fast foods joints already, a new one, with a well-established name in health food, is on the horizon.

Amy’s Kitchen is mostly seen in freezers at Whole Foods down to Walmart with their organic, healthy and prepared frozen foods. Their newest venture, Amy’s Drive-Thru, will continue on the idea that vegetarian meals can be accessible to all and retain their quality.

The restaurant will open in July in Rohnert Park, California and will offer burgers, fries, shakes, pizza, chili and macaroni and cheese that are all vegetarian, with 95 percent of its ingredients being organic. Everything will be GMO free and as locally sourced as possible. The pricing they are shooting for is competitive, with meatless burgers costing as low as $2.99 and burritos at $4.69.

Could restaurants like this change the way we eat? Is it really possible to offer health food that is equal parts tasty and nourishing? Can it really be this cost effective?

In a recent “Vegetarianism in America” study by the Vegetarian Times, they found that 7.3 million people in America follow a vegetarian diet. Seems like a pretty solid demographic to make one of these meat free burger joints successful.

With national chains like Taco Bell and Pizza Hut announcing they will remove all artificial ingredients from their products, it is clear a shift in food, fast food in particular, is taking place. Perhaps, if more of these healthy alternatives pop up, transitioning to healthier eating habits will be far less daunting.  

Question is, when is Tucson going to get one?

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