OKC Local: The Loaded Bowl

In February of 2016, I finally committed to a completely plant-based diet and lifestyle. I have been gluten-free since I was six (before it was cool) due to an array of food intolerances, and had then contemplated a vegan diet for nearly two years. I didn’t feel as if I could fully make the switch for a few different reasons, the most important being a daunting, general lack of accessible plant-based foods, restaurants, and businesses.  

On a Saturday in April, a few friends and I went to Open Streets OKC and, in a whirlwind of divine intervention, I found The Loaded Bowl Truck. The Loaded Bowl had a completely vegan menu, with a plethora of options ranging from cashew macaroni and cheese to delicious, hearty lasagna and sandwiches. At first, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me - it had to be too good to be true - but they weren’t, and it wasn’t. I gave it a try, fell in love right then and there, and from that moment forward I followed them as their business grew. In December, they opened their full-service restaurant in the Farmer’s Market District of Oklahoma City and nearly quadrupled the original menu available on the truck.

I have consistently dined at The Loaded Bowl restaurant since the day it opened, and recently I had the pleasure of speaking to the owners, Jon and Tevin Grupe, to dive a little bit deeper into their #foodtruckallgrownup.

1. What was your inspiration in creating the Loaded Bowl?

T: The Loaded Bowl was born out of our shared desire for OKC to have access to affordable vegan food. Jon had a lot of experience in food service and I had a background in non-profit coordinating. Between us, we felt like we had the knowledge and the resources to develop something unique to the area. We wanted to create a place where people like us could eat, but also a place that helped introduce new people to vegan eats.

J: I found an old box truck online and we spent about a year building it out and turning it into a kitchen with the help of friends. We officially started serving in 2013 and opened with a wonderful response from everyone.

2. How long have you been plant-based and why did you choose this lifestyle?

T: I first went vegan in 2008 as an ethical choice. The more I learned about the meat and dairy industries, I knew living a vegan lifestyle was the best way for me to impact the world around me. I would definitely encourage anyone who feels curious about veganism to do some research. Whatever you're passionate about, you'll find something about the vegan lifestyle that speaks to you - whether it's world hunger, conservation, clean water, animal welfare, economical stability, personal health, etc. It's all a part of it!

J: I was turned on to a plant based diet through friends. I made the change mostly for my health, but when I researched more, the list of reasons to stay vegan just kept growing.  I realized it was the single most effective way to reduce my carbon footprint.

3. You talked about OKC vegans requesting raw vegan cuisine, but you’ve decided to stick to comfort food - can you elaborate on your decision?

T: Our goal has always been to make a plant based diet more accessible, affordable, and appealing to everyone. If you've grown up eating a standard American diet, a fancy raw dish is not what's going to turn you on to a plant based diet. When it comes to food - most people want comfort, they want familiarity. We've never wanted to be preachy about going vegan, but we hope that our food can speak for itself and open minds to new things.

J: I'm tinkering around with a few ideas for a raw dish that could appeal to the average omnivore.  Once we iron something out, you'll see it on the menu.

4. What are your goals and future plans for the Loaded Bowl?

J: We've been toying around with some other concepts, but nothing worth mentioning quite yet. For now we're really excited about what's in store for us and the rest of the Farmer's Market District here in OKC.

T: I'd like to see us branch out more into prepared foods and maybe see some Loaded Bowl products in grocery stores. I definitely hope to see our cashew cheese sauce in more stores!

5. Any fun facts about you and Jon, the Loaded Bowl, your food, or something unique you haven't shared?

J: I'm really into electronics and robotics.  I would love to make an automated vegan pizza stand one day... one day.

T: I haven't had much of a chance to talk about it because I haven't had time to commit yet, but now that we're in a permanent location and involved with The Farmer's Market District, I'm really excited about future opportunities for community improvement projects that The Loaded Bowl can get involved with. I hope our restaurant can become a hub of progressive change for our city.

 

The restaurant’s ambition and health-conscious menu is only part of their brand, they also give back locally, nationally, and globally.  For example, during the first week of February, $2 from every cashew cheese purchase went towards the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  In January, 10% of each purchase of in-house cookies went towards local schools, and in February towards The Bella Foundation, a non-profit created to assist low-income, elderly, or terminally-ill pet-owners with veterinary costs when not affordable.  Additionally, each bottle of GIVN Water sold provides one day of clean water for a person in need.

Whether you’re an omnivore, vegetarian, or a raw vegan, their in-store menu provides “Conscious Comfort Food” ranging from burgers to salads to BBQ macaroni and cheese that everyone can enjoy.

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