Watching Kathy Hale move around her Can I Have a Bite retail storefront and commercial kitchen, you might think she was performing on stage. With the grace of the dancer she used to be, she twirls around to grab a spoon for the soup, and then easily bends over to check the sweet potatoes roasting in the oven.
Hale named her 8-month-old grab-and-go clean-eating spot in the Waldo neighborhood after something her daughter Casey used to say. Casey would follow her around the kitchen, repeating the words like a mantra, running them together: canihaveabite? So that's exactly how Hale spells it.
Finding the store is a bit tricky. It’s located in a strip center between 75th and 85th Street, and you’ll need to maneuver yourself off Wornall and into a parking spot. Once you're there, though, you can’t miss the eye-popping lime green trim and orange lettering on her front window. It is as bright and colorful as Hale herself.
Even though she's changed careers several times, Hale’s first love has always been clean eating, which to her means healthy, organic food. She first started cooking to feed her three kids on a single mother’s income. She became a vegetarian not by choice, but necessity: vegetables and beans were much cheaper than meat.
“I knew I had to keep my kids interested in eating vegetables, and I didn’t want them to miss the meat, so I started reading cookbooks like 'The Vegetarian Epicure,' by Anna Thomas, which had wonderful recipes for all kinds of vegetables, and that is really how I learned to cook,” she says.
As a dancer, Hale was into health and fitness, which is how cookbooks like “Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit,” by famed 1970s nutritionist Adelle Davis, first came into her world.
Always ahead of the curve, Hale owned the Daily Bread, a vegetarian restaurant in 1991 in Kansas City. It jumped around to several different locations, and eventually closed in 1996.
But it was her most recent career as a Pilates instructor that brought Hale back into the world of food. Wanting to up their fitness level, she offered to cook for her Pilates clients the type of food that she was eating at home.
“I initially thought if they could just taste some of my dishes, it would inspire them to start buying organic and cooking at home,” says Hale.
“I did such a good job that my clients started sharing my meals with their friends, and that’s when they told me they just wanted me to just start cooking for them,” says Hale. “I became their fitness instructor and personal chef, all rolled into one.”
Walk into Can I Have a Bite and you'll be greeted by Hale, who is happy to walk you through the ever-changing, but always organic, dishes that she has ready-made for customers to take home and enjoy.
On the white board that serves as her menu, you may notice she has marked what items are vegan, vegetarian, paleo and real. What is real food? Simply, dishes with no dietary restrictions, made with organic and sustainable ingredients. This is how Hale says she likes to eat at home.
The menu then breaks down into about nine entrées, each $7.99, and four soups ($4.99 - $15.99). Both options are frozen and can go straight from freezer to oven or stovetop with no thaw time. Hale also offers four salads ($6.99) and four sides ($5.99), both refrigerated and ready to eat.
“Chicken Enchiladas (real), Veggie Mac n’ Cheese (vegan) and Caribbean Chicken and Vegetables (Paleo) are the most popular entrees,” says Hale.
Soups like Ginger Carrot (vegan) and Lemon Lentil (vegan) sound delicious and filling, and Hale says she simply cannot keep her Thai Slaw Salad (Paleo) in stock. No matter how much she makes, it always sells out.
Her side items right now are various types of vegan hummus. Photos of her Kale Walnut Hummus went viral the second she posted them to her social media channels.
“I love using kale, not because it is trendy, but because it really holds up in salads and gives great color to my sides,” says Hale.
Hale has been collaborating with many coffee shops in the area, but she is very excited to currently be working with Gathering Grounds Coffeehouse on 10th Street in downtown KC, where she plans to start selling her Paleo and Vegan Lunch Pails. Each pail will come with one entrée and two sides, for $11.99 and $9.99.
“It is a way to get my good clean food into the hands of the downtown lunch crowd,” says Hale.
CanIHaveABite food can be ordered online from her website and picked up at her store. Hale also recommends just stopping by her store if you have any questions or special dietary needs. She knows her food and what goes in it, and would love to answer any questions you may have.
“I want people to eat,” says Hale, smiling, “and to stop counting calories, and start eating real food.”
Canihaveabite 8011 B Wornall, Kansas City, Missouri. 816.304.0057, www.canihaveabiteinc.com.