We spoke with Mike Louks, general manager of Crow’s Nest, to learn more about the restaurant’s history and its vegan offerings. Mike combined a degree in accounting from WMU with ground floor experience in the restaurant industry to work his way up to his current position at Crow’s Nest. From dishwasher to line cook to kitchen manager, Chef Mike used his experience in accounting to apply business concepts to the restaurant industry. According to Mike, “things just fell into place.”
While not vegan himself, Mike is receptive to customer feedback and attributes it to the growing vegan culture at the restaurant. “Food is half of what we do here,” he says. “The other half is service.” When Mike first came to work at the site, Crow’s Nest had few plant-based options. Between searching for more quality ingredients and fielding customer requests, the vegan offerings “just kind of happened.” Mike encourages customers to speak up about menu items. Let servers know when you would like to see a regular menu item altered to be vegan-friendly or when you would like to have, for example, a vegan breakfast item or other dish on the menu. Restaurants in general, he maintains, are very receptive to this kind of feedback.
At Crow’s Nest, all you need do when ordering is ask for your dish “vegan.” Mike tells us servers are well trained in all dietary needs, not just plant-based. The restaurant offers a dedicated vegan section on the menu but many regular items can be altered as well.
For appetizers, start with the Hummus, Pita, and Veggies. Note that while all breads are made in house and can be purchased downstairs at Fourth Coast Café, the pita, while vegan, is not made in house. Crow’s Nest breads that are vegan include sourdough, rye, whole wheat, sea salt focaccia, and zucchini bread.
On the vegan menu section, we tried the Banh Mi Chay, the Mast, and the Kzoo Tofu Stif-fry. The Banh Mi Chay, served on a Cuban roll, was loaded with marinated organic tofu, pickled carrot, cucumber, onion and jalapeño, cilantro, soy citrus sauce, and garlic veganaise. That veganaise, by the way, is house made and crazy delicious. Also house made is Crow’s Nest’s vegan pesto. The Kzoo Tofu Stir-fry, a sauté of organic pan-fried tofu, bell pepper, red onion, broccoli, mushroom, zucchini, garlic, tomato and spinach, seasoned and topped with hummus, is served with a side of corn tortillas.
Speaking of sides, please note that both Crow’s Nest’s regular French fries and sweet potato fries are NOT vegan. The regular fries come with animal products from the manufacturer. Sweet potato fries are cooked in the same oil as meat products. The breakfast potatoes, on the other hand, ARE vegan.
While Crow’s Nest offers a good selection of vegan items, there are also a few regular menu items that can easily be altered. Try the Breakfast Burrito, packed with bell pepper, black beans, avocado, Pico de Gallo, in a flour tortilla. Sub tofu for the eggs and order with no sausage or cheese. Or go for the Queen Anne’s Revenge, a scramble consisting of zucchini, mushroom, sun-dried tomato, red onion, garlic, and that house made vegan basil-walnut pesto. Order without the eggs and sub zucchini bread for the buttered toast.
While we thoroughly enjoyed the tasting, we aren’t alone in thinking Crow’s Nest a culinary delight. In 2010, the restaurant earned the Golden Ladle Award at the Fair Food Matters Food Fair. 2013 brought Best Breakfast in Kalamazoo along with second best in the state. Celebration Cinemas bestowed on the restaurant the Celebrated Service Award. If you have not tried this Kalamazoo gem, friends, please get yourself there.
We’d like to thank Chef Mike for taking the time to talk with us and thank Crow’s Nest for catering to the vegan community.
Crow's Nest is located at 816 S. Westnedge Avenue and is open Sunday 12am-9pm; Monday 8am-3pm; Tuesday-Thursday 8am-9pm; Friday 8am-12am; and Saturday 24 hours.
Cofounder and content creator, Tammie also maintains a personal blog at lifeloveandpixiedust.blogspot.com. Her writing has been featured in VegNews, VegFamily, WOW! Women on Writing, and various other non-veg sources. She is author of Outside the Lines: Essays on Poverty, Possibilities, and the Power of Love as well as Freeing My Inner Blonde. Professor, writer, and mother of four, she confesses she really just wants to make people smile, look at pretty things, and read until her brain explodes.