A vegetarian butcher shop may sound like an oxymoron, but not to local mushroom farmer Bryan Alley. Instead of meat cuts, Alley plans to give mushrooms center stage with his shop Mushroom Culture, which he plans to open early next year.
“It looks just like a butcher shop but instead of going up to the case and seeing steaks, it’ll be the most attractive clusters of mushrooms we have that day,” says Alley.
When Grand River Mushrooms, a farm in North KC, went out of business during Covid, Alley saw the opportunity to become a mushroom farmer himself and has spent the last four years growing and sourcing them to local restaurants. With his new shop, Alley now wants to educate the rest of KC about all things fungi.
The mushrooms will be provided by Alley’s network of local foragers and growers, which means they’ll also be organic. Alley says he wants to give mushrooms “a new representation” and encourage people to explore all the different types of mushrooms out there, especially those who claim to not like them.
“A lot of the mushrooms that we work with don’t even taste like mushrooms. They taste like meat,” Alley says.
Mushroom Culture will offer lesser-known varieties of mushrooms like pink oysters which only have a shelf life of two days (but their pork-like taste makes their flavor incomparable). The shop will act as a deli, offering grab-and-go eats along with a small menu for customers who want to sit down and enjoy a meal. Everything will be made from scratch.
“Whatever is leftover in the case that night, the next day we’ll make it into a pasta sauce or a stir fry,” Alley says.
The mushroom grower is particularly excited to showcase his lions mane patties which are stored frozen and cooked to order. They can be used as a substitute for a multitude of foods, but Alley recommends using them in eggplant parmesan or frying them like chicken tenders.
Mushroom Culture’s location has yet to be announced keep updated by following the future shop’s Instagram, @kcmushroomculture. In the meantime, Alley has been doing pop-ups with local businesses like High Hopes Ice Cream and serving deep fried lion’s mane “chicken” and waffles topped with ice cream.
“That’s what we’re trying to do, is make mushrooms a mainstream part of our culture,” says Alley.
Eventually, Alley hopes to facilitate cooking and foraging classes through his shop.