When he lived in Oregon, Wes Shirley ate rice and bean bowls all the time. But when he moved to Iowa two years ago, he couldn’t find many places to get his favorite dish.

“I love rice and beans. I grew up in New Mexico where the pinto bean is king,” he said. “And in Oregon, I would go to places that served rice and bean bowls. I missed them.”

So while teaching sociology at local colleges, he contemplated opening a food truck. When his friend, Kelli Evans, owner of the Grateful Crepe, suggested he apply for an open spot at NewBo City Market. He decided the time was right to jump into the food world. His eatery, The Full Bowl, opened in March, serving up variations of rice and bean bowls from global culinary traditions.

“I watched friends open places, and it inspired me that this was something I could do,” he said.

There are few local restaurants that serve only vegetarian food, so he wanted to add another option to the mix.

“I wasn’t finding the food I really like to eat here in Iowa,” he said.

He said he has enjoyed the challenge of translating the recipes he makes at home into restaurant fare.

“I love the creative process of how to get from point A to point B,” he said “Writing recipes is a creative process. It’s one thing to make two dishes at home, but how do you scale that up?”

His menu is small, just a few side dishes and three rice and bean bowls, one of which will rotate regularly. His No Coast Bowl features black beans over brown rice with lemon garlic sauce, salsa, green onion, red cabbage, cilantro and cheddar cheese or avocado. The chana masala bowl features chickpeas cooked in a spiced tomato sauce, served over brown basmati rice, topped with cilantro and chutney. The two bowls are gluten free, soy free and vegetarian. Everything on the menu is vegan or can be made vegan.

Shirley said the simplicity of the menu is partly because of the space constraints of his NewBo booth, which doesn’t have a grill, and partly because of his overarching philosophy.

“I’ve always been a minimalist to some degree. The simpler things are, the more I enjoy them, the more I can get out of it,” he said.

That said, he likes the amount of variations that just two simple ingredients, rice and beans, can produce. The Full Bowl’s tag line is “Exploring the world, through rice and beans.”

“The philosophy was, almost every cuisine in the world has a rice and bean bowl,” he said. “You can explore lots of flavors, lots of cultures and lots of textures.”


WHERE: NewBo City Market, 1100 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
DETAILS: (319) 573-0776, thefullbowl.com