Vegan Options in the Quad Cities

Crust Pizza in Bettendorf, IowaThe Quad Cities straddle Iowa and Illinois and include Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa.  On the Illinois side there’s Rock Island, Moline, and East Moline.  (What’s that?  There are actually five cities that make up the Quad Cities?  Well, yes.  But let’s move on.)  David and I have family in the Quad Cities, and so we find ourselves there with some regularity.  Whenever we go, we have a few restaurants that we like to hit.  None of these restaurants are vegetarian or vegan; however, they do make some delicious plant-based food.

Crust in Bettendorf, Iowa:

Crust in Bettendorf, IowaOn Vegan Pizza Day this year, I wrote about my favorite pizzas from the last year, and Crust in Bettendorf, Iowa was on the list.  The flour for their pizza is imported from Italy along with the tomatoes for the sauce, and the pizzas are cooked for 90 seconds in a stone oven.  The thin pizza with pillowy edges comes out crisp with fire-licked edges.  The smokiness sears the crust, making for a truly delicious pizza.  It’s a real Naples-style pizza that takes me back to our honeymoon in Italy.

Olive appetizer at Crust in BettendorfIt would be more convenient if Crust listed out their vegetable topping options on their menu.  However, a quick look through their pizzas and appetizers reveals the possibilities.  I know a cheeseless pizza is an option at any pizza joint, but the toppings at Crust take them to the next level.  With options like wild mushrooms, pine nuts, kalamata olives, asparagus, fresh basil, garlic, and potato, this isn’t your typical Friday night pitcher of beer-variety pizza.  (Although, they do have a lengthy beer list.)

Raspberry Sorbet at Crust in BettendorfTo round out the meal, they have an oven roasted olive appetizer that’s a delightful start.  The dessert options rotate but are occasionally vegan, like this raspberry sorbet.  It was topped with basil and a balsamic reduction for a savory/sweet contrast that was a refreshing finish to the meal.

Exotic Thai in Davenport, Iowa:

Exotic Thai in Davenport, IowaAnother favorite choice in the Quad Cities is Exotic Thai in Davenport.  (They also have a location in Moline and a sister restaurant called LemonGrass in Moline.)  The lengthy menu has asterisks next to the items that can be made vegetarian.  From there, you’ll need to ask if it can be made vegan.  Requests of no fish sauce, no oyster sauce, and no egg are no problem.  In addition to the option of adding tofu to any dish, they also have veggie chicken, which is toothsome and juicy.  Many times when I’ve ordered it, the server has told me that it’s their favorite “protein” option as well, regardless of if or if not the server is vegetarian.

Spicy Basil Noodles at Exotic ThaiMy favorite menu item (shown above) is the Spicy Basil Noodles made with stir-fried flat rice noodles, bell pepper, chilies, and onion with fresh basil leaves.  It typically comes with egg as well, and so I ask them to omit it.  I order it with the veggie chicken.

David’s favorite item on the menu is the Tropical Curry made with carrots, tomatoes, mango, pineapple, and basil in a coconut milk sauce with tofu.   The Shiitake Asparagus, Drunken Noodles, and Pad Thai are also quite good (while again being sure to ask that they be made without animal products).

Exotic Thai hot pepper saucesBut perhaps the best part of the Exotic Thai experience is the hot sauce tray brought to the table upon request.  The hot sauces are made in house, and the slices of crisp jalapeño peppers are especially good.  Soaking in a bath of vinegar, they maintain all of their crunch, as they haven’t been cooked and didn’t come out of a jar.  The last time I was there, the server told me she’d just made the hot sauces that day.

Olive Tree Café in Bettendorf, Iowa:

Olive Tree CafeFinally, for a quick and casual order-at-the counter option, Olive Tree Café in Bettendorf has lots of options for vegans.  (They share the same parking lot as the aforementioned Crust.)  Some of the menu options require a simple request of no cheese, tzatziki, or aioli.  If in doubt, the staff has been more than happy in the past to confirm with the kitchen which items don’t include animal products.

Olive tree salad and hummusHere we have the Marrakesh Salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, roasted peppers, onions, cilantro, and a very mild hummus.

Olive Tree Flatbread PizzaThis is the Grilled Veggie Flatbread pizza with mushrooms, tomatoes, red onions, and olives ordered without cheese.

Olive Tree Falafel PlateThis is one of their Pick Three options with falafel, smoky baba ganoush, and stuffed grape leaves.

Other options:

If you need to pick up provisions for the road, there is a natural food store in Davenport called Greatest Grains.  Their produce doesn’t always look the freshest, but they have a large variety of packaged food & specialty items.  For something of the quick casual variety, there is also a location of the chain Noodles & Company in Davenport.  (Update:  Mantra Indian Restaurant & Cuisine in Davenport also offers lots of vegan options.  You can read my full review of Mantra here.)


  1. says

    It’s great you managed to find so many vegan options in the Quad Cities! I wouldn’t have expected there to be so many! Did you go in to restaurants that you thought might have options and ask for tweaks, or did you see beforehand on their online menus they could do vegan food?

    • says

      Yes, I’m really impressed with the deliciousness available in the Davenport-area! I found out about the restaurants a few different ways.

      I heard that the brick oven pizza place was opening, and since I love brick oven pizza I sent them an email about the ingredients in their crust, sauce, and whether the cooked vegetables on their pizzas were cooked in oil or butter.

      The Thai place is a favorite amongst many people we know in the area, and when I saw that they highlight the vegetarian items on the menu, I figured they wouldn’t have a problem accommodating vegans as well. I just asked the staff, and it wasn’t an issue.

      My mother-in-law heard about the Mediterranean place and passed along their menu to us. It looked really vegan-friendly, and so we all checked it out together. It helps to have folks in the area keeping an eye out for us!

      There’s also a vegetarian restaurant in Davenport, and David and I have gone. However, their options for vegans are surprisingly lackluster – mainly variations of hummus on bread. I love supporting vegetarian/vegan establishments, and so it would be great if they’d step up their game where vegans are concerned.

  2. says

    I have yet to go to Iowa and Quad Cities & the name of the cities sound pretty unique. Spicy Basil noodles look so good, especially the Tropical Curry. You know how much I love my spicy Thai foods! 😉 and awesome that they serve made-in house hot sauces (whoohoo!) Thanks for all the recommendations in the Quad Cities, Cadry!

    • says

      Yes, their made-in house hot sauces have me inspired to make my own as well. The freshness and crispness really takes the experience up a notch.

    • says

      It’s always a treat to have the option of a dessert in a restaurant. I’m more of a salty/savory person by nature, but sometimes it’s nice to have the option! For vegans, finding a dessert (outside of a vegan restaurant of course) often isn’t an easy thing to do!

  3. says

    It’s amazing how much easier it is becoming to find vegan options in restaurants now. It’s so different from the days when the restaurant staff didn’t know what vegan meant. Maybe some day soon Crust will go so far as to have vegan cheese on hand.

    • says

      Yes, I’ve seen a noticeable amount of growth in the quality of vegan options even in just the past six years. Some kind of cashew cheese would take the Crust experience up another level! Although, I’m always totally satisfied with a cheeseless pizza! :)

  4. Shell says

    The pizzas look amazing! Not to mention the falafel. I wouldn’t have guessed they have so many great options in the Quad Cities. I wish it was a little closer to home.

    • says

      It’s definitely one of my favorite pizzas anywhere! I love that smoky taste in the crust. If you’re ever heading to Chicago, you could grab a pizza or falafel since the Quad Cities would be the half-way point for you!

  5. says

    Wow, you’ve done your work finding some great vegan options in the Quad Cities. I love it when restaurants will accommodate requests, especially Thai restaurants. And I kinda want to eat that bowl of olives right now.

    • says

      Yes, it makes such a big difference when restaurants are able/willing to accommodate requests. There’s another brick oven pizza place in Iowa that we liked quite a bit, but we only went once because they have it written on the menu that changes aren’t allowed. They let us make changes the one time we were there, but it involved some discussion with the chef. I’d hate to go out of my way to drive there (40 minutes away or so) and then have them unable/unwilling to accommodate us. When restaurants are happy/eager/willing to make changes based upon a customer’s request, it greatly affects how often I’ll return.

      I don’t think there are many people going to Crust and ordering cheeseless pizzas. Whenever we place our order, a staff member often says, “Ooooooooh, I remember you!”

  6. says

    We went out for dinner tonight and the vegan pizza I got was truly comical…I’m pretty sure they splashed some tomato sauce on a round of pizza dough, threw on some frozen veggies, toaster oven’d it for about 2 1/2 minutes, then dropped an anvil on it. Yep, squashed, just like Wile E. Coyote. Pizza a la Acme Anvil Co. 😉
    The Crust pizza on the other hand is just dazzling…that’s real pizza! And the Spicy Basil Noodles are seriously making my tummy rumble…so lavishly delicious! QC has some real vegan gems!

    • says

      Wow, you wouldn’t think a cheeseless pizza could be messed up that much! It makes you wonder what on earth happened to it!

      Yes, the Crust pizza is something very crave-able. Plus, I love the topping options like pine nuts and potatoes. They are unsung pizza toppings but so good!

  7. says

    That’s a really amazing selection for somewhere that I wouldn’t necessarily expect to be overly vegan-friendly. I kind of think that the Thai options would be my favourite choice – asparagus and shiitake go so well together.

    • says

      Excellent! You’ll have to check out one of the restaurants the next time you visit the QC. If you do, let me know what you thought! By the way, Crust is closed on Sunday. So many times we’ve gotten ourselves worked up for pizza, and then we remember it’s not an option that day.

  8. AMS says

    Is their veggie chicken actually vegan? I need to find out. I eat it sometimes but then wonder later. I shouldn’t do that!

    • says

      I asked them about it the first time I ever ordered it, and I was told that it’s vegan. I sent them a message to double-check that nothing has changed since that time, but I haven’t heard back yet. I’ll let you know if/when I do!

    • says

      Oh, that’s great! Do you know what they will be offering? I just checked out their website and Facebook page, but I didn’t see it mentioned.

  9. Linda says

    I love the vegetarian chicken at Exotic Thai! Is it homemade? I would love to purchase it or make it myself for other recipes.

    • says

      I highly doubt it’s homemade, unfortunately. It tastes the same as veggie chicken I’ve gotten at other Asian restaurants in Chicago and LA. If you want something exactly like it, I’d try visiting Oriental Food Grocery Store on River Street. I haven’t looked for that product specifically, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they have it in their frozen section.

      Personally, when I’m looking for that kind of a taste and texture, I go for Gardein. They have a breaded orange chick’n and teriyaki chick’n strips. You could find their products at Target, Hy-Vee, or Greatest Grains. Even though they are packaged with sauces, you could use it in other recipes with or without the sauce.

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