Vegan Dining in Davenport: Mantra Indian Cuisine & Spirits

Mantra Indian Restaurant: Vegan options in Davenport, IowaWhile in Davenport, Iowa earlier this week, we were able to visit Mantra Indian Cuisine & Spirits. I’d heard they had a lot of vegan options, and I’d been meaning to check them out for a while. Mantra is located in downtown Davenport, just a couple of blocks from the Mississippi River.

Mantra Indian Restaurant: Vegan options in Davenport, IowaWhen we were handed the menu, I was happy to see lots of clearly listed vegan options, including several vegan appetizers. I have always loved the finger food fun aspect of appetizers, but so often at non-vegan restaurants, appetizers are slim pickings where vegans are concerned.

Mirchi Pakoras & other vegan options at Mantra Indian RestaurantThere was one starter in particular that drew our interest right away – Mirchi Pakoras. These pakoras are stuffed jalapenos that have been filled with samosa-style potatoes. They are then battered in what tastes like a chickpea flour coating and deep-fried. The fresh jalapenos still had some of their crunch and plenty of heat.  As we ate, I watched little bubbles of sweat appear around David’s nose. Those babies were good and spicy! Luckily, the staff kept our water glasses filled.

I’d never seen anything like that on an Indian restaurant menu. They were like an Indian take on jalapeno poppers. It had me thinking about ways that I could recreate it at home.

Mantra Indian Restaurant: Vegan options in Davenport, IowaThey served the Mirchi Pakoras with a tray of house made chutneys – cilantro, tamarind, and onion. All of the chutneys tasted vibrant, crisp, and freshly made.

Chana masala, aloo gobi, and other vegan options at Mantra Indian RestaurantFor our entrees, we ordered aloo gobhi made with cauliflower and potatoes and chana masala made with chickpeas, onions, and tomatoes in a Punjabi sauce.   They both had bold flavors that were denser and richer than I typically experience in those dishes.

Tandoori roti at Mantra Indian Restaurant - Quad Cities, IowaThe tandoori roti (whole wheat flatbread baked in the tandoor oven) is not listed on the menu as being vegan. However, when requested without ghee (clarified butter), it is vegan.

Davenport continues to surprise with its high quality of vegan options. I look forward to going back and exploring more of the menu on a future visit and having another round of those spicy Mirchi Pakoras.

For more vegan options in the Quad Cities, check out this post with other favorites & highlights.


  1. cookeasyvegan says:

    Sometimes while dining in Indian restaurants I feel like a jar of ghee is peering over my shoulder just waiting for a chance to jump onto my plate. I love when the restaurant has clearly marked vegan options — knowing that the dishes were made with the intention of being dairy-free is so nice. I’ve never seen a dish like the mirchi pakoras you had — I might have to order them as an entree! Though, the truth is, I always have to order aloo gobi, unless I’m in a South Indian restaurant. Then I have to order dosa stuffed with potatoes. So predictable.

    • It makes for a much more relaxed dining experience when the menu items are clearly marked. It gives you a good starting point; plus, it gives some hope that the staff is at least somewhat familiar with the term. It’s rare to see it on menus in Iowa, and so this was a particularly welcome sight.

      Luckily whether you went with the mirchi pakoras or aloo gobi, you would be in good hands here. :) If you’re ever traveling through Davenport, your bases are covered. I’m a big fan of masala dosa too. It’s one of my favorite foods.

  2. I love Indian food but they make everything so hot, even when they say it’s “mild” it’s not mild to me. Before being vegan I used to put plain yogurt on everything. Of course it changes the taste but at least the heat is gone. But unless I bring my own vegan yogurt, I have to suffer through the heat… sigh.

    • It would be nice if more Indian restaurants offered vegan raita (yogurt with cucumber and herbs) for cooling a dish, but it’s really something I never see.

  3. acookinthemaking says:

    Indian food is hands-down my favorite cuisine! I love the focus on vegetarian food at many restaurants, but clearly labeled vegan options are a huge bonus. There is a very small, all-vegetarian Indian restaurant near my work, with the most amazing buffet and they put a little “v” next to the names of the vegan options on the buffet. I love that–it makes for such a stress-free dining experience.

    That Mirchi Pakora sounds outrageously good, btw. I’ve never seen that before!

    • Yes, it’s wonderful that Indian food tends to be really vegan-friendly, wherever you go. That’s terrific that the Indian restaurant near your work labels their buffet. That is a huge help, especially with a buffet, in honing in on the food you want.

      As a fellow fan of things that are hot & spicy, I’m sure you’d love the mirchi pakora!

  4. Cad, this meal looks great! I am very intrigued by the pakoras. They may be a little spicy for me, but I would be willing to try!

    • They are definitely on the spicy side! David loves things with a lot of heat, but he was guzzling the water. Still, if the heat isn’t too much for you, the flavor is terrific!

  5. I love Indian food, but always struggle to find places that are ghee-free – even the veggie ones seem to have an overdose of dairy. I’m glad you managed to find a place that doesn’t have that problem – looks amazing. Extra pakoras for me please!

    • Yes, it was really nice to find a place with so many options for vegans, especially clearly marked ones. The next time you’re in Iowa, I’ll remember to make the pakora order a double! :)

  6. Looks awesome! Davenport is my husband’s hometown – will have to check it out next time we’re there!

    • Oh, yes! It’s definitely worth visiting, along with Crust for pizza and Exotic Thai for spicy basil noodles. The Quad Cities have really upped their game where vegan fare is concerned.

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