My Favorite Vegan Options in Des Moines

New World Cafe - Des Moines, Iowa vegan restaurantIn the past four or five years, Des Moines has really stepped up its game where vegans are concerned! It used to be that when I was visiting my hometown, it was a strain finding exciting vegan-friendly options. But nowadays, the choices are plentiful and growing. Today I’m going to highlight my three favorite places for vegan fare in Des Moines.

New World Cafe - Des Moines, Iowa vegan restaurantNew World Café

New World Café is Des Moines’ only all-vegan restaurant and is one of two vegan restaurants in the state. (The other is Trumpet Blossom Café in Iowa City.) The intimate, casual café is in the East Village, not far from the Des Moines capitol.

Mexican bowl - New World Cafe in Des Moines, IowaTheir menu changes daily, but there are some items that show up regularly, like the Mexican bowl made with grains, beans, roasted potatoes and yams, mixed vegetables, avocado, salsa, cashew cheese, and topped with a pumpkin seed crumble. I’ve gone to New World Café with lots of different people, both vegan and non-vegan, and the Mexican bowl never fails to impress.

Taco salad - New World Cafe in Des Moines, IowaI’m also a fan of their taco salad, which is topped with a delicious mushroom-bean-millet taco crumble along with sweet bell peppers, cabbage, onion, avocado, tomatoes, and a cashew sour cream.

Additionally, New World Café offers coffee, juices, smoothies, and shakes. To read more about them, check out my full review from last year.

Tacopocalypse - Des Moines, Iowa restaurant with vegan optionsTacopocalypse

I just visited Tacopocalypse for the first time last month. It is a Mexican/Korean fusion eatery in the East Village. Tacopocalypse is a non-vegan restaurant with lots of unusual and clearly-marked vegan options.  The vibe is very casual and a great place to pick up a quick lunch. (It was really hopping when we were there!)

Tacopocalypse - Des Moines, Iowa vegan tacosTacopocalypse - Des Moines, Iowa vegan tacosTheir vegan taco offerings include several kinds of housemade soft corn tacos with fillings like spicy seitan andouille (my personal favorite), Korean tofu topped with vegan kimchi, or vegan chorizo.

They recently moved locations, but they are still in the East Village, which is a really fun area to walk around afterwards and do a bit of window shopping.

Fresh Café & Market

Fresh Café & Market is a small vegetarian restaurant tucked inside a non-descript building in West Des Moines, not far from Toys R Us & Pier One Imports. From the outside, it looks like it could be a dentist’s office, but inside is a small seating area and that wonderful telltale scent of wheatgrass and kale being juiced.

Fresh Café offers both raw and cooked food, along with smoothies and freshly-squeezed juices.  The menu changes regularly and can be found on their Facebook page.

Some things I’ve enjoyed from Fresh Cafe include:

Raw Vegan Tacos - Fresh Cafe in Des Moines, IowaThese raw vegan tacos made with seasoned walnut, sunflower, and sun-dried tomato meat were stuffed into romaine leaves along with avocado, salsa, and cashew sour cream. They were fresh and popping with flavor.

Mango Fried Rice - Fresh Cafe in Des Moines, IowaThis mango fried rice with peppers, green beans, onions, and cashews in a mango-curry sauce had a good balance of sweet and savory but was a little saltier than I prefer.

Vegan quesadilla - Fresh Cafe in Des Moines, IowaMy friend and dining companion gave this Caribbean Quesadilla stuffed with a black bean puree a thumbs up.  It was topped with coconut-cilantro crème and served with a pineapple avocado salsa.

To read more about Fresh Café & Market, check out this full review from a couple of years ago.

I’ll be back in a future post with other Des Moines-area restaurants, specialty stores, and grocery stores that are great for vegans, vegetarians, or anyone else who loves good food.

A movie theatre with nutritional yeast and vegan burritos? Somebody pinch me.

filmscene iowa city - vegan optionsNutritional yeast at FilmScene Iowa CityI’ve always been jealous when I’ve heard about movie theatres in other parts of the country where jars of nutritional yeast are set out for people to top their popcorn. A healthy layering of nutritional yeast is my favorite part of the popcorn experience at home, and so it seemed like it would take movie popcorn to the next level to get nutritional yeast on it as well. (Plus, at the movie theatre there are no cats meowing at me insistently to hurry up and finish, so that they can lick the bottom of the bowl. Oh, but what if there was? THAT would be the best movie theatre ever…)

Anyway, I can pack away the jealousy and save it for something else, because Iowa now has just such a movie theatre – FilmScene in Iowa City. Not only do they pop their popcorn in coconut oil and put out a jar of nutritional yeast, they also have agave syrup for sweetening coffee, organic tea, tamari almonds, trail mix, and burritos for sale from Local Burrito.

FilmScene Iowa City - theatre with lots of vegan options!FilmScene Iowa CityOne of the options is a vegan burrito, Thai Peanut Tempeh.  David and I ventured there with friends to see the original Japanese version of Godzilla and purposely passed over dinner at home, so that we could try one. I didn’t bother with a picture, because burritos are notoriously difficult to photograph. (Oh, it’s a picture of a brown, oblong tortilla… Nicely done?) Plus, in a dark movie theatre, it’s doubly impossible. However, it was very tasty, stuffed with curry seasoned tempeh, and it was toasted for several minutes until it was crisp and tan on the outside.

FilmScene Iowa City - lots of vegan options!FilmScene Iowa City - theatre with vegan food optionsIf that wasn’t enough, FilmScene also sells beer on tap and wine by the glass or bottle that you can bring into the theatre to enjoy during the show and share with friends. The seats are on the uncomfortable side; however, the front row is a set of couches that make you feel like you’re watching movies at home. Slouch down enough, and you don’t even care that the screen is only a few feet away.

And what about the movies? In addition to showing classics, they have lots of independent films, art films, and foreign films that tend not to make it to small town Iowa. We saw Jodorowsky’s Dune a few weeks ago, and it was terrific. I have never read Dune, nor have I seen the David Lynch version. So I thought it might be dull for me, but Alejandro Jodorowsky was so charming in it, he won me right over. He could have told me about his grocery list, and I would have been entranced. Plus, they used storyboard animation in a three dimensional way that I’ve never seen done before. If you like documentaries, I recommend checking it out!

And if you’re ever in Iowa, check out FilmScene.  I know you thought Iowa was only known for corn…  Turns out they also know how to top it – with nutritional yeast, obviously.