When I told David about today’s vegan Iowa restaurant round-up, he joked that it should just go to an error page. “File not found. Try again in a few years.” That gave us both a good laugh… But seriously, even though vegan options in Iowa aren’t as plentiful as they are in other parts of the globe, there are still some surprising options if you know where to look.
(Keep in mind, this isn’t a comprehensive list of every vegan option in the state.)
Krunkwich Ramen House is my favorite restaurant in Iowa – easily. (You can read my full Krunkwich write-up here.) So you can imagine my chagrin when they closed suddenly this summer because their grease trap came to an unexpected demise. Their doors were closed for 3 painful months. Ultimately, they decided to leave their former location in the East Village behind and move to Ingersoll Avenue.
The day after they opened, I bolted to Des Moines to get my fix. The new location has great foot traffic, and the restaurant is brighter and more spacious. The service at Krunkwich is excellent, which is a rarity at an order at the counter place. And the food? Every bit as glorious.
As you’d expect, there’s ramen on the menu, along with noodle & rice dishes, sandwiches, and rotating specials. They describe their food as “Midwestern flavors within the confines of Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and other Asian cuisines.” They have an extensive vegan menu (along with a non-vegan menu), and there are plans to expand their offerings to include dim sum.
We started with an order of Krunk tots (above). They have several tot options, but David doesn’t like his tots smothered with things. So we got some vegan miso whiz on the side for dipping instead.
For my main dish, I ordered the dan dan noodles (below). The thick, udon noodles are tossed in a Szechuan-style dressing and chili oil. They are topped with chewy crumbles of ginger seitan and shiitake mushrooms, along with pickled red onions and cilantro.
David went with his standard order, Krunk rice with seitan (above). The generously-portioned fried rice is filled with edamame, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, and onions. (You can have it with your choice of seitan or tofu, but seitan is totally the way to go. Their seitan is magic. They use the boiling method for making seitan, and it has magnificent chew and flavor.)
We also got a couple of orders to go – more Krunk rice for David and the vegan ramen for me. (You’ve got to love their attention to detail, even in the way they pack their ramen to-go orders. They separate the broth from the ingredients that go inside, so that they stay fresh and not water logged.)
Anyway, I’m so very glad that Krunkwich is back at last. Don’t ever do that to me again. 😉
Update: Krunkwich is now offering dim sum on Sundays – including a separate vegan menu!
The menu changes, but it includes things like tofu steam bao, seaweed salad, fried dumplings, mustard yu choi, bibimbap, and jjigae. (Please note that their regular menu is not available on Sundays. So if you have a hankering for dan dan noodles, satisfy that urge Monday through Saturday.)
The vegan fried dumplings are stuffed with seitan and should not be missed. The pillowy tofu steam bao have all of the bounciness you’d expect. Although, I’d prefer them stuffed with something a bit chewier than tofu for a balance of textures.
I also had their bibimbap, which is served sizzling hot to the table. The rice gets beautifully crunchy as it stays in contact with the stone bowl. The vegetables have a fresh, crunchy vibrancy, and their seitan is consistently phenomenal.
Vegan brunch options in Des Moines are slim pickings, but one place stands out – Tacopocalypse in Des Moines’ East Village. Unfortunately, they only offer brunch on Sundays from 11 to 3, but if the timing works out, it’s worth a trip.
Tacopocalypse is a casual eatery that serves up tacos and burritos in fusion form. It’s owned by Sam Auen of the aforementioned Krunkwich. I wrote about Tacopocalypse many moons ago. Like Krunkwich, the restaurant isn’t exclusively vegan, but they have lots of interesting vegan options. (Sure, I enjoy a bean burrito as much as the next vegan, but I really appreciate it when a restaurant offers something more interesting than that.)
I ordered the Tofu Scramble with freshly pressed corn tortillas. This hearty dish is packed with peppers, mushrooms, and onions. It’s served with poblano potatoes and spicy slaw.
And of course, if you’re not there on a Sunday, their regular menu also offers loads of tasty things like seitan andouille tacos, vegan chorizo tacos, masa fries, and potato poblano tacos. (To make the potato poblano tacos vegan, sub the creamy topping with spicy Vegenaise instead.)
There are a couple of places in the Iowa City area with vegan cupcakes, and Molly’s is one of them.
(Molly’s also has locations in North Liberty, Des Moines, Chicago, and New York.)
The décor at Molly’s is pretty adorable with school desks, swing chairs, board games to play, and lunch boxes. Like cupcakes themselves, the trappings make you feel like a kid again.
Most of the cupcakes at Molly’s are not vegan. However, vegans can order either chocolate or vanilla cupcakes with a choice of peanut butter, vanilla, or chocolate frosting. (Make sure to qualify that you’d like the vegan version of these, since they may offer non-vegan versions as well.) The cakes and frostings are kept separate, and so they don’t frost them until you order.
I wish they’d offer more interesting vegan options in line with the non-vegan choices they have, even if it was one option that switched weekly or monthly. It would give more reason to make a special trip. (I still dream about the vegan red velvet cupcake from Yummy Cupcakes in Burbank, California.) It’s hard to be blown away by a plain chocolate or vanilla cupcake, but I appreciate that they have a vegan offering at all.
They also have soy milk for their coffee drinks, and I’m a big fan of their lattes.
(Another option for vegan cupcakes is Scratch Cupcakery. They have one vegan flavor, and it rotates by the month. They have locations in Cedar Falls, Coralville, Waterloo, and West Des Moines.)
Her Soup Kitchen
Her Soup Kitchen has the kind of hours I’d like if I owned a restaurant. They’re open weekdays from 11 to 3. They’re not the most convenient hours for me as a restaurant-goer, since David and I do most of our dining out on the weekends. However, they’re obviously not lacking for business. Whenever I’ve gone the tables have been packed with happy diners.
Her Soup Kitchen offers simple, down to earth food. The vegan options aren’t listed on the menu, but the staff is knowledgeable about which salads and sandwiches can be prepared vegan. There’s also usually one soup on the menu that’s vegan. Plus, dairy based cheese can be swapped out for avocado for no additional charge. (I really appreciate when businesses don’t charge for avocado when you’re removing other pricy ingredients.)
I particularly like the grilled market sandwich (above). It comes with grilled eggplant and zucchini, roasted red peppers, red onions, and tomatoes on ciabatta. It’s smeared with sun-dried tomato tapenade. It typically comes with dairy-based cheese that I swapped out for avocado. On the day I was there, they were offering vegan vegetable soup, and so I chose that as my side.
David got the apple/pear salad. A bed of greens were topped with sliced pear and apples, dried cranberries, and toasted walnuts. It typically comes with dairy-based cheese, and so he added avocado instead.
I’ve written about Trumpet Blossom many times over. It’s currently Iowa’s only full service vegan restaurant.
Their menu is seasonal, and they updated it a few months ago. For starters, the breaded and fried mushrooms go down easily. They come with a small jar of pickled celery.
Of course, it may be possible to go to Trumpet Blossom and not order their sweet potato fries, but that is mostly a hypothetical quandary for me.
The solstice salad (below) is similar to the kind of meal-worthy salad I like to make at home. Massaged greens are topped with lemon-sesame dressing. It’s stuffed with brown rice, roasted vegetables, and falafel patties.
As for drinks, I’ve really gotten into their lemonade, which is made with fizzy water instead of still. It’s perfectly mouth puckering, the way lemonade should be.
David has been into an iced coffee drink that is made with coffee ice cubes and almond milk. It’s topped with flecks of dried rose, which compliments the flavor nicely.
For more options in the Iowa City area, check out these posts on Red’s Alehouse in North Liberty, Quarter Barrel in Cedar Rapids, Forbidden Planet & Film Scene in Iowa City, and 10 vegan-friendly businesses in Iowa City.
Kalona Brewing Company
For a town that only has a population of 2,452, you may be surprised to learn that there are vegan options in Kalona, Iowa at Kalona Brewing Company.
For starters, we got beer battered onion rings. When I was there and took this picture, the sauce that came with it was vegan; sadly, it isn’t anymore. (Their distributor stopped carrying Vegenaise.) However, you could dip in ketchup instead. They also have a hummus appetizer.
For the main event, go for a cheeseless pizza with your choice of veggies. We went with spinach and mushrooms, and for the base, pesto. (Their pesto doesn’t include cheese, making it a vegan option.) I’m always a fan of the fire-licked flavor of a wood-fired pizza, and this was no exception.
After you’re done with dinner, grab a drink and some friends and head over to the rotating Scrabble board.
Simple Superfood Cafe
Simple Superfood Café opened in Davenport just a few short months ago. It’s a little tucked away, but it’s basically across the street from Exotic Thai.
The restaurant is not exclusively vegan, but they have an ample amount of vegan offerings. They have loads of juices, smoothies, and raw options. They were out of a number of things when I was there, and so I had to change my order a couple of times. However, I was more than happy with where I finally landed.
I got the simple pad thai with raw zucchini, carrot, and beet noodles (above). The noodles were topped with spinach, hemp seeds, and a very thick seed butter sauce. (I had to thin it with a little water to be able to toss it with the noodles.)
David got the simple south of the border. This grain bowl is made with sprouted amaranth, quinoa, brown rice, and wild rice. It’s topped with greens, corn dragon pico, and a chimichurri sauce. Both of our meals were very fresh and flavorful. With such earth-friendly food, it would be great if they switched to reusable plates and forks for eat-in guests.
Simple Superfood Cafe is a welcome addition to the Quad Cities, which doesn’t have anything else like this in the area.
Olive Tree Cafe
Olive Tree Cafe offers a wide variety of Mediterranean options. They have an extensive menu of salads, bowls, wraps, flatbread pizzas, and more. The vegan options aren’t marked on the menu, but they do denote vegetarian options. So you at least have a starting point from where to ask questions.
Whenever we go to the Quad Cities, I like to pick up a container of the baba ganoush from Olive Tree Cafe, even if we don’t get lunch or dinner there. Instead of being completely smooth, it has chunks of eggplant in it and the mild, smoky flavor I crave.
The last time we were there, I got the overflowing falafel bowl (above), which was packed with rice, salad, hummus, and baba ganoush. It usually comes with dairy-based cheese, and so I asked them to leave it off.
David got the Mediterranean salad (below) with mixed greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, and Kalamata olives. It typically comes with dairy-based cheese, and so he omitted that.
And of course, an order of stuffed grape leaves is never amiss.
The last time I was there, I overheard the dishwasher raving about how much he enjoys working there and that the biggest perk is that he loves the food. It’s always a good sign when you overhear happy employees.
Olive Tree has locations in Bettendorf & Davenport.