This vegan Iowa round-up features plant-based options from across the state: Des Moines, the Quad Cities, Iowa City, and more.
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.)
Des Moines & surrounding area
Brightside Kitchen is a small vegan establishment located inside of Mercy’s Health & Fitness Center in Clive. (When David and I were going there recently, Siri lead us astray. So look for the Mercy water tower and remember that the driveway is off of University Avenue.)
There are a few tables for dining in or you can pick up meals to go.
They are open during the week for breakfast & lunch – 7 am to 2 pm, Monday through Friday. Their menu includes coffee, smoothies, soup, salad, wraps, sandwiches, and a loaded baked potato.
The restaurant is off the beaten path but 100% worth seeking out. While I love indulgent vegan food options as much as the next person, it’s so wonderful to have a place in the Des Moines area to get really healthy, hearty plant-based food that’s lacking nothing in flavor.
David and I both got the Brightside bowl, which changes throughout the week. That day it was a Mexican-inspired bowl with seasoned lentils, roasted vegetables, and a fresh green salad. It was a generous serving, and I had enough for leftovers later.
Owners Deanne & Steve Bryce are happy to talk about the menu and demystify anything for people who are new to a fully vegan menu.
They also have a video playing behind the counter, which shows how some of their dishes are made. Such a great idea for people who are intimidated by “vegan food!” With all of that color and freshness, there’s nothing to worry about.
Their Ingersoll Avenue restaurant is bright and 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).
I recommend starting with an order of Krunk tots (above). They have several tot options, but we usually get an order with vegan miso whiz for dipping.
My two favorite main dishes at Krunkwich are either the vegan ramen with udon noodles instead of the usual variety of ramen or the vegan dan dan noodles (below).
The dan dan noodles are made with thick, udon noodles 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’s standard order is the 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.)
Tacopocalypse is a casual eatery that serves 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.)
The picture above of a tofu scramble was from their Sunday brunch, which sadly, is now a thing of the past. However, there are lots of vegan options on their regular menu with 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 they’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 a vegan restaurant with a menu highlighting local & seasonal food.
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 kale & wheat berry salad with lemon tahini dressing that I like to make at home. 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. It’s the drink that inspired the sparkling strawberry lemonade I like to make at home now.
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.
Iowa Farm Sanctuary
About 10 minutes away from the Tanger Factory Outlets, you’ll find Iowa Farm Sanctuary – a haven for rescued farmed animals. It opened in 2016, and was co-founded by Shawn & Jered Camp. They have been rescuing abandoned, abused, and neglected cows, pigs, sheep, goats, and chickens ever since.
During warm weather months, they have open barn days on Sunday afternoons. They also have a few events throughout the year, where visitors can meet the animals. The events usually include catered vegan food from caterers like Brightside Kitchen and Trumpet Blossom Cafe.
Past events have also included live music, and a cooking demonstration by yours truly, where I showed how to make vegan three bean chili.
Simple Superfood Cafe
Simple Superfood Café in Davenport 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.