Plan a getaway to Cedar Falls, Iowa with this vegan food & fun guide. Sweet treats, historical sites, and unique shopping areas highlight this small Midwestern town.
Thank you to Cedar Falls Tourism for hosting my stay in your fair city!
I’m always on the lookout for good vegan options in Iowa. I’ve covered plant-based fare in Des Moines, Iowa City, and the Quad Cities. So I was long past due on a visit to Cedar Falls, home to the University of Northern Iowa.
There are some delicious reasons to visit Cedar Falls. (Donuts! Cinnamon rolls!) But there are plenty of other things to see and do while you’re there.
David and I recently had an overnight in Cedar Falls. We did some shopping, visited their Saturday farmers market, checked out a couple of museums, and explored the annual College Hill Arts Festival.
Cup of Joe
Cup of Joe is a super cute coffee place with a 1950’s aesthetic on Main Street in downtown. (It’s pictured at the top of this blog post.)
David and I each got a soy latte, as well as a vegan cinnamon roll to share. True to their claims, it was wonderfully gooey inside, and tasted homemade in the best possible way.
For baked goods, they have at least 2 vegan options every day. Their in-house bakers vary their vegan pastries, which include coffee cakes, muffins, cookies, and donuts.
If you are looking for vegan cinnamon rolls, they offer them Wednesdays & Saturdays. They also accept special orders.
Yeast-raised, fried vegan donuts are alive & well in Cedar Falls!
To my knowledge, Icon Donuts is the only donut shop in the state of Iowa where you can find fried vegan donuts every day at both their Cedar Falls & Waterloo locations.
This is quite the coup! For years, I could only get vegan donuts like this while on vacation.
They offer two flavors of vegan donuts every week. They usually post the flavors on their Facebook page.
The Cedar Falls location is in the College Hill neighborhood. And the vegan donuts are clearly marked in the donut case.
When we were there, the vegan flavors were berry and maple. The fluffy donuts were nice & light with a pleasantly sweet frosting on top. The berry was my favorite, but they were both very good.
If you’d like some coffee to go with your donuts, they have almond milk behind the counter. Just ask!
Whiskey Road Tavern & Grill
Whiskey Road in downtown Cedar Falls is a country western-themed restaurant & bar.
They have vegetarian and vegan options marked on the menu. Although, only one menu item is marked vegan, others can be prepared vegan with some omissions/substitutions.
David ordered the mixed berry salad, which is vegan if you omit the chocolate croutons. It’s a spinach salad with strawberries, blueberries, toasted almonds, avocado, and a raspberry vinaigrette.
I ordered the barbecue jackfruit wrap, which is no longer on the menu. However, in its place, they have included the Impossible Burger instead. It’s served on a brioche bun, which is not vegan. However, a vegan bun is available upon request.
They also offer veggie fajitas, which are vegan with the omission of the sour cream. Their red pepper hummus & pita chip appetizer is also vegan.
Just a couple doors down from Icon Donuts in College Hill is Greenhouse Kitchen. They also have a second location in Waterloo.
It’s a wrap, bowl, and salad place. You can either order from the menu or have them build one to your specifications.
There are loads of vegetable topping options and vegan sauces, as well as Soy Curls and crumbled falafel. (Update: They now offer Impossible beef instead of crumbled falafel.)
They also offer vegan cheese for their burritos & quesadillas.
We decided to go with the build-your-own option. David chose the crumbled falafel, which had sort of a mustard flavor.
I went with the Soy Curls. The Soy Curls could have been a little warmer, and I would have preferred them to be browned for extra texture and crispiness. But it’s cool that they have the option. You don’t often see Soy Curls in the Midwest.
They have three rice or grain options for the base of your bowl, burrito, or salad. Keep in mind that the unfried rice has egg in it. So you’ll want to skip that one.
Black Hawk Hotel
While we were in the area, Cedar Falls Tourism hosted our stay at the historic Black Hawk Hotel. The Black Hawk is the oldest continuously operated hotel in the country.
The hotel opened in 1853 as the Winslow House. (And they give a nod to its roots at their bar, which is named Bar Winslow.)
Walking into the hotel is like stepping back in time.
Instead of a credit card-style key to open your hotel room door, you’re given actual keys to the room. And your paperwork is pulled from cubby-style mail slots behind the front desk, like a scene out of a Wes Anderson movie.
There are lots of wonderful little touches around the hotel that speak to its history – with vintage luggage used as door props, fancy hats on hat stands, and even an old timey record player in the foyer.
The Black Hawk Hotel pampered us with a suite, where I took advantage of the jetted tub and cozy bathrobe before winding down for bed.
At the ground floor of the Black Hawk Hotel is Bar Winslow. I got a dirty martini (off menu), and David opted for a glass of wine. My martini was garnished with a Castelvetrano olive, which is the way to my heart.
The bar offers prohibition era-inspired cocktails, as well as food.
We’d already had dinner, but we got an order of Marcona almonds & warmed Castelvetrano olives for a snack. (They had a couple of other snacks & salads that looked promising as well.)
Farm Shed restaurant is attached to the Black Hawk Hotel. It has a breezy, modern aesthetic – like Anthropologie for food.
The restaurant is open to anyone. But for guests of the historic Black Hawk Hotel, a breakfast at Farm Shed is included with your stay.
They had homemade nut milk listed on the menu, but it wasn’t available yet. (They had only been open one day when we visited.) Word on the street is that it will be made from almonds and a variety of other nuts.
Update: You’ll want to avoid the homemade nut milk. For some reason, they add honey to it in addition to dates, making it not vegan. So weird that they would choose to add something non-vegan to a product specifically sought out by vegans.
They serve breakfast all day. The only vegan menu item was avocado toast. So that’s what we got!
The lightly toasted bread was topped with smashed avocado, and seasoned with lots of lemon juice & lemon zest.
David also got one of their bottles of grapefruit juice, which they squeeze in house.
They had labeled vegan cookies for sale in the dessert case while we were there. So be sure to take a peek!
Other vegan options in Cedar Falls:
I didn’t get to hit all of the vegan options in Cedar Falls in our time there. Here are a couple more that looked promising I didn’t get to try.
- Scratch Cupcakery on Main Street offers one vegan cupcake flavor every day. (You can read about Scratch in my vegan Iowa City post, where they also have a location.)
- Everything on the menu at Ginger Thai can be prepared vegan, with the exception of some pre-made appetizers.
Cedar Falls farmers market
Saturday morning, we took a quick jaunt from downtown to the Cedar Falls farmers market. The market is smaller in size & easy to get around. There was plenty of produce on offer, as well as food trucks.
The Cedar Falls farmers market takes place every Saturday from 8:30 am – noon, May through October.
College Hill Arts Festival
One of my favorite things to do in the summer is go to arts festivals. I love buying unique, handmade items, and meeting the artists who created them.
The College Hill Arts Festival in Cedar Falls has been a yearly tradition for the past 41 years. But this was my first time attending this charming 2-day fest. It took over the corner of College & 23rd Street on the University of Northern Iowa campus.
There were over 40 artists selling ceramics, mixed media, paintings, sculpture, and photography.
The Twin Peaks themed print above caught David’s eye at the booth for Allison & Jonathan Metzger of Midnight Oil Studio & Workshop.
But he ended up getting a lightening bug themed print instead. They use a phosphorescent paint on the bugs, which actually glows in the dark.
If cute bowls are on offer, sign me up! They are so great for food photography, and of course, my daily salsa needs.
I picked up a couple bowls from potter Joan Gaspar Hart. I’m sure you’ll see them in the coming months in my pictures!
Shopping in the Downtown District
We did some shopping in the Downtown District, on and around Main Street, including a visit at Miss Wonderful.
This adorable shop has a mixture of vintage and vintage-inspired mid-century modern goods, including kitchenware & Rifle Paper products.
(You might remember I’m a big Rifle Paper fan. I even visited their headquarters in Winter Park, Florida several years back.)
Ice House Museum
The Ice House Museum is right along the Cedar River, where people used to take tools out to the frozen river to chip away at the ice.
Huge blocks would go into the ice house, where it would be stored all year ‘round. (Even in the summer!) It stored 6,000 to 8,000 tons of ice.
Before people had modern refrigeration, they’d pick up a block of ice as their last stop on the way home. Then they would put it into their ice chests to keep their food cold throughout the week.
Inside the museum, there’s a movie on loop sharing the history of the ice house, several types of ice chests, and an interactive pulley, where you can try your hand at lifting a block of “ice.”
It’s crazy to think about people standing on a river and breaking into the ice to salvage it for their refrigeration needs.
Refrigeration and the ability to make your own ice any time you want isn’t a modern amenity that gets a lot of hype. But wow, I really learned a lot from this museum, and took away some gratefulness for the time we live in.
Oh, this was really interesting too. In 1921 the ice house burned down. It had been made of wood. When they rebuilt it, they made the walls first, but this time with clay tile, reinforced with steel ties.
Instead of building scaffolding, where carpenters could build a roof, they waited for winter. Then they filled the ceiling-less building with ice blocks. Once they had finished the ice harvest season, they stood on top of the ice to build the roof!
The Ice House museum costs $5/per person. Kids 12 and under are free.
Victorian Home & Carriage Museum
The Victorian Home & Carriage Museum is adjacent to the area where the farmers market takes place. That makes it very handy to pop in & take a quick tour. The museum is free, but donations are welcome.
The Victorian house is all set up in a way that tells a story – reminding you of the daily lives of the people who lived there. There are black and white photos on the walls, a stove set up with cast iron pans, bedrooms with dresses laid out to wear, and children’s toys scattered in their rooms.
It made me feel like I got to walk around the halls of Disney World’s Haunted Mansion sans Doom Buggy. It’s nice that the tour is self led, which means you can really go at your own pace.
Downstairs there’s also the William J. Lenoir model railroad.
We really enjoyed our time in Cedar Falls. It’s a walkable town that is small enough, you can really cram a lot into a visit.
Thank you to Cedar Falls Tourism for hosting my stay at the Black Hawk Hotel, and to the Cedar Falls Community Main Street Inc. for providing a $25 gift card to be used at any of the Downtown District merchants.