It’s Corridor Veg Week! It’s like Restaurant Week in Eastern Iowa, but with vegan specials on offer. Corridor Veg Week was started by Thais Carnall in 2016, and each year it keeps getting better and better.
Many of the restaurants in the line-up offer unique specials that are available only during that week, which incentivizes visiting. To see all of the restaurants that are taking part, visit the Corridor Veg Week website.
Corridor Veg Week
I haven’t visited all of the restaurants that are taking part this year, but I’ve done my best to hit a few! Here are the places we’ve gone:
For lunch one day, I went to Lightworks Café in Cedar Rapids. I’ve been meaning to go there for a while, but the hours never seem to fit quite right. They’re open Monday – Saturday from 6 am to 3 pm.
Lightworks is an airy coffee shop with some vegan options on the menu.
First, I had to go with their smoked cauliflower tacos (above). It’s on their regular menu. As a fan of smoky things, I was intrigued.
They were everything I hoped they’d be. Smoked and seared cauliflower was served on a tortilla with avocado aioli, pico de gallo, and pickled cabbage.
It can be served on a flour or corn tortilla – your choice. I went with flour.
Then from the Veg Week specials, I had the poke bowl (shown at the top of this post). I’d never had a poke bowl before – vegan or otherwise. And so I wasn’t sure entirely what to expect.
The base of the bowl was a cauliflower rice & white rice mix, served cold. It was topped with big chunks of watermelon, which they call “watermelon tuna.”
I thought the watermelon might be sliced thin like tuna or seasoned with some kind of vinegar or tamari. However, it just tasted like watermelon to me.
Still, it was very fresh and bright, so I have no complaints. Plus, look how pretty it was!
Included in the bowl was pickled cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, avocado, and fresh jalapeño slices.
I’m excited to try more of their vegan menu items another time.
Big Grove Brewery in Solon
We went to Big Grove Brewery in Solon with a group of friends.
(Big Grove has two locations. The other is in Iowa City. They’re both offering different menu items for Veg Week.)
Solon is your classic, quaint small Iowa town with a little main street running through it. Big Grove is on that stretch.
It was packed when we were there last Friday night. So our group waited for about 40 minutes by a fire pit on their back patio until a table was ready.
We started with olives and pretzel bread. Then for our main course, several people in the group got Beyond Burgers served on handmade focaccia.
I ordered the gnocchi special (above), which was delightfully creamy with pesto, crispy oyster mushrooms and asparagus ragu. I could eat this dish again and again.
David went off book by ordering one of their regular roasted mushroom pizzas on the menu, but requested his without cheese.
It was topped with locally grown mushrooms, garlic, and a generous layer of arugula. It had a beautifully bubbly crust, and I had to nab one of the biggest ones.
Big Grove Brewery in Iowa City
We went to the second Big Grove Brewery location in Iowa City a few days later. The weather was turning spring-like that day. So we were able to sit outside.
We also made sure to go on a weekday evening, because it can get really loud and crowded on the weekends.
We started with chips & guacamole, and their toast special. The toast special usually comes with cheese, and so we requested it without for a vegan option.
It was topped with Portobello mushrooms, arugula, Calabrian chili relish, and blobs of kalamata olive tapenade.
For my main course, I had the Beyond Burger served with Bibb lettuce and avocado on a torta. The Beyond Burger was cooked to perfection on the grill with a great char.
I ended up pulling off parts of the bread and eventually eating it open faced, because the over-sized bread overwhelmed it a bit. It would be magnificent on a classic burger bun.
Dumpling Darling in Iowa City
Dumpling Darling is a cute little order-at-the-counter place in Iowa City.
(Update: They have opened a second location in the East Village of Des Moines as well.)
We ended up going to Dumpling Darling twice (and David went a third time!)
Both times we got the chipotle tofu dumplings, which are fried and stuffed with local tofu, chipotle peppers, sautéed onions, and spinach. They’re then tossed in a spicy sauce.
Does it get better than fried dumplings? My sources say no.
(Update: Because of their Corridor Veg Week popularity, Dumpling Darling has added the chipotle tofu dumplings to their regular menu.)
For a side, we got the fried Brussels sprouts, which can be served with salt or Korean BBQ sauce. We went with the latter. They had a great, full-bodied flavor.
Then for something on the lighter side, we had a roasted ramen salad to balance all of the fried stuff. It was delightfully light with Napa cabbage, roasted ramen, and almonds. It was tossed in an apple cider vinaigrette.
We also got the green curry steamed bao on one of the trips, which are filled with roasted cauliflower, local tofu, coconut green curry, and served with a coconut sauce for dipping.
They were wonderfully spongy with plenty of bounce.
Rawlicious in Cedar Rapids
For lunch today, we went to Rawlicious and got their Veg Week special. It comes with raw lasagna, a side salad, smoothie, and dessert.
The lasagna is made with raw zucchini noodles, layered with almond ricotta cheese, basil pesto, and mushrooms. I like that it had both tomato & pesto sauces. It packed a wallop of flavor with every bite.
For my smoothie, I got the strawberry milkshake, which basically tastes like summer.
And for dessert, there was a choice of cherry chipotle or blueberry lemon bar. I went with the latter. The top part was reminiscent of a cheesecake. Then underneath was a crumbly, coconutty cake. The tart lemon balanced nicely with the blueberries.
David ordered off their regular menu and got raw tacos with crumbled taco meat in romaine lettuce leaves. They were topped with guacamole, salsa, and cashew sour cream. They had a nice little kick of spice and reminded me of the raw tacos I make at home.
Corridor Veg Week continues through April 29th. Although, several of the places still have vegan options throughout the year. I hope that they see there’s a demand for vegan options and add more to their menus!