Iowa City offers a surprising amount of vegan options for a town in the middle of the Heartland. Here are 15 vegan Iowa City options include burritos, dumplings, burgers, baked goods, and more.
Iowa City is home to the University of Iowa and full of Midwestern small town charm. The city bursts with energy from an ever-changing student population.
There’s pride in local food, a bustling farmers market in warm weather months, and a surprising amount of vegan options for a town in the middle of the Heartland.
In no way does this cover all of the options, but here are 15 vegan-friendly businesses in the home of the Hawkeyes (and surrounding area).
Trumpet Blossom is Iowa City’s sole vegan restaurant. They serve lunch and dinner plus brunch on the weekends.
They have a full bar. And the menu is focused on local and organic cuisine.
My favorite dinner option is the solstice salad. It’s a kale salad with tahini dressing, topped with falafel. The sweet potato fries are also a “must.”
Be sure to grab an order of their seitan wings for dinner as an appetizer.
They’re a little different than the typical buffalo-style seitan. They come with a side of ranch for dipping, plus a little side salad garnish with pickled vegetables.
If you get a chance to go for brunch, don’t miss the seitan chorizo burrito.
It’s packed with sweet potatoes, greens, black beans, brown rice, and big pieces of seitan made in house. It’s typically served with a poblano cream sauce, but I prefer it without.
Trumpet Blossom is also known for their creative cocktails.
Dumpling Darling is a cute order-at-the-counter place in downtown Iowa City. It has quickly become one of my favorite spots in town.
Dumpling Darling vegan options include:
- Chipotle tofu dumplings
- Miso soup dumplings
- Roasted ramen salad with Napa cabbage, crunchy ramen noodles, and almonds
- Fried Brussels sprouts – tossed with sea salt or Korean BBQ
- Spicy fried rice (with vegan egg!)
- Green curry bao
- Kimchi mandu dumplings with local tofu
- Tempura vegetables
The chipotle tofu dumplings, miso soup dumplings, roasted ramen salad, and fried Korean BBQ Brussels sprouts are my personal favorites.
Watch the Dumpling Darling Facebook page for updates.
An acquaintance told me that when Oasis opened in 2004, he was dubious about how well it would do. He’d never heard of falafel, and he didn’t think Iowans would get behind something called baba ganoush.
Well, that acquaintance has eaten his words… along with a heaping serving of hummus.
Oasis is a big fan favorite in Iowa City. Not only does the restaurant itself have a cult following, they also sell Oasis hummus and baba ganoush in many grocery stores throughout the area.
The menu offers loads of plant-based options.
I’m a big fan of the vegetable kebabs that have a fire-licked flavor from being cooked on flames. The onions in the kebabs take on a caramelized sweetness. The meal comes with two falafel and a choice of sides.
I also recommend the create-a-plate with baba ganoush or hummus, chickpea salad or Mediterranean salad, and madjadra. Their French fries are especially good and taste great alongside a vat of hummus.
Oasis now has a second location in Omaha, Nebraska.
If you’re craving a fast food experience, Zombie Burger at the Coral Ridge Mall offers two vegan burger options. (You can find these options at other Zombie Burger locations in Iowa as well.)
Both burgers are made with Beyond Meat veggie burgers, which are very meaty in texture and flavor. (They replaced their former handmade veggie burgers, which were on the mushier side.)
The Undead Glenn (shown above) is topped with shredded lettuce, pickles, and vegan zombie sauce. The zombie sauce is kind of like a spicy Thousand Island with sriracha instead of ketchup.
The Lucille is topped with caramelized onions, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, guacamole, and eggless chipotle mayo.
You can also get fries or sweet potato fries. They have two different kinds of vegan dipping sauces available for the fries. One is similar to Thousand Island. The other is a thicker, eggless mayo-based sauce. (That one is my favorite!)
RSVP is a stationery store in the North side of Iowa City. Their spirited cards are far outside of what you’d find at Hallmark. Designs range from artistic to outrageous.
They even have some punny vegan-oriented cards on occasion. They also have pens, artwork, jewelry, and notebooks.
What makes RSVP especially vegan-friendly is that they carry casual cloth bags and upscale non-leather purses from Matt & Nat. They have a nice selection of full-sized bags along with wallets and wristlets.
They also carry cards to offer condolences for people who have lost a companion animal. Dogs and cats become true family members in our lives. It’s nice to have a place to get a grieving friend a card that honors that bond.
New Pioneer Co-op
New Pioneer Co-op has three locations in Eastern Iowa (Iowa City, Coralville, and Cedar Rapids). Much of the produce and prepared products at New Pi comes from local growers.
In addition, there’s a hot bar and bakery, where there are plant-based buffet items, salad fixings, cold sandwiches, breads, and dessert.
(They used to offer hot sandwiches as well. But sadly, they did away with them after new construction. Now they only offer hot sandwiches at their Cedar Rapids location.)
New Pi is the only place in Eastern Iowa where you can get Herbivorous Butcher vegan meats & cheeses. Offerings vary, but they usually include hickory bacon, pastrami, two kinds of ribs & steaks, chicken, and pulled pork – all vegan!
They’re available at New Pioneer Co-op in Iowa City, Coralville, and Cedar Rapids.
As for desserts, don’t miss the vegan chocolate chip cookies or freshly made cinnamon rolls. Eastern Iowans are so lucky to have freshly made vegan cinnamon rolls available daily. And I challenge you to find a better chocolate chip cookie anywhere.
If you’d rather spend your Saturday night watching Skeleton Twins, Boyhood, or The Overnight than Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Film Scene is the place for you.
Not only do they get art house films and documentaries that you won’t find in the mall movie theatre, they also have a number of plant-based food options.
Their popcorn is cooked in coconut oil. And they offer a shaker of nutritional yeast flakes. They have trail mix and banana bread from local restaurant, Trumpet Blossom.
Big Grove Brewery
Big Grove Brewery opened an Iowa City location in spring 2017. They already had a location in Solon, and this one is even larger. The expansive building includes an outdoor seating area with fire pits.
(A heads up: The Big Grove Brewery Solon offers a different menu. I shared pictures from the Solon location on Instagram.)
The indoor space is open and inviting. But be warned that it can get loud and echo-y on busy nights. I recommend sitting outside when possible. Plus, the outdoor seating is very family & dog-friendly with games & picnic tables.
Vegan & veganizable options are marked on the menu.
For appetizers, they have: hummus, pretzel with mustard, chips, guacamole, salsa, and baba ganoush with vegetable skewers.
Two salads can be prepared vegan – the garden grove salad & house salad.
They have cauliflower wings on the menu. The Korean BBQ cauliflower wings are vegan. The sesame ginger cauliflower wings are also listed as vegan on the menu. However, they’re not, because they contain honey. (A friend tried to order them and was warned by the server.)
The Korean BBQ wings would be improved with a dipping sauce. I’m going to ask for some of the vegan aioli from the banh mi next time!
For the main course, they offer black bean sweet potato tacos, curried cauliflower tacos, falafel on flatbread, a Beyond Burger, bibimbap, and tofu banh mi.
The tofu banh mi is wonderfully flavorful, but it can get messy. Grab more napkins than you think you’ll need. Or order it on rice as a bowl instead. It’s a lot easier to eat that way!
The banh mi can also be ordered with a Beyond Meat burger instead of tofu. Highly recommended!
The bibimbap (Korean rice bowl) can be ordered with mushrooms & tofu instead of steak for a vegan option. The vegan bibimbap is made without kimchi or an egg, but the price is the same.
Iowa City farmers market
The Iowa City farmers market is a twice-weekly affair on Wednesdays and Saturdays from May through October.
While there are plenty of in-season fruits and vegetables either day, Saturdays are when you’ll find the most hot items.
My favorite? The potato pancake topped with spicy tofu scramble and a ladling of salsa from Four Square Meals. The business is headed by Dave Burt, one of the co-owners of the former vegan restaurant, Red Avocado.
While you’re at the farmers market, pick up some pasta from my favorite local pasta maker, Zaza’s. Most of the varieties are vegan! I especially enjoy the pappardelle in vegan buttered noodles and artichoke pesto pasta.
Old Capitol Food Company
At last, there’s somewhere to find local and organic tofu in Iowa. Old Capitol Food Company was started by Ethan Brown, Jake Gratzon, and Matthew Mesaros.
Their tofu is sold at New Pioneer Co-op, Bread Garden Market, and some Iowa City Hy-Vee locations. It’s also used in dishes at various restaurants around town.
They also sell their own line of eggless mayonnaise, which is tasty.
Wilson’s Orchard & Rapid Creek Cidery
Visiting Wilson’s Orchard is a fall tradition. They are open to the public from August through October.
In addition to apples aplenty, Wilson’s also sells apple cider, apple slushies, and apple turnovers that just happen to be vegan. The turnovers can be purchased hot and fresh or frozen to eat later.
(Scroll through the pictures of this Instagram post to see the apple turnover ingredients.)
And once you get home from apple picking, you can make a veggie quesadilla with sliced apple, caramelized onions, spinach, and smoked vegan cheese.
For more pictures from Wilson’s Orchard, read about a past visit.
Wilson’s also has a full-service restaurant on site called Rapid Creek Cidery.
Their menu changes depending on the season. However, when I’ve visited they’ve been able to accommodate with eye-catching vegan options. It would be great if they would label their vegan options for easier planning & ordering.
Dodge Street Coffeehouse
If you’re driving down I-80 and need a quick place to stop for coffee or a grab-and-go meal, Dodge Street Coffeehouse is super convenient.
This unassuming coffee shop is attached to the BP gas station, in the place where Subway used to be. However, once you’re inside, it’s very quaint with large tables and even a play area for kids.
In addition to offering several kinds of non-dairy milk (soy, almond, and coconut), they occasionally have vegan scones on offer. Plus, they get readymade meals from local Iowa City restaurants like Trumpet Blossom, Oasis, and Nodo.
There are lots of plant-based options including salads, bowls, wraps, and snacks. Super handy when you need something fast, especially if you’re on the road without much time to stop.
Scratch Cupcakery in the Iowa River Landing offers one flavor of vegan cupcake daily.
The flavor changes by the day. So take a peek at their cupcake menu to know what they’re selling on the day you plan to visit.
Possible cupcake flavors include:
- Maple cinnamon
- Chocolate peanut butter
- Wedding day
- Chocolate raspberry
- And more!
This s’mores cupcake was perfection – very fresh with a wonderful bounciness.
The main cupcake had the flavor of a graham cookie. Then it was topped with vanilla buttercream frosting, chocolate ganache, and vegan marshmallows. So good, you won’t want to share!
The vegan wedding cake featured an almond cupcake. It was topped with vanilla frosting and silver sprinkles.
In addition to their Coralville location, Scratch Cupcakery has bakeries in Cedar Falls, Waterloo, and West Des Moines. They have different cupcake offerings at each location. Check out their menus on their website.
(Molly’s Cupcakes in downtown Iowa City and Des Moines also offers vegan cupcakes. However, I prefer Scratch, because the cupcake options, while more limited, are also more interesting.)
While “vegan-friendly” wouldn’t necessarily be the first words that come to mind with a wine and cheese shop, at Brix they have several options for plant-based folks.
They have a veggie banh mi with lentil-walnut pate, cucumbers, arugula, and pickled vegetables. It’s a hearty sandwich with lots of fresh vegetables.
Brix offers a vegan board on the menu. It includes house-made walnut-lentil pate, pickled shallots, cucumbers, and ciabatta. (So basically a deconstructed banh mi.)
There are other plant-based a la carte board options as well, including house marinated olives and spicy pickles.
Their roasted red pepper and tomato soup is vegan and comes topped with a drizzling of balsamic reduction. Occasionally, they offer vegan appetizers as well.
Now that vegan cheeses & meats have become more readily available in Iowa City at New Pioneer Co-op and beyond, it would be great to see them add some non-dairy cheeses and/or seitan deli slices to the mix. (Herbivorous Butcher, perhaps?)
I’ve asked in the past about them adding a vegan cheese, but so far that’s been a no go, sadly.
(Curious about what vegan cheeses would go well on a cheese board? Here’s a round-up of the best vegan cheese for your every need.)
There’s a small outdoor patio that’s lovely in the warm weather months. And the restaurant itself is quiet with low lights. It’s a nice place to have a quiet conversation with friends on a Friday night.
Plant-based burgers around town…
- 30Hop now offers a fully vegan burger on the menu. It’s an Impossible patty with tofu mayo, vegan cheese, and shiitake mushrooms. It’s the best preparation I’ve had of the Impossible Burger and my favorite burger in Iowa.
- The Impossible burger at Red’s Alehouse is vegan as-is and doesn’t require any substitutions. (While you’re there, I also recommend the vegan tamale!)
- The bun is not vegan at St. Burch. So it has to be ordered with focaccia instead.
- The regular bun at Tin Roost is vegan, but the gluten-free bun is not.
- Pullman’s version also requires substitutions to be vegan. (My favorite thing to order at Pullman is the huevos without eggs. It’s a black bean & potato hash with fried tortilla. You can see a pic on Instagram. I also made a black bean hash recipe loosely inspired by their dish.)
In a hurry?
If you don’t have time for a sit-down meal, there are several vegan fast food options in the Iowa City area. Options include Noodles & Company, Z’Mariks, Starbucks, Bruegger’s, Chipotle, and Blaze Pizza.
For more vegan options in Eastern Iowa, check out this post on vegetarian restaurants Cedar Rapids.
This vegan Iowa City round-up was originally posted October 2015. It was updated with up-to-date locations & offerings January 2020.