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.
(It was so good, I decided to make my own vegan burrito bowl inspired by it!)
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.
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.
(Scratch Cupcakery also offers vegan cupcakes. They have one vegan flavor, and it changes daily. They have locations in Cedar Falls, Coralville, Waterloo, and West Des Moines. Get more information on their Coralville location in my vegan Iowa City post.)
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 newly-added seitan wings are a fan favorite. (You can see a picture on my vegan Iowa City post.)
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.
Past events have also included live music, and a cooking demonstration by yours truly, where I showed how to make vegan three bean chili.
For vegan options in Davenport, Moline, Bettendorf, and Rock Island, check out my vegan Quad Cities post.