The Quad Cities straddle Iowa and Illinois and include Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa. On the Illinois side there’s Rock Island, Moline, and East Moline.
(What’s that? There are actually five cities that make up the Quad Cities? Well, yes. But let’s move on.)
Vegan Quad Cities
David and I have family in the Quad Cities. So we find ourselves there with some regularity.
Whenever we go, we have a few restaurants that we like to hit. Most of them aren’t vegetarian or vegan. However, they do make some delicious plant-based food.
Exotic Thai in Davenport, Iowa
The lengthy menu has asterisks next to the items that can be made vegetarian. From there, you’ll need to ask if it can be made vegan.
In addition to the option of adding tofu to any dish, they also have veggie chicken, which is toothsome and juicy. Many times when I’ve ordered it, the server has told me that it’s their favorite “protein” option as well, regardless of if or if not the server is vegetarian.
We often get the Thai rolls to start.
One of my favorite entrées is the spicy basil noodles made with stir-fried flat rice noodles, bell pepper, chilies, and onion with fresh basil leaves. It typically comes with egg as well, and so I ask them to omit it. I order it with the veggie chicken.
My other favorite is the kang-dang with brown rice.
David’s two favorite items on the menu are the tropical curry and garlic black pepper with tofu.
But perhaps the best part of the Exotic Thai experience is the hot sauce tray brought to the table upon request.
The hot sauces are made in house. And the slices of crisp jalapeño peppers are especially good. Soaking in a bath of vinegar, they maintain all of their crunch, as they haven’t been cooked and didn’t come out of a jar.
The last time I was there, the server told me she’d just made the hot sauces that day.
Please note that one of the hot sauces is not vegan. The sauce that has a couple different kinds of red peppers and is floating in a vinegar bath also contains fish sauce. (In the picture above, it’s the sauce furthest from the camera in the line-up.) The jalapeño slices and the sauce that looks like Sriracha is fine.
Would you like beer or cocktails with your meal? They have those as well.
If you like martinis, don’t leave without ordering a dirty gin martini. I’ve never had one better anywhere.
Olive Tree Café in Bettendorf, Iowa
For a quick and casual order-at-the counter option, Olive Tree Café in Bettendorf and Davenport has lots of options for vegans.
Some of the menu options require a simple request of no cheese, tzatziki, or aioli. If in doubt, the staff has been more than happy in the past to confirm with the kitchen which items don’t include animal products.
Here we have the Marrakesh Salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, roasted peppers, onions, cilantro, and a very mild hummus. Plus, the Grilled Veggie Flatbread pizza with mushrooms, tomatoes, red onions, and olives ordered without cheese.
You can see more options from Olive Tree Café check out this Vegan Iowa post.
Armored Gardens in Davenport, Iowa
If you get to a restaurant with a golf cart on the roof, you’ve reached the right place. Armored Gardens is a casual eatery and bar in downtown Davenport.
Once inside the door, you’ll notice that food orders are placed at a counter on one side, while a full bar is available on the other.
As you may have guessed, the restaurant has a golf theme, which includes golf playing on TV, a long golf club rack being used as a queue barrier, and flags for table markers.
The restaurant is clean and open with picnic tables for seating. There’s also outdoor seating in the back.
There are several vegan options on the menu – including a fried polenta appetizer, vegan BBQ sandwich, salad, slow cooked greens, slaw, vegan BBQ burrito wrap, and beet burger. The fries are also vegan, if ordered without the dipping sauce.
We started with the fried polenta, which is served in squares and topped with carrot chili pepper sauce. The polenta was soft and creamy inside. It almost put me to the mind of a veganized mozzarella stick.
For my main course, I had the vegan BBQ wrap, which is called the Stunt Double. It’s filled with vegan BBQ seitan, slaw, fries, red sauce, spitfire sauce, and greens.
The seitan tasted homemade, and the barbecue sauce didn’t overwhelm. I imagined that the greens in the burrito would be the same as the slow cooked greens served as a side, like they do at Homegrown Smoker; however, they were raw.
David got the Simple Salad, which includes spinach, arugula, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, and overnight tomatoes, which seemed similar to sun-dried tomatoes.
He also ordered a side of slow cooked greens, which were very soft and tangy from vinegar.
I had a chance to go back again and get the vegan BBQ sandwich. I ordered it Carolina-style, which means it’s topped with a vinegar based cole slaw & pickles.
I was a little surprised that it was served in big chunks, not shredded. However, it was hearty & delicious!
All of the food comes in throwaway packaging – including plastic bowls, paper containers, and plastic forks. It would be great to see them serve on reusable plates with reusable cutlery. Not only would that be better environmentally, it also would give a better aesthetic experience.
Crust in Bettendorf, Iowa
At Crust in Bettendorf, the flour for their pizza is imported from Italy along with the tomatoes for the sauce.
The pizzas are cooked for 90 seconds in a stone oven. The thin pizza with pillowy edges comes out crisp with fire-licked edges. The smokiness sears the crust, making for a truly delicious pizza.
It’s a real Naples-style pizza that takes me back to our honeymoon in Italy.
It would be more convenient if Crust listed out their vegetable topping options on their menu. However, a quick look through their pizzas and appetizers reveals the possibilities.
I know a cheeseless pizza is an option at any pizza joint, but the toppings at Crust take them to the next level.
With options like wild mushrooms, artichokes, scallions, baby arugula, asparagus, fresh basil, and garlic, this isn’t your typical Friday night pitcher of beer-variety pizza. (Although, they do have a lengthy beer list.)
They have a couple of appetizers that can be prepared vegan – truffle fries without the aioli and grilled asparagus without the cheese.
Note: They used to offer pine nuts and potatoes on their menu (as shown at the top of this post), but sadly, they took them off of their menu, along with a warmed olive appetizer I loved.
Mantra in Davenport, Iowa
Mantra Indian Cuisine is located in downtown Davenport, not far from the Mississippi River. It’s a non-vegan restaurant with lots of marked vegan options, which makes dining out so much easier.
If you’re a fan of spicy food, start with mirchi pakora. If you love jalapeño poppers, you’ll love these stuffed jalapeños that are filled with samosa-style potatoes. They are battered in what tastes like a chickpea flour coating and then deep-fried.
Because they are made with fresh jalapeño peppers, the amount of heat in each one will vary by pepper. Get the water glass ready just in case.
For a milder appetizer option, check out batata vada. These lightly spiced balls of potatoes and peas are battered in flour and fried. They’re served with house-made chutneys – cilantro, tamarind, and my personal favorite, onion.
(Pro-tip: The batata vada reheats beautifully in the air fryer if you can’t finish them off at the restaurant.)
My favorite entrée at Mantra is the chana masala. It has a deep, rich flavor and bold color that makes me wonder if they cook their chana masala with amla, also called awala or Indian gooseberries. They remind me of a favorite dish at Shree Indian Restaurant in Illinois.
To hear about more vegan options from Mantra Indian Cuisine, check out my full review of Mantra here.
Healthy Harvest Urban Farms in Rock Island, Illinois
Across the river in Rock Island Illinois is Healthy Harvest Urban Farms.
It is a small grocery store that offers organic produce and a variety of specialty products like No Evil Foods seitan, Punk Rawk vegan cheese, Miyoko’s vegan cheese, and Comfort Food Farms vegan cheese (a local vegan cheese maker).
This isn’t an exclusively vegan grocery store, however. They also sell animal products.
Inside of the grocery store is a small vegan cafe with smoothies, salads, wraps, and sandwiches.
On the day I visited, I got a tofu scramble and tempeh BLT. The sizes were generous, and the food was freshly made and flavorful.
Freight House Farmers Market in Davenport, Iowa
One of my favorite things to do in the summer is visit the farmers market. Whether it’s in my own town, or while I’m on vacation, it’s always fun to see what is in season and local.
As the months pass and the seasons change, so do the fruits and vegetables on offer.
The Freight House Farmers Market in Davenport is within eye line of the Mississippi River. They have both an indoor & outdoor market.
The outdoor market is open from the beginning of May through the end of October. The indoor market is open year ‘round.
Hours are Saturdays 8 to 1, Sundays 10 to 2, and Wednesdays 8 to 1.
In addition to produce, the farmers market has arts, crafts, and music.
One restaurant inside of the Freight House, Fresh Deli by Nostalgia Farms, has a few veganizable items on their menu. Options include a flat bread pizza, black bean tacos, and avocado slider. I haven’t tried any of the dishes, however.
Other vegan options in the Quad Cities
If you need to pick up provisions for the road, there is a natural food store in Davenport called Greatest Grains. They have a large variety of packaged food & specialty items.
For something of the quick casual variety, there are locations of the chains Noodles & Company, Bruegger’s Bagels, Starbucks, and Chipotle in the Quad Cities