Where to Eat When You Find Yourself in Iowa City, Iowa for 28 Hours

On a recent snowy (!) April Saturday my husband and I drove down for a brief weekend trip to Iowa City as he was doing a talk on Sunday morning. We only had 28 hours there but I was seriously worried about being able to find vegan options to even support me for that short time! I didn’t need to worry. On the way down, as we rushed to avoid the incoming winter storm, I did a quick search on Happy Cow on my cell phone and found lots of great sounding options. Since we were only there for three meals I had to make choices. What follows is an outline of the happy finds I made for each of my meals:

We were arriving around noon on Saturday so I hunted around to find the best option for lunch. Trumpet Blossom came up with the highest Happy Cow rating (4.5) so I checked out their web site. Lo, and behold I found out that they were having their 25th Anniversary celebration that weekend and that included live music during brunch on Saturday! Sweet! We drove directly there as it was too early to check into our hotel. It is in a rather nondescript building near downtown but the inside has the most spectacular old wood bar taking up one side of the venue. There were a good number of tables and while it was busy we didn’t have to wait. The food and drink selections at this all-vegan restaurant were extensive and there were even things for my flexitarian husband to love. The food was all tasty, well presented and unique. They even had falafel waffles! I had the vegan florentine and my husband had the soup and cornbread (which he let me save for breakfast the next day!). Both were great. They are known for their tempeh Reuben.

Our next choice was to go for dinner at the Big Grove Brewery since no trip is complete for my husband without a brewery tour. And this brewpub is highly rated and has a large vegan selection (pubs there can actually make and serve meals!). We walked into this gigantic space and were unable to find a seat as it is so popular. They have a large, lovely outdoor patio filled with many fire pits but the weather was not ideal for sitting outside (the snow hadn’t made it there but cold drizzle had!) We left and made this our Sunday lunch instead. At that time it was still busy but we got seats. The staff recommended the sesame ginger Cauliflower wings and I took their recommendation. I was not disappointed. The beers were also excellent making this place a hit for my husband and me! 

Saturday night dinner we went to Mellow Mushroom which is the closest outpost of this mostly southeastern pizza restaurant chain. They have a cute, whimsical hippy era decor—this one complete with an alien abduction of a cow mid-restaurant. The selections for the pizzas and calzones were pretty vegan-friendly with a wide assortment of veggies including tempeh and tofu toppings with Follow Your Heart Vegan cheese. There are several specialty combos they were glad to customize to be vegan but I went with a “design your own” pizza. There were also a few salad options.

Afterwards, I did a carousel ride on a carousel right outside the restaurant with very cute animals in addition to the traditional horses!

My last stop before heading out of town was downtown to see the historic area and the famous Prairie Lights Bookstore—right around the corner was  Molly’s Cupcakes which had several vegan options which I grabbed for the road. All and all a very satisfying trip with lovely vegan eating options.


Have you gone on a trip recently? We want to hear about it! Guides like happycow.net are great to start planning a trip, and so are tips on how to make and keep your trip to somewhere vegan from folks who have visited prior.

Let us know if you’d be willing to share your trip and some of its highlights with us at info@exploreveg.org.

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