Dining, Iowa

Vegan Guide to Dubuque, Iowa

One thing we’ve noticed on our road trip travels is that some cities are better than others when it comes to making it a point to look for locally sourced foods so they’re able to provide fresh, local ingredients. We find that these types of restaurants offer thoughtful and creative menus. 

Dubuque is definitely a city where you’ll find some great vegan dining options. We find in our travels that some cities really care about sustainable and local food producers and it’s evident of the importance of this in the Dubuque food scene.

Vegan Guide to Dubuque, IA

As we vegans know, some towns are easier to eat vegan than others. Eating in Dubuque means a combination of needing to modify at some places and vegan clearly marked at other places. 

The food scene in Dubuque, Iowa is scrumptious, and even if it’s not on the menu, the restaurants listed here were happy to create a plant-based/vegan option upon request. 

Some of our meals were provided by Travel Dubuque but all opinions are our own.

Vegan Breakfast

Convivium Urban Garden

Convivium Urban Garden is a vegetable oasis right in the heart of Dubuque. The concept of this non-profit is to feed the community and improve life through food for the community of Dubuque! Convivium is the Latin word for Feast. The concept and mission at Convivium are so great that it deserves its own blog post. We stopped for breakfast and noshed on some sweet potato pancakes. They were so good and filling! Cinnamon, nutmeg, and sweet potato….. an incredible combo!

A thing to note about the menu at Convivium is the sweet potato pancake was the only vegan option on the menu at the time of our visit. Since their mission is growing vegetables we made the assumption there would be multiple vegan options to choose from but this was not the case.

Hotel Julien

Hotel Julien is an experience in itself. The menu at Carolines Restaurant, located in Hotel Julien does not include vegan items on the menu but Chef Mike did mention that they do vegan meals upon request. Chef Mike has a background and interest in sustainable cooking and it definitely shows in the meals that he prepares for hotel guests.

Chef Mike at Hotel Julien created an amazing sweet potato and beet hash for breakfast. Accommodating the vegans in the group, Chef Mike added tofu scramble to our plates. The dish was incredibly flavorful. The dish consisted of roasted sweet beets, russet potato, tofu sprinkled with curry and topped off with pumpkin seeds.

Inspire Cafe

Inspire Cafe has several vegan menu options for breakfast and lunch. We were there for breakfast and chose the Sunrise Veggie Bowl which consists of kale, roasted potatoes, caramelized onions, avocado, sauteed green pepper, and oven-roasted tomatoes served with hummus. It was very good. Portions were a little small but we loved it. 

Kelly also had a maple oat pancake latte with almond milk. It was so good! We typically order black coffee but this was calling her name! 

The lunch menu has more vegan options than the breakfast menu if you plan to go!

Vegan Pasta

L. May Eatery 

Expect a lovely dining experience at L.May Eatery. Casual or fancier, it’s a comfortable spot that feels special in a restored historic neighborhood of Dubuque, Main Street. 

Sourcing local ingredients is one of the key factors at L. May and vegan options are clearly marked on the menu. You’ll find a vegan option in every category of the menu which is a huge bonus!

Order the house salad with vegan dressing which is a citrus herb vinaigrette. It’s delicious. 

The Veggie Pasta was incredible. The dish consisted of house-made fettuccine noodles, ginger coconut milk roasted cauliflower, squash, mushroom, and spinach. All sprinkled with a little nutmeg. It was delicious. 

Get this….they even have an incredible vegan chocolate mousse on the menu. We were dining with non-vegans and we all agreed that this vegan mousse was delicious. 

Pepper Sprout

Prior to our visit, We reviewed the menu both online and then again at the table but did not see any vegan options. We mentioned to our waitress that we were wondering if the kitchen could come up with some veggies and a potato or a big salad, something like that. The waitress came out a few minutes later and asked if a veggie curry would be OK. We said a veggie curry would be perfect. We typically order veggie curry when we visit Thai restaurants because we love a good veggie curry.

Suffice it to say that we have never had a veggie curry like the one that Chef Kim prepared for us at her restaurant, Pepper Sprout

Sidebar- when I read the name Pepper Sprout, I mumbled a few words from a Johnny Cash song- “hotter than a pepper sprout”  but I couldn’t place the song. 

After Chef Kim came and greeted our table she explained that her restaurant was named after the Johnny Cash song, Jackson. She and a college friend were cooking one night about 30 years ago in San Francisco and dreaming about opening a restaurant. They knew they’d name it after Johnny Cash somehow. And here we have Pepper Sprout in Dubuque! It is a must-visit for sure!

Back to the curry….this was the most unique (in a good way) curry we have ever had and here’s why:

Chef Kim used portobello, chicken of the woods (oyster mushrooms), maitake, and shitake mushrooms.  To that, she added garlic, shallots, carrot, yellow squash, broccoli, and tomatoes. She deglazed all of the veg in white wine then added pepper flakes and cilantro and just a touch of brown sugar. She used both green and red curry. It was absolutely amazing. 

We thanked Kim Chef for such a great creation and she did mention that they prepare a lot of vegan dishes for guests. So don’t be afraid to ask your waitress for a vegan opinion if it isn’t on the menu!

Also, look how they prepare the leftovers! Underneath the tinfoil is saran wrap. Seems so much smarter than plastic take-out containers.

Vegan Pizza

Brazen

We were really excited to eat at Brazen. Located in the Historic Millwork District, once deserted, the area is being revitalized and is now a neighborhood where you can find retail space, coffee, breweries, wine, and gourmet food!

The chef/owner of Brazen was once on Bravo’s Top Chef and is a Le Cordon Bleu of Culinary Arts trained chef with an impressive resume of fine dining restaurants.

The concept of Brazen is really neat. They don’t have a freezer in the kitchen so some of the menu options can change every three days!

During our visit, the only vegan option was a pizza. We were hoping for something more creative than that but the pizza did not disappoint! We chose the Crust + Vegan option. The ingredients were kale pesto, carrot, caramelized onion, apple, walnut, and a vegan creme fraiche.

The cocktail menu is beautiful so we also recommend trying something new! My drink (pictured left) was the Chapman. Ingredients are Cruzan Black Strap Rum, Appleton Estate Rum, Vzipars Apple Cider, lime, cinnamon, and walnut bitters. I’ve never had anything like it and would definitely order again.

The dessert was unbelievable. Look at that chocolate cake!

Magoo’s Pizza

We wanted a quick lunch while we were out and about and found Magoo’s Pizza that offers vegan cheese. We ordered the vegetarian with vegan cheese and it hit the spot. They also have a nice selection of salads. 

Magoo’s also has a Des Moines location so we’ll likely check them out the next time we hit Des Moines.  

Thai Food

Pete’s Thai Kitchen

We love to eat at Pete’s Thai Kitchen. This is one of our favorite Thai restaurants so we’re always happy to repeat! 

The ambiance is pretty and the prices are very reasonable. They offer a large menu and the vegan options are clearly marked along with a notation that anything can be made vegetarian (or vegan).

Our favorites include fresh rolls for appetizers, vegan pad thai, red curry, and Thai wok noodles (Pad Se Iew). 

For dessert, we highly recommend saving room for and ordering the mango sticky rice. It’s so good!

Breweries with Vegan Food

7 Hills Brewery

We were surprised by how big of a menu this 7 Hills Brewery offers. Also located in the Historic Mill District this brewery has a full menu and bar in addition to their craft beers. 

For appetizers, ask for the Hangry Sprouts to have no butter and omit the creamy lime dipping sauce and you have a delicious appetizer. They also serve a Bruh Chetta which is their twist on bruschetta – crostini, tomatoes, basil, garlic, dried cranberries, balsamic glaze (ask for the kitchen to omit the feta).

This is definitely a meat-based menu with not so much as an Impossible Burger on the menu but the Forbidden Fruit Salad (omit the feta cheese) will not leave you disappointed. It has local apples, blueberries, and candied pecans on lots of greens. The citrus vinaigrette is delicious. We were not disappointed in any way with this salad. The serving was huge!

Great vegan options in Dubuque, IA

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