Mention the word “vegan,” and almost automatically people think of coastal cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City. However, America’s heartland is brimming with veg options just as delicious and innovative as anything found near the ocean. Join us on our search of the best plant-based food in Midwestern (mostly) capital cities.
The Windy City has more to offer than the beloved Chicago Diner thanks to a handful of Native Foods Cafés, Upton’s Breakroom (a sandwich mecca attached to the production facility of jackfruit and seitan brand Upton’s Naturals), and pan-Asian vegan restaurant Loving Hut (operating in Chicago as Alice & Friends’ Vegan Kitchen). You can also grab a raw wrap at Chicago Raw, while Arya Bhavan, Annapurna, and Uru-Swati have vegan dosas and curries.
Fast-casual vegan eatery Three Carrots Restaurant features Buffalo Wraps and a version of a Caesar salad called the “Marcus Brutus,” while ditching the honey at Ezra’s Enlightened Cafe offers vegans a seasonally driven menu of bowls filled with fermented veggies, local produce, and housemade cashew cheeses. Hidden gems include vegan doughnuts at Rocket 88 Doughnuts, coconut-based vegan scoops from Broad Ripple Ice Cream Station, a Thursday night vegan Indian food buffet at Spice Nation, and The Sinking Ship’s Smash the State “Meatball” Sandwich.
Des Moines, IA
Begin your Des Moines vacation at Ritual, where lattes can be made with non-dairy milks and a rotating selection of vegan cupcakes are available daily. The dedicated vegan menu at Krunkwich Ramen House features seven different styles of noodle dishes, creative sandwiches, and an entire section of “Krunk Tots.” If Mexi-Korean fusion (with a hint of Vietnamese) is more your style, head to Tacopocalypse, where vegan menu items such as red curry burritos, masa fries, a weekend French toast-waffle brunch (minus the honey butter), and three vegan taco meat fillings—seitan andouille, chorizo, and Korean tofu—are featured on the menu.
Soup Spoon Cafe offers the “Very Vegan” Start—potatoes, grilled vegetables, and vegan lentil patty—for breakfast, while Altu’s Ethiopian Cuisine has a separate vegetarian menu with items cooked in vegetable oil. Also, look out for traveling vegan diner truck Shimmy Shack for a veg version of a classic American hamburger.
St. Paul, MN
Veg-friendly Foxy Falafel allows diners to choose a stuffed-pita sandwich, platter, or salad with three falafel-flavor options. At Thai restaurant Sawatdee, the manager is vegan and makes sure the staff is fluent in veganese so animal products don’t find its way into orders of vegetable potstickers or stir-fry.
Maggie’s Vegetarian Cafe is a bit old-school but has an array of hummus wraps and a selection of vegan muffins, scones, and cookies. Following the hippie theme, pizza joint Mellow Mushroom offers a build-your-own pizza with options such Daiya cheese, tofu, tempeh, and a slew of vegetables.
Oahu Hawaiian Cuisine—an eclectic mish-mash of barbecue, sushi, and Thai—is veg-accommodating thanks to edamame, miso soup, and the Green and Peace roll, while FireFlour Pizza and Coffee House has a vegan oatmeal raisin cookie that pairs with carefully sourced coffees highlighted by a touch of soy or almond milk.
All-vegan Portia’s Cafe serves Notuna salad made with sunflower seed, walnut, and pickle pâté, a pad Thai dish inspired by Café Gratitude, and four flavors of “cheezecake.” Diners can also grab a veggie dog and dress it as they please at Daredevil Dogs, munch on a vegan cheese slice from chain zpizza, and have a vegan blueberry brownie at The Angry Baker, or anything (and everything) at completely vegan Pattycake Bakery.
From Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace’s Vegan Queso & Chips and the almost entirely vegan menu at Green Owl Cafe (hello, cinnamon rolls!) to The Dane County Farmer’s Market and Bloom Bake Shop’s red beet cupcakes, Madison is a vegan wonderland. There’s even a farm animal sanctuary to rest your vegan soul.
Photo courtesy of Serious Eats