Fair Grounds Coffeehouse

  • Veg-friendly Veg-friendly
    ( 20 reviews )

345 S Dubuque St (at Burlington), Iowa City, Iowa, USA, 52240

Serves meat, vegan options available. Previously all veg but no longer, as reported to happycow Oct 2012. Cozy coffee house and bakery with artwork displays. Extensive menu consists of breakfast foods, panini sandwiches, nachos, baked goods, tempeh, smoothies, and organic fair trade coffee. Vegan items are marked. Open Mon-Fri 6:30am-10:00pm, Sat-Sun 8:00am-10:00pm.

Category: Vegan-friendly, Lacto, Ovo, American, Fast food, Take-out, Bakery, Non-veg

Reviews (20)

First Review by maryd

Great Place - Edit

Stopped in and had the breakfast burrito. It was amazing. It has very fresh ingredients. Staff was pleasant and friendly. Lovely atmosphere. I highly recommend.

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Delicious! - Edit

They only had a handful of veg options, but the ones I've had have been amazingly delicious and are totally worth going for!

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Used to be great.... - Edit

This place continues to be less and less vegan friendly, if in fact they have any at all. My "vegan" breakfast burrito seemed to consist largely of egg. Had it not, I still would have had serious questions about cross contamination with cooking surfaces and utensils.

If you are looking for a place you can pay for a meal and walk away having eaten nothing but smelled a lot of cooking flesh, this place is for you.

Updated from previous review on Saturday Nov 22, 2013

1 Response

hclark 07 Feb 2012 - In my opinion, things have not changed for the better since the new ownership, but for the worse. We have had several bad experiences with food and/or service. Drinks have remained good. If I were to re-review this restaurant I would drop it down to about 3 stars from the 5 I gave it originally. It's still great to have it as an option, but I no longer take my friends and family there as a special treat.  

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Disappointed - Edit

I didn't realize that this place serves meat, and as a strict ethical vegan, I wasn't thrilled about them having a fish tank in the back. I am not 100% certain, but I believe they cook the vegan food on the same grill and equipment as the meat and dairy. I'm also not sure what type of oil they used to cook the tofu scramble in, but my tofu and veggies were swimming in it. They also brought our food out along with dishes of butter, which we promptly set aside. The tofu they use is non-GMO, so that's good, and they do have some great tasting vegan desserts. Their prices are inexpensive, also. I doubt we'll be back, but for vegans who aren't concerned about their food coming into contact with meat and dairy, and who don't care that the food isn't organic, then this would be ok for them.

Pros: Non-GMO tofu, Inexpensive, Vegan desserts

Cons: Food may come in contact with meat, Not organic, Not a place for strict ethical vegans

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Hit and Miss - Edit

Update: Such a bummer that this restaurant decided to start serving meat. They also removed from their menu some of their former vegan specialty items like vegan nachos. Since it was already inconsistent, I find myself visiting less often since their addition of meat entrees.

Original review: I've been to Fair Grounds many times since it's one of the few vegetarian eateries in Iowa City. It offers a relaxed atmosphere, lots of tables for reading and socializing, and a couple of couches for relaxing. My favorite items on their menu are the breakfast burrito, grilled hummus sandwich, and the vegan super nachos. (It would be great if there were an option to add beans to the nachos to make them more substantive.)

In my experience, the service has been really hit and miss. Most of the time, it takes a very long time for the food and coffee to arrive. By very long, I mean that I've waited as much as 40 minutes for a breakfast burrito, even when the place is fairly empty. I tried going during work for lunch once, and after a half an hour, I had to take my food to go. Now I only go when I have lots of time to spare.

For their baked goods, they offer vegan cupcakes. I've been there when the cupcakes have just arrived, and they can be really good. However, the case they keep them in is very cold, and it dries them out.
Updated from previous review on Tuesday May 22, 2012

Pros: vegan waffles, vegan breakfast burrito, delicious coffee

Cons: Slow service, Dried out cupcakes, Started serving meat

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Improved dining experience - Edit

I have been to Fair Grounds coffeehouse under the old ownership and under the new ownership. I always liked getting coffee there because I could also get really good fresh baked goods that were actually made there, unlike Starbucks and some of the other coffee hangouts. The food remains excellent and the service has improved substantially. My recent experience was on a fairly busy weekend. I had a black bean burger which was fantastic. They are continuing to add new things to the menu. Their soups and new salads are great. My server was friendly and patient with my while I made up my mind, which was hard to do with so many interesting options. The staff is much more friendly than the staff a few years back. If you have not been back to Fair Grounds in awhile, you owe it to ourself to give them another try.
Updated from previous review on Sunday April 15, 2012

Pros: Good value, Awesome food, Friendly staff

Cons: would like extended hours at night

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Makes me want to move to Iowa City - Edit

I loved my strawberry waffle. I expected whipped cream on top but it was soft serve! I felt like a hedonist. I also had the Monte Cristo, a treasure something cupcake, and a green tea latte. All were delicious. The Monte Cristo and the waffle were something else.

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Good food and great atmosphere - Edit

I recently went to Iowa City for a football game and was pleasantly surprised to find Fair Grounds. They have several kinds of vegan cheese that they make in-house (including brie, which is AMAZING), as well as an extensive selection of vegan waffles, french toast, and panini. The espresso is good and the desserts are even better. I thought the service was a little slow but the food was well worth the wait. I did not have any problem with servers or the owner, and I ate there twice in one day! Also, the bathrooms were extremely clean.

Pros: Good food, In-house vegan cheese, Nice atmosphere

Cons: Slow-ish service, Small portions for some items

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amazing! - Edit

This place was unbelievable--and I've eaten all over the country. I had the McVegan Waffle (DELICIOUS) though not super large/filling. My boyfriend got the "grilled cheese" with some kalamata olives and it was delicious--don't look for a melted slice, though, it's the house "cheese" on display--and it's delicious.

We finished it off with green tea muffins, biscotti, and some coffee cake to-go, and I had the Waldorf Astoria (red velvet cake with decadent vanilla frosting) and my boyfriend had the german chocolate cake for dessert. Run, don't walk to this mid-western treat!

Pros: DELICIOUS, VEGAN, Reasonable prices

Cons: Not in KY where I live

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Great food! - Edit

I lived a few doors away from Fair Grounds the year that it opened, and I used to go here a few times a week. I really like the vegan cheese on grilled panini. The french toast is also really delicious and unique. I'd also found it okay as a place to study although I don't drink coffee. In my experience, the service is usually good, but suffers during peak breakfast hours, i.e. brunch-time on Sunday, when it can get insanely busy. The owner was always really friendly and helpful to me as a regular.

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Great First Experience - Edit

I visit the Iowa City area every month for business and during my visit last month I ate at this coffee house for the first time. I was extremely pleased with the food, staff and service. As many of you know, finding a place this is vegan-friendly can be quite challenging, so needless to say I was elated to find Fair Grounds Coffeehouse. In response to the other comments, I did not have any issues with the staff or owner. Perhaps these concerns have been addressed. As vegans and vegetarians, we should stick together and support local restaurants that cater to our needs, as we are their key to survival/success. I am looking forward to visiting this coffee house again during my next visit and encourage you to give it a try - I think you will be pleased.

Pros: Vegan-Friendly, Great Food and Smoothies, Nice Atmosphere

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Thumbs UP! - Edit

While visiting my daughter last month, my husband and I became regulars there. If service was an issue before, they fixed it, because we can't remember a time that wasn't exactly what we'd expect given the crowd. I found the staff to be attentive and very friendly. My goal now is to find a place like it in the Boston area. Still looking!

Pros: Creative food, Waffles!, Funky atmosphere

Cons: Music a little loud

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Too bad - Edit

Service is terrible, food is okay but not great. The so-called cheese is disgusting, I would not reccomend geting a sandwich there again. I mostly went there to get coffee and study. You'd think the place would be a nice place to study or hangout but it's not. It's usually quiet but that means you have to hearr the manager-owner lady yelling at the workers and complaining about her personal life, it makes it really weird to hang out there. I gave this place a few chances, I thought it would of gotten better but everytime I was there something negative happened. The other reviews about the service are true, it's slow and rude. I had to wait forever for the owner (? loud blond lady?) to even notice I was in line! And then she was totally rude to me.

Pros: good location, nice building

Cons: service is bad, food not great, annoying

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so lucky to have fair grounds in IC - Edit

What a great place for breakfast!!!! i love their french toasts. omelette waffle is amazing. who would have thought about putting scrambled tofu and cheese in a waffle? owner is very friendly, creative and a dedicated vegan. so lucky to have a local business like that in Iowa City. i personally never had a bad experience with the employees. everyone was very nice, and i also didn't wait that long for my order. oh, by the way, PBR smoothie is also one of my favorites.

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Insanely good vegan waffle, horrible service - Edit

Its hard to believe such a wonderful place would have such bad service. I guess any vegan owners that'd serve up nonvegan products would be into making $? Take your crew to a motivational camp or something and also get an air filter in there. I don't think you're place is ventilated well because you come out smelling like a griddle, perhaps everyone is oxygen deprived? I'd give your place a 10 if you could fix your crew and the stench it leaves on my hair and clothes! Go here for the vegan waffles and bring a newspaper or War and Peace to read while waiting.

Pros: waffles, vegan treats

Cons: staff, slowness, no ventilation

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Great Food, Crappy STAFF!! - Edit

I hate to knock vegan friendly joints but the staff here was terrible. The were slow, rude and lied to us:( But the Mcvegan Waffle almost made up for it. It was amazing!! I've never had anything like it before, they mixed tofu scramble in the waffle!! The desserts were so creative and truly a treat! I would have ate dinner here too but it was 20 min. till close and they didn't want to serve us:(

Pros: Waffles, Flavor Drinks, Desserts

Cons: STAFF, Smell of the restaurant

1 Response

Fair Grounds 22 Feb 2013 - Well, as the owner, I'm sorry to hear this. When I'm around (12 hours of the day), my staff acts fine and food goes out reasonably. Unfortunately, most of these complaints happen at night, when I have taken my leave. I apologize, but would make this a better response is to leave the names of rude employees and the details of any incident with the owner (me). Otherwise, how am I to address these concerns? Thank you for enjoying the food, and thank you to everyone who can overlook a few problems in their quests for wholesome, cruelty-free eating.  

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Great food, good for the community - Edit

We've been to Fair Grounds on several occasions, mostly on Saturdays. It's so nice to have another option where you can order near anything off the menu and not have to worry. We love, love, love their waffles (especially the chai and mcvegan) and french toast. So happy they offer soy whip as well as soy milk for the drinks and at no extra charge!! Not a big fan of the cheese we've tried, but will have to give it another go. Haven't been able to attend any of their events yet, but many look interesting. Like that they support local artists and are breasfteeding friendly. Parking nearby is oh so easy as they're connected to a city ramp. A great asset to Iowa City.

Pros: so many choices!, excellent food, plenty of parking

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yay for vegans! boo for service! - Edit

i want this vegan cafe to survive, but i have heard such awful things about the owners, that i doubt i will ever go back. i have heard these reports from people who worked there...being vegan means being nice to everyone and thing...like not doing things like paying people a working wage or calling people names and laughing at costumers behind their backs..... so boooo on the owners.

Pros: vegan food

Cons: trash talking employees

1 Response

Fair Grounds 22 Feb 2013 - I normally would not get involved with the customer feedback process, but as the owner of Fair Grounds Coffeehouse I feel I have to respond to comments like this. I also think that HappyCow is such a useful resource for vegans (I have been one for seventeen years and have used it on many occasions) that it is important for people to hear both sides of the issue.
I opened this coffeeshop less than a year ago with the idea of providing Fair Trade coffee and animal-free food and baked goods, and have been going through the same struggles that most small businesses suffer through. Like most coffeeshops, I've had high turnover in employees. Some I have had to let go, and some have quit with varying degrees of notice. I have always paid employees at least a dollar over minimum wage, and have let them know from the start what their pay would be. If I've ever complained about anyone it's because I am, in fact, a human being who can get frustrated.
If anyone wants to discuss my business practices with me openly, they are free to come talk to me. In the meantime, we should keep this forum a place to discuss actual experiences, not a place to spread rumors or for former employees to satisfy a personal vendetta. Otherwise, thanks for the great comments and suggestions, everyone! Keep 'em coming!
Christine Peterson  

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