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The stigma against plant-based diets has officially become a thing of the past. And thanks to the endless options for great vegan and vegetarian food in San Diego, there’s no reason not to jump on the plant-lover bandwagon.
Whether you’re a hardcore vegan vet, just cutting down your meat intake, or simply in the mood for something different, there are tons of eateries in the city to explore.
It’s not uncommon to hear echoes of “I am whole” or “I am content” as you sit at a communal table in the bright, calm space that is Café Gratitude in Little Italy. These affirmations of positivity happen to be the name of the dishes on the menu, and after one bite of food here, chances are you will feel content. While you're there, keep on the lookout for the singer Jason Mraz. Little-known fact: he owns an avocado farm in San Diego County and is a partner with Café Gratitude!
Peace Pies in Ocean Beach and Encinitas is the perfect spot for new vegans craving their old favorites or for anybody looking for some good ol’ comfort food. The restaurant veganized everything from cheesecake to quesadillas, and it’s all so good that even your pickiest friends won’t complain about the lack of cheese or meat. Our recommendation? Try the Mystical Mushroom Quesadilla followed by a slice of their classic strawberry cheesecake. Fitt Tip: You can also find them at area farmers markets, so check their website for locations, times, and days.
Thanks to its unfinished wooden walls, communal tables, succulents, and an extensive local beer list, Grains on Adams Ave. is a modern vegan’s dream come true. And while they’ve got awesome entrée options like a jackfruit “pork” banh mi, the appetizers are the real stars of the menu here. The deep-fried mushroom calamari and buffalo cauliflower apps go perfectly with a round of beers and a few friends (vegan or not).
Nestled on Highway 101 in Encinitas, EVE has been serving tasty vegan cuisine and happy vibes since opening its doors. You’ll find superfood smoothies, cold-pressed juices, local kombucha, Instagram-worthy buddha bowls, and a relaxed space to grab a bite and hang with pals. For an extra flavorful dish, order the popular Legendary Hero, a buddha bowl with braised kale, brussel sprouts, beets, hemp seed, brown rice, and more.
Veganic Thai Cafe is a cozy spot in University Heights that’s serving killer vegan dishes with a Thai flare. Locals swear by Veganic’s mock “duck” in any of their dishes, but be sure to order it with the Drunken Noodles at least once. They’ve also got pumpkin curry and fried bananas with vegan ice cream, because there’s always room for dessert, right?
In South Park, you’ll find one-of-a-kind heavy metal music playing, craft cocktail serving vegan food restaurant, KINDRED. Enjoy your Fried and Pickled (fried pickles and buffalo cauliflower) or Wizard Bowl (kale salad with all the garnishes) with a side of Metallica under The Beast (the mythical wolf/snake/skull totem on the wall).
The Clairemont Mesa/Kearny Mesa neighborhood is a hot spot for Asian cuisine. Sipz Vegetarian Fuzion Café is one of the best Asian eateries in town, serving up hearty portions of your favorite Chinese, Japanese, and Thai meals that hold strong to their veggie roots. Our favorites include Pad Thai (get it with the “chikn” option) and the Caterpillar sushi roll (think mushrooms, yams, and avocado). Fitt Tip: they don’t serve sushi rolls until after 5pm, but be sure to stop in for their weekly happy hour from 3-6pm before you order.
Plumeria in University Heights is proof that vegetarian food can be upscale. From the mint-infused water to the perfectly-blended jasmine and brown rice with every order, no attention to detail is left behind at this health-conscious restaurant. Plus, Plumeria is green in more ways than one. You can place a to-go order, and they’ll take $1 off if you bring your own containers!
Ranchos Cocina serves a full menu of traditional Mexican dishes, but they’re famous for their vegan and vegetarian options that go far beyond the classic bean and cheese burritos. We’re talking vegan “carne asada” burritos, sweet potato quesadillas, and possibly the best mole sauce we’ve ever had. You really can’t go wrong with anything at Ranchos, which makes this North Park spot the perfect place to take a crew of vegans and non-vegans alike.
The make-your-own food combinations at Flower Child in Del Ma are endless. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed by creating your own meal, you can always choose one of their pre-made entrée items, like the Vegan Poke or the popular Mother Earth bowl — a hearty creation featuring ancient grains, veggies, and a house-made vinaigrette. Whatever you decide to get, just be sure to order a side of the Red Chili Glazed Sweet Potatoes (you won’t regret it).
Plant Power Fast Food turns everything you thought you knew about fast food on its head. This joint serves meals that are cruelty-free and sans dairy, artificial ingredients, and GMOs. Swing by for a selection of plant-based salads, burgers, handhelds, and grab-n-go items that are second to none (hello walnut and sunflower burger patties). And their commitment to the planet doesn’t stop there — all of their menu items are served in 100% biodegradable materials. So you have more than one reason to feel good about this healthy eats haven in Encinitas and Ocean Beach.
The meals at Veggilish are simple, straightforward, and seriously delicious. The fully-customizable menu allows you to build the bowl of your dreams from whole grains, seasonal veggies, organic protein sources, and house-made dressings and sauces. And their downtown location is the perfect spot for a quick lunch between meetings or a healthy stop on your way to a Padres game. You can chase down your meal with a Solti juice or house-brewed hibiscus iced tea.
This Mission Beach hot spot has a little bit of everything. Order up some tapas to snack on and share with your friends, or try one of their drool-worthy bowls for lunch. We'd be hard-pressed to pick our favorite dish here, but their signature Soulshine Tacos, made with tumeric and black pepper tortillas, Indian spiced lentils, kale, and cashew crema, are a must-try.
Like many San Diego restaurants, Tocaya Organica on 5th Ave. and in La Jolla was founded in LA and quickly moved down the coast before making a new home for itself here. The SoCal chain is all about fresh ingredients, big flavors, and killer aesthetics. While their focus is primarily vegan Mexican food, you’ll also find an entire menu of cheese and meat options that you can add to any dish. But we suggest ordering one of their massive burritos with a side of the guacamole and plantain chips — the pomegranate seeds in the guac are unexpectedly awesome.