No trip to California is complete without a stop at the foggy, hill city of San Francisco. While it is best known for its Golden Gate Bridge, the food scene in San Francisco is a melting pot of cultures and captivating in its own right. In fact, this is one city which might give Singapore a run for its money, when it comes to dining. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan and headed to California, you definitely won’t have to worry about getting good plant-based food, in the Bay Area.
And we’ve done the ground work, so you don’t have to go looking when you’re there. While vegetarian dishes are readily available at the many vegetarian-friendly eateries around town, here is a round up of 11 of the Best Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants in San Francisco (or vegetarian-friendly ones). While I was personally unable to visit all of them during my recent trip, this list has been compiled based on either my own visit, or based recommendations from locals.
1. Nourish Café
Nourish café lays emphasis on serving 100% plant based food, created using wholesome, organic, non-GMO ingredients, with minimal use of oils, and only natural sweeteners; to keep things as healthy as possible.
While here, try the Nourish Bowl Salad ($14). With ingredients like Quinoa, spring mix, yam, avocado, sprouts, hummus, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, sauerkraut, toasted sunflower seeds and oil-free creamy hemp dressing, this salad will actually nourish you inside out. Also great are their toasts, order the Sampler Toast $8, and a Chia Pudding $6 on the side to mix things up. With ingredients like almond milk, chia seeds, dates, cacao, vanilla and sea salt, this chia goodness is available in a variety of flavors including dragonfruit, creamy cashew, dark chocolate, and vanilla raspberry.
Love smoothies? Imagine a combination and you’ll probably find it on their menu. Sweet tooth? Why not dive into the Acai Bowl; or sink your teeth into a gluten free Chocolate Chip Cookie (made using almond flour and vegan dark chocolate chips). Outright impressive!
Nourish Café: 189 6th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94118. P: +1 (415) 571 8780
Nourish Café: 1030 Hyde Street, San Francisco, CA 94109. P: +1 (415) 580 7463
A café with local produce; organic coffee, juices and smoothies; with raw and vegan snacks at its heart, it also boasts of a small carbon footprint and close to zero waste. Each dish is artfully presented and served by friendly staff, and this eatery with its laid-back vibe is quite popular with regulars who have been frequenting the place for years.
The one thing that you must try here is the Acaí Bowl ($8.75 – Brazilian Acaí, OJ, Bananas, and Blueberries, blended into a sorbet and topped with organic Pumpkin Flax Granola and fresh banana slices), which is also their most popular dish. Recommended for weekend brunch is the wheat-free and gluten-free Breakfast Burrmosa ($9.5 – curried potatoes, black beans, pinto beans, sautéed veggies, cashew “cream”, avocado and cilantro pesto wrapped in a raw home-made tortilla and topped with maple crackers and vegan parmesan). Other good options include the Taco Tuesday Special, Nekked Burrito ($10.5) and No Shirt, No Shoes ($10). Oh by the way, we love the names of their dishes. Creative, right?
Judahlicious: 3906 Judah St. (@ 44th Ave.), San Francisco, CA 94122. P: +1 (415) 665 8423
3. Loving Hut
Created with a vision to promote peace, love and harmony among all living beings, Loving Hut is a chain restaurant that serves gourmet vegan food. With many restaurants the world over, Loving Hut is committed to serving purely plant based meals made using fresh and healthy ingredients. For the last 3 years, the restaurant has been voted the “Best Vegan Restaurant in San Francisco” (presented by Best Business & SF Chronicle Readers’ Choice).
With their vast and varied menu, this is one place where vegans will be completely spoilt for choice. Insiders highly recommend the stir-fried Eggplant Tofu ($10.95) that is touted to change the way you perceive eggplants. The dish comes with a faux fish sauce that makes meat seem like an afterthought. Some of their other offerings include Mango Salad, Fresh Spring Rolls ($6.95), Orange Sesame Bites and Wonton Noodle Soup ($9.95). For dessert, give the sinful Mocha Cake ($3.95) a go.
Loving Hut: 524 Irving Street, San Francisco, CA 94122. P: +1 (415) 731 1957
If you’re a vegetarian craving South Indian food, this is the place to go in San Francisco. This isn’t a vegetarian restaurant per se but they have enough vegetarian and vegan options on the menu to interest herbivores. So if you’re vegetarian, rest assured that you won’t have to play second fiddle to the meat eaters.
They do have curries, rice, breads, and other stuff on the menu, but when you’re here, you cannot not have the dosas. If you’re in the mood for something simple, we recommended the Paneer & Peas Dosa ($15) or the Rava Masala. But if you’re looking to spice things up, literally, try the mex-fusion Habanero-Mango Masala ($12.5) which will have your taste buds tingling with heat. As an accompaniment to the dosas, go for their refreshing Sprouted Mung Salad which is excellent, albeit spicy. They also have a kids’ menu – dishes are served in smaller portions and with non-spicy sauces and accompaniments. Kids are sure to find something they love, such as the Cheese Dosa. Read a full review of DOSA here.
DOSA on Valencia: 995 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110. P: +1 (415) 642-3672
DOSA on Fillmore: 1700 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115. P: +1 (415) 441-3672
As the name implies, it is vegan with a flair for faux-sushi. With waiting times as long as an hour over weekend evenings, they are definitely doing something right. The warm, inviting vibe is coupled with friendly and well informed staff, which in itself makes for a great experience centred around wholesome food.
These guys use mountain yam, konjac and soybean curd, among other vegan ingredients, to replace meat-based proteins. Must try on their menu are the Tempura, Soy Ramen, Gyoza (pan-fried vegetable and tofu dumplings), a variety of Sushi Rolls (from eggplant, avocado and miso to tempura and mango), and of course, their Coconut Lychee Ice-cream with Fried Banana on the side. One of the few places that actually lives up to the hype, Shizen makes even the meat lovers fall in love with vegan food.
Shizen Vegan Sushi Bar & Izakaya: 370 14th St, San Francisco, California. P: +1 (415) 678-5767
If Mexican cuisine whets your appetite, don’t fret about vegetarian options, for at Gracias Madre all you get is delectable, vegan Mexican. Committed to health and sustainability without losing out on flavour, the place has a die hard fan following that breaks barriers between vegetarians and meat lovers. With all food being purely plant based and organic, the place makes it even better with Happy Hours from Monday to Friday between 3 PM to 6 PM. The cheeses and milks on the menu are made using nuts. Their tortillas and tamales are handmade from non-GMO organic heirloom corn.
Vegan Tacos ($17 – three corn tortillas filled with broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms, lettuce, pico de gallo and cashew cheese, served with black beans), delightful Guacamole, Quesadillas ($9.5) and Tacos ($6.5 – think broccoli, cauliflower, mushroom) will all make for a wonderful experience, washed down with glasses of margaritas. Sweeten the deal with a delectable Flan or a Toasted Almond Ice Cream served with chocolate cake. The cozy cantina has communal tables, waited on by friendly staff. The copious servings of the heavenly fare make a visit to the busy place, well worth it.
Gracias Madre: 2211 Mission St., San Francisco, CA. P: +1 (415) 683-1346
With a view of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the restaurant also dishes up some of the most delicious vegetarian food around. The freshest ingredients, all organic, rustle up an experience you won’t forget in a hurry. A great balance of flavour, colours and textures awaits your palette in a diverse mix of Mediterranean, Asian, Mexican and Southwest American cuisines. Amply sized portions of well seasoned food, especially the plate of artisan cheeses, accompanied by crostini, olives and cucumbers, and the asparagus, beetroot and goat cheese salad with lemon vinaigrette dressing, will leave you happily satisfied. Served with personal attention at an unhurried pace, the attention to presentation at this reasonably priced place is also praiseworthy. Wrap up the meal with a moreish selection of desserts such as Espresso Pot de Creme ($9.75 – with toffee sauce, whipped cream and hazelnut shortbread), Flourless Chocolate Torte or the vegan Strawberry, Blackberry and Raspberry Sorbets ($9.50).
Greens: 2 Marina Boulevard, Fort Mason, Building A, San Francisco, CA 94123. P: +1 (415) 771-6222
8. Seed + Salt
For the health conscious foodie, there isn’t a better place. These guys do food centered around plant based, organic, local, ethical, gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free, sans trans fats and without GMO ingredients; it doesn’t get any better. The chic café is renowned for its wholesome breakfast and lunch. Be it Avocado + Chimichurri Toast ($4.5); Green Curry Rice Bowl (w/ roasted root vegetables, chickpea frittata + coconut milk green curry sauce); crispy S+S BLT ($13) with eggplant bacon; S+S Beet Burger; or the Zucchini Spaghetti w/ Buckeye Veggie Balls; each dish is wonderful. Complement your food with the Super Alpha Mega Vanilla Shake ($14). For those with a sweet tooth, delve into the dessert of the day – perhaps a guilt free chocolate chip cookie, the crowd favourite banana nut bread, raw Nutella brownie or the blueberry muffin. A small eatery with communal tables, this cozy place will surely win your heart.
Seed + Salt: 2240 Chestnut Street, San Francisco, CA 94123. P: +1 (415) 872-9173
9. Vegan Berg
All your American favourites in a plant based avatar, the Vegan Burg is a counter service cafe with a safari themed interior. The focus is on keeping things fresh, GMO free and full of taste. Regulars swear by the Creamy Shrooms ($8.90), Hawaiian Teriyaki and Avocado Beetroot burger. Make it a meal with a side of sizzling broccoli and a drink. Not only do the dishes taste good, they look like the real thing (the Chik’n Tenders are definitely a case in point). Buzzing on weekdays and weekends, the place hits all the right taste spots.
Vegan Berg: 1466 Haight Street, San Francisco, California 94117. P: +1 (415) 548-8000
10. Ananda Fuara
Established by the spiritual guru Sri Chinmoy, the eatery does yummy vegetarian and vegan food. Ananda Fuara in hindi means the Fountain of Pleasure and the food lives upto its name. Interiors are done in a South Asian theme. Having been around since the 1990s, they are the kind of place that meat lovers choose over a carnivore meal. Must-have dishes include Neatloaf Sandwich ($11.95) and the vegan Spinach Artichoke Ravioli ($12.50), which are supposed to be so good that they make meat and sea food seem pale in comparison. Regulars also vouch for their Dal Soup and their vegan Strawberry Cake, Soy Gelato or the Chocolate Cake that was voted “Best Vegan Chocolate Cake” in the Bay Guardian’s Best of the Bay.
Ananda Fuara: 1298 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102. P: +1 (415) 621-1994
11. Poggio Trattoria, Sausalito
Poggio isn’t a vegetarian-only restaurant per se, nor do they have too many veg options on the menu. But as a mixed party of herbivores and carnivores, we dined here and the restaurant had something for everyone. My top vegetarian pick would have to be Cavolfiore ($9 – wood fired cauliflower with capers, chili and parsley). Mushroom lovers can try the Sformatino (yellow corn custard, pea puree, chanterelle mushrooms, parmigiano) or go for the Asparagi. Also on the menu are a few vegetarian salads and a Margherita ($15) pizza.
They also have a children’s menu, which the kids can colour on. The kids’ Pasta with tomato sauce was just how the kids like it, which means they polished it off without any prompting (and its a steal at $5). Basically, every dish that we had at Poggio was delicious.
Poggio Trattoria: 777 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965. P: +1 (415) 332-7771