This mom-and-pop shows that vegan food can be comfort food, too. Try the classic Mac N’ Cheez with cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots cooked with housemade cashew-cheese sauce. Their popular chili-guava-infused jackfruit tacos made with slaw, maple-toasted coconut chips, avocado, and cashew sauce, is a must-try. And a trip to Bigfoot Natural Café isn’t complete without indulging in a mini cashew cream pie.
3231 Camino de los Coches, Carlsbad | 760-230-9282
If you’re in the mood for some good food and good vibes, Café Gratitude will have you practicing a little self-care with every order. Beverages and dishes are named as affirmations, like “I Am Stellar” and “I Am Exquisite,” so you can blame the humblebrag on your meal this time. Their popular dishes include I Am Eclectic, breaded cauliflower with adobo buffalo sauce, celery, and ranch dressing; and I Am Magical, a black bean burger on a brioche bun with cashew-macadamia cheddar, tomato, and red onion, served with fries. If the theme is too much for you, the waiters don’t mind if you order the food by its “normal” name.
1980 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy | 619-736-5077
Civico 1845 in Little Italy and Civico by the Park are both owned by the same Calabrian family and feature Italian fare that goes back to their roots. The former made its mark as one of California’s first restaurants to offer an optional vegan Italian menu. They were recently able to extend their outdoor seating into the Piazza Basilone. Just steps away from Balboa Park, Civico by the Park also offers a full vegan menu and serves authentic pinsa Romana, a lighter, crispier, more airy kind of pizza crust. That and their own Calabrian-style pizza are the stars of the menu, but they also offer pastas, like the ravioli zucca, a butternut-squash-stuffed ravioli with fresh fava bean sauce.
1845 India Street, Little Italy | 619-431-5990
2550 Fifth Avenue, Bankers Hill | 619-310-5669
Pizza or pasta is definitely the main choice at this rustic jungle patio. If you haven’t paid a visit to Donna Jean, you’re just in time for their fall 2020 menu drop. New seasonal menu items include the Tuscan kale salad and the Widow, a pizza topped with black garlic and a smoked date puree, Calabrian chiles, ricotta, red onion, and kale. The newest member of the pasta section, the butternut squash triangoli, is served with tatsoi, brown butter, tarragon, truffle, kabocha squash, and hazelnuts.
2949 Fifth Avenue, Bankers Hill | 619-299-5500
In addition to must-try cauliflower-crusted flatbreads and Buddha bowls popping with color, you’ll also find an array of superfood smoothies, cold-pressed juices, and local kombucha. Don’t miss favorites like the Havana Affair, a bowl packed with coconut cilantro lime brown rice, quinoa, black beans, roasted yams, pickled slaw, wakame chuka (Japanese-style seaweed salad), plantains, and “Cuban Mojo Sauce.” Top it all off with their housemade coconut yogurt parfait. And if you were thinking of leaving the little ones at home, reconsider, since kids under age 10 can eat free. 575 South Coast Highway, Encinitas | 760-230-2560
507 North Coast Highway 101, Oceanside | 760-231-1052
Enjoy the beautiful San Diego weather with live music on Green Door’s plant-adorned patio, which evokes the ambience of Paris or Madrid. Breakfast or brunch won’t be complete without French toast topped with fresh banana and berries, fruit puree, and powdered sugar. And if you’re stopping by for lunch, don’t miss out on the popular Bombay Bomb curry burger, a classic vegan burger made with 30 gluten-free ingredients, including tart apple and chipotle sauce, lettuce, tomato, and sautéed onions.
7644 Girard Avenue, La Jolla | 858-291-8886
Kindred’s eclectic heavy-metal vibe makes its way outdoors with Kult Kabana, their new sidewalk oasis complete with palm branches and embellished white parasols. Take a stab at their best-selling dish, the Babylon Burger, which stacks an Impossible kebab patty, gem lettuce, preserved lemon and Castelvetrano olive relish, and whipped garlic inside a sesame bun. Fries usually pair best with burgers, but try Kindred’s popular popped corn instead, made with garlic chili, chive, and dill, and served with a lemon wedge for that extra zest. Whatever you order, you can expect it to be complemented by an uninterrupted stream of metal tunes.
1503 30th Street, South Park | 619-546-9653
Two different concepts under the same mission: to improve animal welfare and eliminate wildlife animal cruelty across the world. Both eateries are named for their nonprofit, NoWorries Movement, and all proceeds go to support the construction of its wildlife sanctuary. So you can do good while you eat well. Create your own bowl, choosing from acai, dragon fruit, macha, coconut charcoal, and chia pudding, with toppings like granola and honey or agave. NoW Sushi is one of San Diego’s first all-vegan sushi restaurants. Signature specialty rolls include the Sweet P (sweet potato tempura), a caterpillar roll made with shiitake mushroom “eel”; and a crunchy California roll made with mock crab.
844 West Mission Bay Drive, Mission Beach | 619-317-3620 3852
Mission Boulevard, Mission Beach | 858-246-6179
Pies, pizzas, salads, wraps, entrées, dried goods, desserts, chocolates, and more. The Luna Tuna Wrap is a staple: a mock tuna salad, served with pickles, honey mustard, and veggies, wrapped in an onion dill coconut wrap. They’ve been making this classic daily for 13 years. Another popular dish is the mango curry wrap, with mango, avocado, carrots, cabbage, sprouts, spring mix, and a curry sauce all wrapped up in a coconut curry tortilla.
4230 Voltaire Street, Ocean Beach | 619-223-2880
This bistro serves vegan dishes across many different Asian cuisines, such as the Chinese-influenced Peking “Duck” Lettuce Wraps; minced soy proteins that come with shiitake mushrooms and water chestnuts on a bed of crispy rice noodles; and their bánh mì, Vietnamese sandwiches served with cucumbers, onions, pickled daikon, carrots, cilantro, vegan mayo, and your choice of lemongrass “chicken,” lemongrass “beef,” or tofu. And you can never go wrong with classic Orange “Chicken” Meatless, battered soy proteins in a tangy orange sauce topped with sesame seeds. Pair your meal with a refreshing drink like the chrysanthemum iced tea served with aloe vera vegan jelly and goji berries.
6171 Mission Gorge Road, Mission Gorge | 619-280-3388
In response to public health restrictions, Soulshine has transformed their café to include a market and a deli. Before you stop by the market to pick up your essential plant-based groceries, relax at the café and sip their popular golden milk latte, an anti-inflammatory, feel-good drink packed with antioxidants, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and a bit of black pepper. Pair it with the newly added garlic and herb biscuit sandwich with sliced tomato, fresh greens, smoked provolone, fried egg, and bacon. If you just want something to munch on, call in for their daily rotating seasonal pastries, like the almond croissant and pumpkin loaf with pepitas.
3864 Mission Boulevard, Mission Beach | 858-886-7252
What better way to end a rooftop yoga class than with rooftop dining? Enjoy the views from La Jolla for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, dessert, or a post-workout snack. Try their colorful miso bowl with brown rice, roasted peppers, broccolini, cabbage, spinach, fresh basil, and cilantro, tossed in a ginger garbanzo bean sauce. And you definitely can’t pass up a smoothie: Choose from a very Zen-themed menu, like the Serenity, made with almond milk, acai, banana, blueberry, protein supplement, and goji berries.
7650 Girard Avenue, La Jolla | 858-633-3893
You’ll be able to indulge in a vegan spin on traditional Thai dishes here, with protein options including tofu and mock meats like duck, chicken, beef, and shrimp. If you’re in the mood for something spicy, try the panang curry or the kow soi, wheat noodles in a spicy curry broth. And you can’t leave without trying the sweet sticky rice for dessert, especially when it comes with coconut ice cream.
1417 University Avenue, Hillcrest | 619-230-5540