14 Best Vegan Restaurants in San Diego. The food scene in San Diego is often overlooked and underestimated thanks to its neighbor to the north – the glittering vegan food mecca of Los Angeles. However, the burgeoning plant-based food culture of this SoCal city is helping California’s second-largest city make a name for itself on the culinary scene. Take off your wetsuit and park your bike in one of these vegan restaurants in San Diego.
14 Best Vegan Restaurants in San Diego
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1. Donna Jean
Just two blocks from the tree-lined streets of Balboa Park, guests of all kinds flock to Donna Jean for homemade vegan pizza and pasta. Named in tribute to the late mother of chef Roy Elam, the restaurant has a large terrace and herb garden that customers can enjoy all year round. Locals love this place for a date night, while others regularly order the speckled wood-fired pizza to take away. The customer-preferred Four Horsemen pizza is made from a mixture of vegan Gouda, ricotta, Parmesan, and mozzarella and has been on offer since the restaurant was founded.
What do eclectic cocktail bars, metal music, and gastropub culture have in common? Nothing, at least not until Kindred opened its doors in 2015. The LED-lit ceiling, bright pink walls, and retractable garage door-style window set the stage, but the food and cocktails steal the show at this South Park hotspot. Start the night off with the flavorful, flavorful grilled seitan skewers before grabbing the best vegan barbecue sandwich west of Memphis. Come back for brunch on the weekend and enjoy pancakes with caramelized banana and bourbon butterscotch, or the Benedict served with delicious cauliflower hollandaise.
3. The plot
It doesn’t often happen that anything lives up to the hype, but The Plot delivers a menu that is mindful yet accessible. Located in the northernmost part of the county, this restaurant focuses on local ingredients – from the in-house vegetable garden to its secret San Diego vendor for fresh tofu. The velvety pink peppercorn cream sauce and lentil caviar give a nod to the good food, while the salty sweetness of chicken and waffles grind the menu. The plot is perfect for a date or whenever you want to treat yourself to a nutritious, hearty meal.
Not all pop-up grocers find the success it takes to close a brick-and-mortar business, but neither do all pop-ups offer bites as decadent or as memorable as Maya’s cookies. Born out of a desire to find vegan cookies that had passed the taste, texture, and aroma test, owner Maya Madsen set to work to create the largest and most successful female and black-owned vegan biscuit retailer in the country. The flavors vary from espresso with white chocolate to birthday cake and butterscotch with brown sugar to classic chocolate chips with various gluten-free options. Madsen has developed a foolproof shipping standard so that those outside the San Diego area can enjoy their edible delights.
Eve eats vegan
Crispy thin cauliflower-crusted pizzas, hearty vegetarian burritos, and toasted butternut squash salads attract steady beach-going crowds at Eve’s Encinitas and Oceanside restaurants. Both locations are always full but the wait is worth the fresh food and generous portions. Each restaurant was designed as a common room. So when indoor dining is back in full swing, venture down the hall to the back of the Encinitas location, where you’ll find a vast, open space with mixed couches, pillows, and a stage for the occasional improvisational troop or open mic night. Drop with a book or your laptop and enjoy the wait for your order. No matter what, it will be fine.
Sibling co-owners Napatr Chayodom and Katiya Hendricks took inspiration from the brewery-centric neighborhoods of University Heights and North Park when planning their business. The selection of craft beer from Grains complements a varied menu with Asian dishes and bars. Think fried shiitake mushroom starters served with plum sauce. Sesame balls filled with red bean paste; Chicken strips with pepper glaze and spring onions; and a classic Philly cheesesteak sandwich tossed in for good measure. If you want to try more than just filling at a discounted price, visit happy hour (Monday through Thursday, 3:00 p.m.) and get a 15 percent discount on all food and drinks.
7. The yasai
World-famous chef Junya Watanabe combines food and art with a western interpretation of Japanese classics in his Kearny Mesa and the recently opened sushi restaurants in Little Italy. Here you will find Instagrammers enchanted by elaborately constructed vegan sushi, while hungry guests sip silky, handmade ramen noodles floating in creamy dashi. Celebrate seasonality with a chef’s bento box available exclusively at Little Italy des Yasai to take away.
In February 2021, the owner Vanessa Corrales made the leap from selling directly to coffee shops to setting up her own shop in the Grossmont Center. The international selection of baked goods includes brioche filled with egg, scones sprinkled with confetti, pain au chocolat and Thai tea biscuit cream-infused cruffins, and much more. The menu is constantly evolving and fresh pastries are made every three hours to ensure excellent quality that only comes out of the oven. Can’t you make up your mind Let the baker choose for you by pre-ordering this Chef’s Choice Variety Box. It’s a wonderful surprise every time!
Think what you think of this affirmation-themed restaurant, but there’s no denying that the food is good. Go ahead and roll your eyes when you tell the waiter, “I am humble” (translation: I want the Indian dahl bowl) and “I am dazzling” (translation: “with the Caesar salad”) – you will Enjoy what you order even if you feel a little nervous about asking for it. Keep these affirmations coming to order dessert. The I Am Divine (strawberry shortcake parfait) and the I Am Remarkable (raw mocha cheesecake) are really worthy of their description.
10. Vegan Thai
The moment this plant-based Thai cafe opens, the inescapable aroma of drunk noodles and colorful curries floods the streets of Hillcrest, attracting a mixed crowd of plant-based and gluten-free eaters. Unlike many other Southeast Asian vegetarian restaurants in San Diego, this menu completely eliminates eggs and dairy, providing relief for the cautious vegan as no changes are required. Grab your spring rolls, tom Kha, and sweet mango sticky rice to take away or enjoy the outdoor patio seating.
11. Peace cake
The completely raw menu reflects the bohemian Ocean Beach neighborhood of this zero-waste eatery. Beach dwellers swear by the mystical mushroom quesadilla, the loving lasagna and the namesake Peaceful Pizza. Save space for a dessert – the tiny place devotes an entire cooling area to its raw cakes, brownies, truffles, and cheesecake.
The modern vegan
12. The modern vegan
There is no better place than The Modern Vegan to satisfy your convenience food cravings. The Las Vegas transplant found its roots in the North Park neighborhood, where it serves epic servings of gravy-dipped poutine, brisket mac n ‘cheese, surf and turf burgers, and literally dozens of other belly-hugging mashups. Come starved or go with leftovers.
With a smoothie selection as extensive as the rooftop Pacific Ocean view, this yoga studio, open all day, prides itself on organic and nutritious ingredients. Sit back with a plate of Buffalo Cauliflower Tacos and check out the aerial silk class, or sign up for a yoga session, then refuel with the Nourish Green Bowl. It’s not just a restaurant, Trilogy really is a vegan hideaway.
As the first vegan fast food restaurant in San Diego, Evolution raised the bar high. It was one of the first restaurants in town to introduce fully biodegradable packaging – what appears to be plastic utensils and containers are actually byproducts of wheat and corn that eventually get reabsorbed into the ground. The well-known fast-food favorites are also exceptional – from the flaky fish street tacos to the EVO burgers in the in-n-out style. As with any high-quality fast food restaurant, the shakes (both raw and classic) cannot be overlooked.
Jared Cross is a writer, avid traveler, and environmentalist based in San Diego, California.