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Rice and veggies in green sauce on spiral black and white plate.
Rice at Mothership
Kimberly Motos

San Diego's Essential Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurants

Find 20 fantastic meatless menus

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Rice at Mothership
| Kimberly Motos

From savory lion main mushroom “crab cakes” to buttery croissants without the butter, vegan food has a captured a larger share of the market than ever before and its popularity continues to grow. A broader audience is interested in mindful and meatless eating, whether driven by care for animal welfare, their health, or the environment, and the vegetarian and vegan restaurants of San Diego are delivering the taste and talent to keep up with demand. Here are 20 spots to find satisfying meatless meals.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

The Plot

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Founded by San Diego power couple Jessica and Davin Waite, the Plot offers dishes built on vegetables that still satisfy even the staunchest omnivore. Start with dishes like the lion’s mane mushroom “crab cakes” and chayote squash ceviche to share and save room for the shepherd’s pie which, even meatless, is one of the best versions in San Diego.

Phatties Vegan Mexican Restaurant

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This gem in Escondido specializes in foods from Queretaro, Mexico. The pambazo — a torta lathered in red chile salsa, grilled, and then stuffed with soyrizo con papas, shredded lettuce, avocado, and red onions — is a particular standout.

Torta sandwich lathered in red chili sauce and filled with cabbage and vegan meat.
Phatties
Kelly Bone

Modern Times Far West Lounge

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This Encinitas tasting room and restaurant from a local brewery serves a vegan menu that includes kimchi croquettes with gochujang aioli and a hearty double deluxe burger with shallot jam, vegan cheese, smoky seitan, and Thousand Island dressing.

Modern Times Far West Lounge
Kelly Bone

Sattvik Foods

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Complex spices thread throughout each of Kanta Jina’s dishes at Sattvik Foods. Thalis change daily, but might include seasonal curries like corn methi malai (fenugreek and corn curry) and achari aloo gobi (spiced cauliflower). The generous chaat menu (Indian street food and snacks) ranges from samosas smothered in chutney to vada pav, a potato patty sandwich with cilantro, garlic, and tamarind.

Sattvik Foods
Kelly Bone

Green Door Cafe

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Tucked between storefronts, a long hall leads into the cozy covered patio at this La Jolla cafe where chef Martin Hall whips organic vegetables into soups and sandwiches that showcase seasonality, from the popular Bombay burger to the loaded Full Tank spicy hummus sandwich. Even the side salad accompanying most dishes is boldly crafted, with dressed cabbage, delicate pea tendrils, and a scattering of roasted fennel, sesame, and sunflower seeds.

Green Door Cafe
Kelly Bone

Gatherer Sandwiches

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After years in the restaurant industry, Jacob Russell branched out on his his own with a low-key Mission Beach sandwich shop that’s perfected the art, layering of vegetables, vegan meats, and vegan cheese between slices of locally baked bread. His attention to detail creates some of the best sandwiches to be found in San Diego.

Veggie filled sandwich held up in front of the Pacific Ocean.
Gatherer Sandwichs
Kelly Bone

Maya's Cookies

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Though Maya’s Cookies is renowned nationwide, local folks are lucky enough to purchase these stellar treats directly from the bakery. Favorites include the Chocolate Chip S’mores and Brown Sugar Butterscotch which are available individually or as boxed sets. The bakery also offers Oatly soft-serve ice cream with an array of toppings that include a mini chocolate chip cookie.

Rainbow sprinkle and marshmallow chocolate chip cookies on back board with pink box.
Maya’s Cookies
Kelly Bone

El Veganito

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Located in the vegan-heavy food court of Grossmont Center, Victor Gamboa’s El Veganito has been a San Diego favorite since his days as a pop-up. The massive phish burrito is a bestseller, along with Veracruz-style sopes, masa cakes topped with black beans, onions, vegan carnitas, avocado, and cashew cotija cheese.

Three vegan sopes on a black table.
El Veganito Sopes
Kelly Bone

Gorilla Eats Sushi

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Lumi alum Justin Ramirez produces a stunning array of vegan sushi from his College Area ghost kitchen. Though there is no dining in, pick-up or delivery is seamless. The menu ranges from classic rolls with avocado or shiitake mushrooms to intricate creations like the Ritz with “shrimp” tempura topped with a hyper-realistic “smoked salmon”, spicy mayo, and thin slices of lemon.

Sushi roll with avocado, mushrooms, vegan crab with sauce on wood table.
Cali Roll from Gorilla Eats Sushi
Katie Fisher

Owners and siblings Napatr and Katiya follow their own muse at Grains, where the menu fuses the complexity of Thai flavors with international favorites, resulting in dishes like the Drunken Angel, spicy serrano and garlic-sauced angel hair pasta with tofu and fresh peppercorn, as well as popcorn cauliflower with cashew ranch and Buffalo sauce, and spicy salt and pepper king mushroom strips.

Grains
Kelly Bone

Plumeria

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When the daughter of Pimwara “Patty” Thongchua, owner The Thai Joint, went vegetarian, she created this spot that serves meat- and fish sauce-free creations. Plumeria’s menu is filled with all the familiar Thai dishes, from pad thai to Panang, veganized except for the occasional inclusion of egg or dairy milk. The mock duck larb is a standout starter, with lime and soy sauce-soaked seitan tossed with onions, chilies, cilantro, and a dusting of roasted rice powder.

Plumeria
Kelly Bone

Tacotarian

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There’s no such thing as too many tacos, especially vegan ones. Expanded from Las Vegas in 2022, this North Park hotspot serves house-made seitan al pastor and mushrooms asada tacos folded into corn tortillas. The menu also offers flautas, burritos, and quesadillas plus margaritas (or aguas frescas) to top off a meal.

Looking down at five vegan tacos with a geometrical black and white tile floor in background.
Tacotarian
Kelly Bone

Thanh Tinh Chay

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This instantly popular vegan spot in Little Saigon prepares many Vietnamese dishes that are rarely found without meat. Here, traditional-style bún huế comes beefless and steamed bánh bèo cakes are topped with crispy root vegetables and tofu. The menu focuses on organic produce, made-from-scratch mock meats, and a generous menu of banh mis all served on house-baked bread.

Vegan banh mi with pale vegan pork baked in bbq sauce stuffed tightly in a baguette with cucumber, pickles, and cilantro.
House Special (Đặc Biệt) Banh Mi
Kelly Bone

Hazel & Jade Bakery

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This compact Hillcrest bakery turns out accomplished vegan versions of classic pastries, from almond croissants to chocolate brioche knots. If you spot the croissant muffin, crowned with caramelized sugar and seasonal fruit, be sure to order it.

Hazel & Jade
Kelly Bone

Peace Pies

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Food processors work triple time at Peace Pies in Ocean Beach, where the kitchen committed to zero waste long before it became trendy. Chef and owner J.P. Alfred concocts popular raw dishes like avocado toast with truffle salt and unexpected treats like their raw sunflower seed crust pizza. 

Peace Pies
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Evolution

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As San Diego’s original vegan drive-through, this Bankers Hill spot serves burgers with house-made tempeh (or black bean or “beefy”) patties on local Sadie Rose Baking Co. focaccia buns. Not to be missed are the strawberry almond milkshakes and the excellent raw tacos with walnut and pecan “meat.”

Vegan burger in airy courtyard with lots of plants
Evolution Fast Food
Kelly Bone

Donna Jean

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Scratch-made sauces and seasonal vegetables fill the menu of chef Roy Elam’s restaurant. Crushed California tomatoes and local Scratch House cheese are featured on pizzas, the centerpiece of the menu, but seasonal dishes like fennel tempeh with roasted mushroom lasagna, or the sea bean Caesar salad with cherry tomatoes and house bread turned into croutons are equally enticing.

Bowl with cheesy lasagna in a pool of red sauce.
Late Summer Lasagna
Donna Jean/Instagram

MOTHERSHIP

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This brand new cocktail den is one of the hardest reservations to get in the city. Step through an unmarked door and into an immersive world where you linger inside a crashed intergalactic spaceship cracked open into an alien landscape. Pull up to the bar, which serves fantastical tiki drinks, or get a table under the perpetual night sky and indulge in all-vegan “earth food” that explores unexpected cultural fusions.

WorldBeat Cafe

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One of San Diego’s oldest vegetarian restaurants went fully vegan during the winter of 2020. Centered in the heart of Balboa Park, it offers an array of vegetable-based soul food via dishes like Jamaican veggie patties filled with spicy cabbage or jerk tofu or Louisiana Creole gumbo with collard greens and salad.

WorldBeat Cafe
Yelp

Kindred

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Purple orchids and sherry floats dress the cocktails at this top-notch bar that also happens to be one of San Diego’s best vegan restaurants, where chargrilled seitan skewers smothered in chimichurri, harissa, and horseradish aioli are a perpetual customer favorite. Some of the best dishes can only be had during brunch, like pancakes smothered in bourbon butterscotch with caramelized apples, pecans and whipped coconut cream.

Vegan charcutier platter.
Kindred
Kindred

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The Plot

Founded by San Diego power couple Jessica and Davin Waite, the Plot offers dishes built on vegetables that still satisfy even the staunchest omnivore. Start with dishes like the lion’s mane mushroom “crab cakes” and chayote squash ceviche to share and save room for the shepherd’s pie which, even meatless, is one of the best versions in San Diego.

Phatties Vegan Mexican Restaurant

Torta sandwich lathered in red chili sauce and filled with cabbage and vegan meat.
Phatties
Kelly Bone

This gem in Escondido specializes in foods from Queretaro, Mexico. The pambazo — a torta lathered in red chile salsa, grilled, and then stuffed with soyrizo con papas, shredded lettuce, avocado, and red onions — is a particular standout.

Torta sandwich lathered in red chili sauce and filled with cabbage and vegan meat.
Phatties
Kelly Bone

Modern Times Far West Lounge

Modern Times Far West Lounge
Kelly Bone

This Encinitas tasting room and restaurant from a local brewery serves a vegan menu that includes kimchi croquettes with gochujang aioli and a hearty double deluxe burger with shallot jam, vegan cheese, smoky seitan, and Thousand Island dressing.

Modern Times Far West Lounge
Kelly Bone

Sattvik Foods

Sattvik Foods
Kelly Bone

Complex spices thread throughout each of Kanta Jina’s dishes at Sattvik Foods. Thalis change daily, but might include seasonal curries like corn methi malai (fenugreek and corn curry) and achari aloo gobi (spiced cauliflower). The generous chaat menu (Indian street food and snacks) ranges from samosas smothered in chutney to vada pav, a potato patty sandwich with cilantro, garlic, and tamarind.

Sattvik Foods
Kelly Bone

Green Door Cafe

Green Door Cafe
Kelly Bone

Tucked between storefronts, a long hall leads into the cozy covered patio at this La Jolla cafe where chef Martin Hall whips organic vegetables into soups and sandwiches that showcase seasonality, from the popular Bombay burger to the loaded Full Tank spicy hummus sandwich. Even the side salad accompanying most dishes is boldly crafted, with dressed cabbage, delicate pea tendrils, and a scattering of roasted fennel, sesame, and sunflower seeds.

Green Door Cafe
Kelly Bone

Gatherer Sandwiches

Veggie filled sandwich held up in front of the Pacific Ocean.
Gatherer Sandwichs
Kelly Bone

After years in the restaurant industry, Jacob Russell branched out on his his own with a low-key Mission Beach sandwich shop that’s perfected the art, layering of vegetables, vegan meats, and vegan cheese between slices of locally baked bread. His attention to detail creates some of the best sandwiches to be found in San Diego.

Veggie filled sandwich held up in front of the Pacific Ocean.
Gatherer Sandwichs
Kelly Bone

Maya's Cookies

Rainbow sprinkle and marshmallow chocolate chip cookies on back board with pink box.
Maya’s Cookies
Kelly Bone

Though Maya’s Cookies is renowned nationwide, local folks are lucky enough to purchase these stellar treats directly from the bakery. Favorites include the Chocolate Chip S’mores and Brown Sugar Butterscotch which are available individually or as boxed sets. The bakery also offers Oatly soft-serve ice cream with an array of toppings that include a mini chocolate chip cookie.

Rainbow sprinkle and marshmallow chocolate chip cookies on back board with pink box.
Maya’s Cookies
Kelly Bone

El Veganito

Three vegan sopes on a black table.
El Veganito Sopes
Kelly Bone

Located in the vegan-heavy food court of Grossmont Center, Victor Gamboa’s El Veganito has been a San Diego favorite since his days as a pop-up. The massive phish burrito is a bestseller, along with Veracruz-style sopes, masa cakes topped with black beans, onions, vegan carnitas, avocado, and cashew cotija cheese.

Three vegan sopes on a black table.
El Veganito Sopes
Kelly Bone

Gorilla Eats Sushi

Sushi roll with avocado, mushrooms, vegan crab with sauce on wood table.
Cali Roll from Gorilla Eats Sushi
Katie Fisher

Lumi alum Justin Ramirez produces a stunning array of vegan sushi from his College Area ghost kitchen. Though there is no dining in, pick-up or delivery is seamless. The menu ranges from classic rolls with avocado or shiitake mushrooms to intricate creations like the Ritz with “shrimp” tempura topped with a hyper-realistic “smoked salmon”, spicy mayo, and thin slices of lemon.

Sushi roll with avocado, mushrooms, vegan crab with sauce on wood table.
Cali Roll from Gorilla Eats Sushi
Katie Fisher

Grains

Grains
Kelly Bone

Owners and siblings Napatr and Katiya follow their own muse at Grains, where the menu fuses the complexity of Thai flavors with international favorites, resulting in dishes like the Drunken Angel, spicy serrano and garlic-sauced angel hair pasta with tofu and fresh peppercorn, as well as popcorn cauliflower with cashew ranch and Buffalo sauce, and spicy salt and pepper king mushroom strips.

Grains
Kelly Bone

Plumeria

Plumeria
Kelly Bone

When the daughter of Pimwara “Patty” Thongchua, owner The Thai Joint, went vegetarian, she created this spot that serves meat- and fish sauce-free creations. Plumeria’s menu is filled with all the familiar Thai dishes, from pad thai to Panang, veganized except for the occasional inclusion of egg or dairy milk. The mock duck larb is a standout starter, with lime and soy sauce-soaked seitan tossed with onions, chilies, cilantro, and a dusting of roasted rice powder.

Plumeria
Kelly Bone

Tacotarian