The Best Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants in San Diego

You won’t miss the meat.

Vegetarians and vegans used to be relegated to the salad section of the menu, or choosing a baked potato or French fries to fill their bellies on a night out. Not so anymore. With increasing numbers of people identifying as at least part-time non-meat eaters, restaurants have responded by adding interesting and innovative vegetarian and plant-based meals to their repertoire, and fully vegetarian and vegan restaurants are popping up all over San Diego County. Far from the “rabbit food” misnomers of the past, these young upstarts are exploring vegan sushi and ramen, vegetarian tacos and burritos, and a wide range of dishes utilizing plant-based meats that goes way beyond simple burgers. Here are sixteen of our favorite vegan and vegetarian restaurants for you to try:

Yasai
Photo courtesy of The Yasai

The Yasai

Kearny Mesa and Little Italy

The Yasai showcases vegan nigiri, specialty sushi and rolls, custardy tofu chawanmushi, and ramen. To replicate the texture and flavor of conventional sushi, vegetables are fermented, torched, grilled, smoked, boiled, fried, or a combination thereof, depending on the type—each vegetable requires a different treatment. Impossible Meats make appearances in the ramen—the flavorful broth incorporates the plant-based proteins, as does a pretzel slider and a few sushi items. Karaage, gyoza, and a few salads round out an eclectic and innovative menu.
How to book: Call your preferred location for same-day reservations. Book further out online. Choose your location and order pickup online.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Head to the Purple Mint Vegan Bistro to fill up on Asian-inspired dishes interpreted through a plant-based lens. Spring rolls, mock duck lettuce wraps, and crispy wontons are familiar starters, or opt for a soothing bowl of pho or Hue-style spicy noodle soup to warm you up. Zingy, bright orange “chicken” has a satisfying crunch, black rice pasta fulfills your carb cravings, and the yam and sweet potato curry has a deep, soulful flavor perfect for dipping French bread (you can also choose rice or noodles on the side).
How to book: Seating is on a first-come basis. Call 619-280-3388 for pickup.

Grains
Photo courtesy of Grains

Grains

University Heights

Warm mixed woods, dark iron accents, and soft lighting give Grains a rustic, comfortable feeling that carries over into their Thai-inspired dishes. Popcorn “chicken”, garlic potato wedges, and Holy Shiitake, battered and fried shiitake mushroom strips are must-try starters, and from there the choices get even more difficult. Tom kah is creamy with hits of lime, lemongrass, and galangal; there’s organic, non-GMO five spice tofu and jackfruit filling the pulled “pork” banh mi; and Drunken Angel stir fries angel hair pasta, mushrooms, tofu, and vegetables, topping it with a long cluster of aromatic green peppercorns. Don’t miss the specials board—if Kung Pao “chicken” is on it, order that too. Check out the tap list for a good selection of beer, hard cider, kombucha, and kefir.
How to book: Seating is on a first-come basis. Order pickup and delivery online.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Jyoti-Bihanga
Photo courtesy of Jyoti-Bihanga

Jyoti-Bihanga

Normal Heights

Jyoti-Bihanga, operated by followers of Indian spiritual master Sri Chinmoy, is one of San Diego’s oldest vegetarian restaurants, recently marking 32 years in business. It’s also one of the best bargains—most items on the extensive menu of apps, wraps, soups, salads, sandwiches, and entrees come in at $10 or less. Top choice with customers is the Neatloaf, a grain, ricotta, egg, and soy “meatloaf” that comes as an entree with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy; as a sandwich on nine-grain bread, or by the slice. A vegan Neatloaf, sans dairy and egg, is available in all its iterations as well. Leave room for dessert—if chocolate mousse cake or apple pie a la mode doesn’t appeal, there are daily specials on the menu board.
How to book: Seating is on a first-come basis.

Trilogy Sanctuary & Cafe
Photo courtesy of Trilogy Sanctuary

Trilogy Sanctuary is a yoga studio, wellness community, and cafe serving gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free, 100% organic vegan food. Think Vega-nachos with blue corn chips smothered in quinoa chili, cashew cheezy sauce, cashew sour cream, pico de gallo, hemp seeds, and avocado; or a Holy Sage Wrap, sage hummus, roasted butternut squash, avocado, caramelized onions, rosemary, spinach, red cabbage, kale chips, and a drizzle of lemon tahini dressing stuffed into a raw coconut wrap. House-made red corn tortillas hold quinrizo (quinoa “chorizo”), avocado, eggplant bacon, pico, and spicy almond sauce for Two Perfect Tacos, while Mac & Cheez, a rich, gooey casserole of brown rice elbow macaroni smothered in rosemary cashew cheeze sauce, pesto, and eggplant bacon, and baked in a cast iron skillet is every bit as satisfying as the conventional dairy version. Tempting desserts include Decadence, dark chocolate avocado mousse layered with creamy cashew chocolate mousse and vanilla cream topped with fresh strawberries and raw cacao nibs.
How to book: Seating is on a first-come basis. Order pickup online.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Modern Times Far West Lounge
Photo courtesy of Modern Times Far West Lounge

You love their beer, now try their vegan takes on traditional bar food. Impossible products appear in a Cali-style chorizo burrito, the Classic Munchwrap, a plant-based riff on the fast food staple, and single or double burgers. Other pub faves include crispy Brussels, loaded “asada” fries, and chilled soba salad, plus a sweet apple crisp cheesecake. Wash it all down with a beer tasting or pint from their considerable tap list.
How to book: Seating is on a first-come basis.

NoW Cafe
Photo courtesy of NoW Cafe

NoW Cafe

Mission Beach

NoW Cafe, and its sister restaurant, NoW Sushi, are part of the No Worries Movement, a nonprofit dedicated to improving animal welfare and reducing animal cruelty globally and with the goal to establish a sanctuary for animals in need. Beautifully crafted bowls are popular, with names inspired by some of the animals that they’ve rescued. Indulge in Mermaid, made with dragon fruit, matcha, coconut charcoal sorbet, mango puree, granola, banana, assorted berries, grapes, coconut shreds, hemp seeds, and agave, or Mena, with acai sorbet, granola, cucumber, strawberries, grapes, kiwi, hemp seeds, and agave. If you’re more into the savory side, choose an avo smash on rosemary sage toast, or a focaccia panini piled with veggies and vegan cheese.
How to book: Seating is on a first-come basis. Call 619-317-3620 for pickup.

Peace Pies
Photo courtesy of Peace Pies

Peace Pies

Ocean Beach 

You can’t get much healthier than Peace Pies for their raw, vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free dishes. The Mediterranean Sampler is a good place to start—sprouted almond, pea, and lentil falafel is served with cucumber dill sauce, cashew hummus, and veggies, providing a filling punch of plant proteins, or go for a simple sunseed toast topped with avocado, truffle salt, and fresh herbs. Intriguing entrees include the Luna Tuna Wrap—a coconut tortilla loaded with sunflower seed “tuna” pate, tomatoes, pickles, and sprouts under a drizzle of agave mustard sauce, and Loving Lasagna, with zucchini noodles layered with hemp seed pesto, cashew alfredo, and marinated veggies, smothered in marinara and cashew parmesan. Whatever you order, do not leave without a piece of dreamy Cosmic Coconut Cream Pie.
How to book: Seating is on a first-come basis. Order pickup online.

The Plot
Photo by John Dole, courtesy of The Plot

The Plot

Oceanside

The chic ambiance and diverse menu aren’t the only things to love about Oceanside’s The Plot. It’s also the city’s only zero-waste restaurant, where all but less than 1% of the produce and dry goods are utilized, as compared with a 4–10% industry average. Even the stems from romaine lettuce aren’t wasted—the owner’s pet giant tortoise takes care of those. Using plant-based proteins made nearly exclusively in-house (the exception is their organic tofu from San Diego Soy Dairy), including an imitation crӓb using San Diego’s Mindful Mushroom’s lion’s mane mushrooms. Standouts include the customer favorite Chronic, a tempura fried roll stuffed with crӓb, spicy tüna, and avocado, drizzled with sweet and spicy citrus and mayo; chickën and waffles, made with “maple love;” and rib-sticking shepherd’s pie.
How to book: Reservations can be made online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available. Order pickup via Toast.

Available for Reservations
One WorldBeat Cafe
Photo courtesy of One WorldBeat Cafe

Balboa Park’s organic cafe is the perfect stop after a hike or for an impromptu picnic. The all-vegan menu features international dishes like African coconut peanut curry, a jerk rasta burger, and Costa Chica chile, plus fresh-pressed juices, salads, and raw kombucha on tap.
How to book: Seating is on a first-come basis. Call 619-230-1190 for pickup or order delivery via delivery apps.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Sipz specializes in a wide selection of Asian cuisines, all of which are vegetarian and mostly vegan. The menu covers your favorite appetizers like vegan “crab” rangoon, potstickers, lettuce wraps, and various rolls, soups, and salads, plus Noodle Bowlz, a big assortment of mains, conveniently separated into “spicy” or “non-spicy” categories, and a full slate of entirely vegan desserts. There’s several plant-based meat substitutes available, making Sipz perfect for introducing your skeptical friends to vegetarian dishes. Check out the North Park and Clairmont locations on Fridays through Sundays, from 4–9pm, for vegan sushi rolls.
How to book: Seating is available on a first-come basis. Find your location and order pickup online.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Plumeria
Photo courtesy of Plumeria

Plumeria

University Heights and Encinitas

Get your Thai food fix, vegetarian style. Plumeria’s popular takes on Thai comfort foods include light, refreshing spring rolls, flower cups, somtom (green papaya salad), and tom yum. Your choice of mock chicken, beef, or duck, grilled or steamed tofu, or mixed beans, pack a protein punch in chef specialty entrees and curries—the pumpkin curry is especially luscious. Eco-conscious bonus—get $1 off your takeout order when you bring in your own containers for them to fill.
How to book: Seating is on a first-come basis. Order pickup and delivery online.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Fast food gets a vegan makeover at Evolution Fast Food, with a comprehensive menu of all your favorites, including tempeh or black bean burgers, wraps, sandwiches, tacos, burritos, plant-based hot dogs, loaded fries, cakes, and pastries. Extra hungry? Choose the full meal deal that includes a side and a drink for just $2.95. In a hurry? Sandwiches, salads, desserts, and drinks are available in grab-and-go containers, or use their drive-thru option.
How to book: Seating is on a first-come basis. Drive-thru or order pickup via Toast.

Pokéz Mexican Restaurant
Photo by MATT BALDWIN for THRILLIST

Pokéz's iconic neon sign has been an E Street mainstay for nearly 30 years, and their vegetarian/vegan menu has been winning awards ever since. There’s more than two dozen meat-free selections, including lettuce leaf wrapped, carb-free options bursting with tasty potato, mushroom, tofu, or beans, alone or in any combo you like.
How to book: Seating is available on a first-come basis. Order delivery via UberEats or other delivery apps.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Kindred

North Park

So much attention is given to the death metal soundtrack and Victorian/goth decor at Kindred that it’s easy to forget they also have an outstanding cocktail/mocktail program and some of the most inventive vegan dishes in the city. Skewers of chargrilled seitan with chimichurri, harissa, and horseradish aioli is a great starter for your skeptical non-vegan friends. Grilled cheese uses herbed bechamel, tapioca mozzarella, apple, braised kale, and caramelized onion on sourdough for a melty, juicy riff on the classic sandwich, while Memphis BBQ jackfruit adds pulled soy curls, green chili aioli, pickle, onion, and dijon mustard on sourdough with a side of house-made potato chips. Save room for the S’more Sliders with snickerdoodle cookies, marshmallow fluff, TCHO dark chocolate, and maldon salt, that will satisfy the most hardcore sweet tooth. Brunch is available Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am–3 pm.
How to book: Seating is on a first-come basis. Call 619-546-9653 for takeout and delivery via delivery apps.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Nomad Donuts

North Park

Located in the heart of hipsterville, Nomad Donuts has been capturing the hearts of vegans and non-vegans with their eclectic flavors since 2014—think ube taro coconut, Mexican hot chocolate, and coffee piloncillo. Not into sweet treats? Try Nomad Donuts’ Montreal-style bagels, hand-made from scratch and boiled in agave-sweetened water before being baked to perfection in Nomad’s custom-built, wood-firing oven. They’re excellent with a schmear of vegan cream cheese, Nutella, or jam, or as a Caprese, vegan BLAT, or egg sandwich. Get there early, Nomad usually sells out of their most popular items early.
How to book: Seating is on a first-come basis. Order pickup online.

Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting various vegetables and beverages, reading cookbooks and traveling around Mexico. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.