The Best Vegetarian & Vegan Restaurants in San Francisco
From vegan sushi to soul food, Italian, Mexican, and more.
The New Year represents an overly optimistic time when we naively commit to new habits and routines that we’ll likely abandon in a matter of weeks. While giving up alcohol for Dry January might be unrealistic as we approach our two-year pandemiversary, committing to eliminate animal products from our diets by participating in Veganuary is a challenge that we can get on board with.
Truthfully, there are a lot of good reasons to cut back on the carnivore lifestyle, like protecting the environment, being kinder to animals, reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease, lowering your blood pressure, and, in a lot of instances, saving money. But, you know, mostly that first one because climate change is very real and is one of the biggest threats facing us today, and a thing we can do to at least start to slow it down is as simple as eating way less meat and way more plants.
Luckily, embracing a plant-based lifestyle is super easy in a city like SF, which has a bunch of amazing restaurants where you won’t have any beef with their lack of beef, like all of the ones on this list. We don’t like to go against Kermit the Frog, but maybe being green is easier than he realizes.
In 2009, longtime vegan Tamearra Dyson left the medical field to pursue her passion and bring soulful plant-based foods to the masses. She’s since expanded from her original location in Oakland to ghost kitchens in San Francisco, LA, and Vegas, where you can order up inventive Louisiana Creole staples like gator bites where the gator is subbed for house-made hot links and battered mushrooms, a satisfying New Orleans okra gumbo, and crispy, house-made seitan chick’n and waffles. Make sure you tack on sides like cinnamon brown sugar yams, country collard greens, cornbread, and a sweet potato biscuit. Souley Vegan’s menu also spans salads, burgers, and beverages, including a zesty cayenne lemonade.
How to enjoy: Choose your location online and select from one of the pickup and delivery options.
Italian comfort food goes vegan at this restaurant from plant-based celebrity chef Matthew Kenney that lives in the massive space that was once home to Jardiniere. The dishes are seasonal, but you can expect classics like a lasagna with Impossible bolognese, a spicy “sausage” and peppers pizza, and a chocolate ganache torta with hazelnut cream, as well as an excellent cocktail list and a sustainable wine and beer program.
How to enjoy: Reserve a table online for brunch or dinner or order online for pick-up or delivery.
Greens is a restaurant where you could take your meat-loving uncle from Minnesota and he might not even notice that there’s nary a cow, chicken, pig, or fish on the menu. Sure this is partially because of the stunning views of the harbor, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Marin Headlands, but also because Greens behaves like a normal restaurant that just so happens to serve some of the most inventive vegetarian dishes in town. The menu is constantly changing based on seasonality and availability, but we can promise that even the most die-hard meat enthusiasts will leave saying they just enjoyed one of the best meals they’ve eaten in a long time. And maybe feeling a tiny bit duped once you let them in on the secret (in a good way, of course).
How to enjoy: Make a reservation for indoor or outdoor dining online or order online for takeout.
Golden Era Vegan
The people who love Golden Era reeeeally love Golden Era. And once you walk into the clean, bright space (grab a booth if you’re comfortable dining indoors) and start feasting on the vegan Asian-fusion dishes, you’ll understand why. The menu is extensive, but favorite dishes include the golden rolls (fried, but egg-less), the papaya salad, the spicy sweet and sour soup, and the spicy Mongolian delight. Oh, and the smoothies are legit if you just need a healthy pick-me-up; the avocado one could be a meal on its own.
How to enjoy: Walk-ins only. Order online for takeout or get delivery via Grubhub or DoorDash.
When it comes to taking care of our bodies and our planet, Wildseed, the hottest vegan restaurant in San Francisco, is doing everything right. Not only does the restaurant work exclusively with local and seasonal produce as a way to support farmers and leave a smaller carbon footprint, but all of the dishes are fresh, flavorful, and satisfying—like the king trumpet mushroom ceviche and fall pie with Brussels sprouts, truffled bechamel, red onions, apples, chili flakes, cashew mozzarella, parmesan, and lemon agrumato. Wildseed feels like any other popular restaurant with friendly service, a lively crowd, and welcoming vibe—we’re pretty sure this is key to creating a shift in the way people perceive eating better for themselves and the earth; the restaurant needs to feel welcoming, the food needs to taste good, and ideally, there will be lots of excellent cocktails. Wildseed delivers on all three.
How to enjoy: Reserve indoor or outdoor dining on Yelp. Order pickup online or get delivery with delivery apps.
Gracias Madre’s slogan is “Our mission is love” and that mission is delivered in the form of 100% organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, plant-based Mexican dishes in a bustling environment that feels inviting and casual (lots of wood, communal tables, and a somewhat open kitchen towards the back). The menu is seasonal and changes based on what’s available at their organic farm in Pleasants Valley, in addition to being totally vegan. Go for plantain French toast or potato and tempeh chorizo hash for brunch or sweet potato flautas and a zucchini squash quesadilla for dinner. Gracias Madre also has a full bar with plenty of tequila and mezcal options, including a weekday happy hour from 2–6 pm and Margarita Mondays when margaritas are $5 all day.
How to enjoy: Reserve indoor dining online or walk-in for outdoor dining. Call 866-612-7021 for pickup or get delivery from Caviar.
Nourish Café wants “to help you eat healthier and feel amazing through a natural, plant-based diet” and succeeds splendidly with acai bowls and “yam and cheese” sandwiches made with a creamy nut cheese that tastes almost as good as the real thing. It should come as no surprise that the restaurant only uses organic, whole foods and non-GMO ingredients, as well as natural sweeteners and minimal oils. There’s also avocado toast that you can order on gluten-free bread. Did you expect anything less?
How to enjoy: Walk-ins only for indoor and outdoor dining. Order online for takeout or delivery.
Cha-Ya is an affordable Japanese restaurant that serves fresh, flavorful vegan dishes without any of the vegan pretense (that’s a compliment, by the way). The curry udon noodle soup with tofu and seasonal vegetables is just as hearty and filling as any beef udon bowl out there, and the vegan sushi roll is so much better than the avocado and cucumber rolls that vegetarians are forced to order at typical sushi spots. Whatever you order, start with the soba salad—it’s vibrant, colorful, and will basically fill your veggie quota for the entire month.
How to enjoy: Walk-ins only for indoor and outdoor dining. Order online for pickup or delivery.
What if we told you that one of our favorite sushi restaurants in the city was a sushi restaurant where the sushi has no fish? Would you think we were a little crazy? Well, guess what: we are because Shizen has become one of our go-tos since it opened a few years ago. It doesn’t hurt that the space is stylish, with a minimalist vibe, lots of wood, and air plants hanging on the walls, but the real thing that keeps bringing us back are the gyoza, the spicy tofuna rolls, and the spicy garlic miso ramen. The ramen broth and noodles are made from scratch (the latter is made in-house every day), and the soup comes with so many yummy veggies, you won’t even notice that it’s lacking meat.
How to enjoy: Reservations are required (max party size four people) and can be made on Yelp Reservations; there are no walk-in tables available at the moment. To-go orders may be placed online or by calling 415-678-5767
Now that you can get an Impossible burger at basically every restaurant (hell, even Burger King has them), VeganBurg isn’t quite as much of a shining star as it once was. However, it was the world’s first-ever 100% plant-based burger joint, so it definitely deserves a spot on this list. It’s also a great option when you want a house-made veggie burger as opposed to the lab-created stuff. Our favorite is the Mustang Relish burger, which has a crispy veggie patty, vegan bacon, egg, and cheese, lots of mustard, and is topped with pickles and red onions all on a wholemeal bun. It goes perfect with a side of seaweed fries. Yup, we just said that (and we totally meant it, too).
How to enjoy: It’s a fast-casual spot, so just walk in or order online for pickup or delivery.
The Plant Cafe Organic
Ah, another healthy restaurant with a lofty mission. This one? “To promote the wellbeing of people and planet, and provide an avenue to support healthy choices and sustainable practices.” But hey, sounds good to us. And it doesn’t hurt that this is also the only restaurant on the list that offers a few fish and chicken options (ethically raised, naturally) in addition to their mostly vegetarian menu. But this isn’t about meat; this is about delicious veggie options, of which there are plenty, including pretty much all of the salads, the shiitake spring rolls, the Korean BBQ bowl, and a bunch of healthy juices. And if you’re vegan or gluten-free, this is a great option because everything on the menu is clearly labeled, so you know what you’re getting.
How to enjoy: Walk-ins only for indoor or outdoor dining or order online for takeout or delivery.