Food & Drink

The Best SF Vegetarian Restaurants That Even Carnivores Will Love

Published On 03/04/2016 Published On 03/04/2016
veggie bowl, Nourish Cafe
Courtesy of Nourish Cafe

Look, we’re all about burgers, barbecue, and bacon, but even meat fanatics need to take a break from punishing their colons now and then. Besides, it’s not surprising that San Francisco -- blessed with countless farmers markets and a serious farm-to-table obsession -- can boast some of the best veg-centric restaurants in the country. Maybe you’re looking for a place to take that hot-but-vegan Tinder date (though be warned about going down that particular path), or you just want some greens after a fried chicken lunch. Whatever the reason, we can direct you to the best vegetarian-friendly eateries in the Bay.

Greens Restaurant

Greens

Fort Mason

A Bay Area standby for vegetarians who don’t want to sacrifice flavor in the name of vegetables, Greens has been serving inventive farm-to-table fare for 37 years. This veggie palace has gotten the seal of approval from Michael Bauer, Zagat, and James Beard -- and we’re not talking just in the vegetarian category. Greens has been named one of the city’s best restaurants, against even the carnivorous competition.

Courtesy of Gracias Madre

Gracias Madre

The Mission

If you’re jealous of your friends chowing down on their Mission super burritos, Gracias Madre is here to satisfy your Mexi-cravings with vegan takes on tacos, enchiladas, tamales -- even ceviche. If your group includes some omnivores, don’t worry -- the options are extensive and totally satisfying. After all, guacamole is vegan, and that’s the most important ingredient anyway, right?

Citizen Fox

Citizen Fox

The Mission

If you want flashy vegan provisions that hail from an industry vet (Deborah Blum boasts a resumé that includes Beretta, Starbelly, Delarosa, and Lolinda), then Citizen Fox is your new haunt for meatless brunch and dinner fare. The brick-and-mortar is still on its way, but you can feast on "chick’n" and waffles, or the signature burger, at its pop-up in the Mission. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to make your way through the extensive cocktail list -- booze is (typically) vegetarian, after all.

Herbivore: The Earthly Grill (Berkeley)

Herbivore

The Mission (& Berkeley)

Herbivore is one of those standby spots for the meat-free. Dig into an eclectic mix of vegan dishes from all over the globe: from spaghetti and lasagna, to pad thai, chow mein, buffalo bites, meatloaf, and Indian wraps. Sure, it’s all over the place, but it’s perfect when you’re totally hungry and can’t decide what you want to order.

Shizen Vegan Sushi Bar & Izakaya

Shizen

The Mission

OK, maybe we’re crazy, but we’re big fans of the fish-free sushi that’s being cooked up (or not) in the Mission. We were skeptical of a vegan sushi spot (come on, how many avocado rolls can one person eat?), but Shizen's innovative veggie rolls, nigiri, and ramen are nothing short of delicious. Tofuna never tasted so good.

Flickr/Max Kiesler

Ananda Fuara

Mid-Market

This mid-Market vegetarian spot is a cult-classic... literally. The restaurant is a "divine enterprise" of Sri Chinmoy, an Indian spiritual leader, so you’ll find plenty of enlightened reading material, photos, and followers of the master. Expect seriously spiritual vibes along with totally delicious dishes. The "neatloaf" is a fan favorite -- a vegetarian meatloaf made with grains, eggs, ricotta cheese, tofu, and spices that can be made vegan on request.

Flickr/Jason

Udupi Palace

The Mission (& Berkeley)

Indian restaurants are almost always very vegetarian-friendly, and although we do love a good lamb curry, the beans, vegetables, and spices at Udupi make up for it. This place is far and away the Bay Area’s best vegetarian Indian spot: you’ll be stuffed after those giant dosas, bright curries, and pillowy uthappam (picture a thick, pancake-version of dosa). And the best part: after all that, you’ll still walk away with a full wallet.

Millennium Restaurant

Millennium

Oakland

For vegans who want all the pomp and circumstance of fine dining, Millennium is your go-to for organic, sustainable, and local plant-based fare. It’s the only fully vegan fine-dining establishment in the Bay, having moved from its spot in SF to Oakland last year. Sip on inventive house-made cocktails as you nosh on dishes that stand strong without the help of meat substitutes.

Ike’s Place

Ike’s Place

The Castro

You may be looking at this and wondering how a place that serves a "Doomsday" sandwich with bacon, ham, pastrami, roast beef, salami, turkey, mozzarella sticks, and stuffed jalapeño poppers could possibly be considered vegetarian. But hear us out. The over-the-top sandwich shop has a whole, separate menu of not-so-healthy vegan options. They’ve got vegan turkey, vegan breaded chicken, and vegan cheese, so if you’re vegan, you can go ahead and clog your arteries alongside your meat-loving friends. Try the "Vegan Pilgrim" with vegan cheese, vegan turkey, cranberry sauce, and Sriracha for a little taste of Thanksgiving.

Cha-Ya

The Mission (& Berkeley)

For light fare that still satisfies in the San Francisco rain, head to Cha-Ya for luscious bowls of soba salads, tempura vegetables, and udon, which can fulfill your craving for rich bowls of ramen without weighing you down. A crowd favorite is the gyoza with tofu, veggies, and noodles, swimming in a light broth.

Souley Vegan

Souley Vegan

Oakland

It’s Sunday morning and you wake up with a healthy appetite and a craving for hearty soul food... but your brunch buddy is vegan. Head to Souley Vegan, where you can get satisfying southern dishes, all sans meat. Think fried okra, collard greens, veggie burgers, grits topped with fried tofu and okra gumbo, and seitan steak. These flavorful dishes are lacking in meat, but not in flavor. Bonus: Sunday brunch offers bottomless mimosas for $12.

Courtesy of Nourish Cafe

Nourish Cafe

Inner Richmond

After a particularly debaucherous night of beer, bacon, and burgers, get your detox on at Nourish Cafe, a plant-based, organic eatery offering salads, juices, toasts, smoothies, and açaí bowls that utilize whole, natural foods. Get in touch with your inner bunny rabbit while munching on vegetable-and-fruit-centric dishes that’ll leave you feeling great.

Seed + Salt

Seed + Salt

The Marina

You may hear the term "vegan and gluten-free" and run for the hills, but hold up: Seed + Salt may be health conscious, but it doesn’t sacrifice flavor. Sure, it's a bit annoyingly trendy, but it also makes delicious, healthy fare that will make you feel virtuous. Chow down on that beet burger on a gluten-free bun now -- you’ll deserve that steak dinner later (it’s all about balance, people).

Shangri-La Vegan

Shangri-La Vegan

Oakland

While the first time most of us heard of the “macrobiotic diet” was when Gwyneth Paltrow was championing yet another fad, this Taoist diet has actually been around for hundreds of years. Enter Shangri-La, a vegan, organic, and macrobiotic restaurant in Oakland serving no-frills lentils, squash, brown rice, and tofu-centric dishes in a quaint, cozy setting. Thanks, Gwen.

Golden Era Vegan Restaurant

Golden Era

Civic Center

For those craving spring rolls and fried egg(less) rolls, platefuls of noodles, bowls of soups, and claypots filled with veggies and curries, Golden Era is your vegan Asian paradise. Its menu is comprised of Aulacese, Chinese, Indian, and Thai cuisines. The veggies are bountiful here, but people are really blown away by the meat substitutes, which we hear are close to the real thing. We may or may not agree, but deep fry pretty much anything and we’re down to try it.

Sign up here for our daily San Francisco email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun SF has to offer.

Eloise Porter is a Thrillist contributor who loves a good steak but always has room for salad. Just don’t take away her cheese. You can follow her on Twitter @eloisepporter.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Greens Restaurant 2 Marina Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94123

An OG on the vegetarian front since 1979, Greens is the real deal: A legit, upscale restaurant in a beautiful space within Fort Mason that basically showed America that you can still eat really, really well without all the meat and cream and all the other things associated with fine dining back during the fall of disco. Though founding chef Deborah Madison has passed the reigns onto Annie Somerville, the food continues to pull in people from all across the world. You’re not to mess around here: get the price fixe, sit back, and be blown away when you realize all the next-level things she can do without the magic of bacon.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
2. Gracias Madre 2211 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110 (The Mission)

To satisfy your Mexi-cravings, head to this Mission spot for vegan takes on tacos, enchiladas, tamales, and even ceviche. Gracias Madre is committed to health and sustainability, all without sacrificing flavor, so it's no wonder vegans and carnivores alike line up out the door to chow-down on guilt-free eats that come from the team behind Cafe Gratitude.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
3. Citizen Fox 2205 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Citizen Fox is a great place to go for brunch, whether you are a vegetarian or carnivore. Not only do they have delicious vegan breakfast and dinner options, but an extensive cocktail list that is hard not to love.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
4. Herbivore 983 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110 (Mission Bay)

Tempeh, tofu, and everything local: these are the culinary pillars upon which Herbivore is built. The all-vegan restaurant in Mission has been a neighborhood go-to since 1997, serving nondenominational fare in the way of standout dishes like Vietnamese spring rolls (perfectly crisped and accompanied by peppery peanut dipping sauce) and the heavy-hitting lentil loaf with mushroom gravy and sautéed kale. Combined with a fresh juice bar and bare-bones, cafeteria-like environs, it’s the ideal spot for a detoxifying feast.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
5. Shizen 370 14th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Vegan sushi. Let it sink in first and then hear us out: it may seem like a ludicrous idea, but Shizen pulls it off flawlessly. Imagine egg-free noodles in savory ramen broth; green mango nigiri, piquant with sweet ume vinegar and avocado crema; and specialty rolls like the Open Invitation (pumpkin tempura, spiced burdock, shredded tofu, tapioca, and renkon chip for crunch) to create a veritable umami inception. In a minimalist, sleek wooden environs, this Mission hotspot is a vegan’s paradise.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
6. Ananda Fuara 1298 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Visiting Ananda Fuara isn't just about eating some delicious Indian food. It's also about experiencing the atmosphere. This place is run by Sri Chinmoy, and Indian spiritual leader, so there are plenty of new things to see, hear, and experience at Ananda Fuara while waiting for your meal.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
7. Udupi Palace 1007 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110 (The Mission)

With an entire menu of great and filling Indian fare, there is no reason not to drop in at this neighborhood spot. But if nothing else, come for the paper masala dosa, roughly the size of a baseball bat. Or perhaps your entire arm. The menu describes it as a “jumbo thin rice crepe filled with spiced potatoes and onions,” and it's definitely a fun thing to try to consume as un-awkwardly as possible.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
8. Millennium 5912 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

A Kickstarter campaign reopened this vegetarian restaurant, which spent the last 20 years in San Francisco. Whether or not you're #plantbased, Millennium's locally-sourced dishes and globally-inspired cuisine appeal to any palate. The amarosa potato tikka cake and the sesame and Arborio crusted king trumpet mushrooms are a must.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
9. Ike’s Place 3489 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94114 (The Castro)

Ike's serves up a myriad of delicious sandwiches (with quirky names) and features vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options to satisfy all. Out of all the sandwich shops in San Francisco, this is the best place for vegetarians and vegans in the area.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
10. Cha-Ya Vegetarian Japanese Restaurant 1686 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709 (Berkeley)

Vegans and vegetarians flock to this tiny Japanese spot in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto. The extensive and affordable menu features vegetable and tofu-based sushi rolls, soups, and tempura that'll convert even the swankiest of sushi aficionados into veggie roll fans. The decor is basic and unfussy, but you'll be too focused on the creative meatless creations in front of you to notice. Cha-Ya is generally packed around lunch and dinner, and since there are no reservations, you'll want to avoid primetime to dodge the lines. Oh, and make sure to hit up the ATM beforehand -- it's cash-only.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
11. Souley Vegan 301 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607 (Oakland)

This vegan soul food diner in Jack London Square is the kind of place where carnivores won't care that they aren't eating meat. The Southern comfort menu replaces all the soul food classics with meatless alternatives -- think Southern fried tofu, vegan mac & cheese, okra gumbo, and seitan chicken & waffles. Brunch is Souley's standout meal, complete with bottomless mimosas that pair well with blueberry pancakes and sweet potato waffles.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
12. Nourish Café 189 6th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118 (The Richmond)

Wedged in among a line of fragrant bakeries and greasy Thai spots is this plant-based restaurant, which succeeds in proving itself as appetizing as its less healthy neighbors. The brunch menu, for one, is a nice change of pace from your average food coma-inducing, ketchup-drowned meal, with options like quinoa waffles, acai bowls, avocado toast, and fresh-pressed juice. The rest of the plant-based menu is just as enticing to meat- and non-meat-lovers alike, with options like raw nutella toast, marinated tofu bahn mis, and falafel bowls with pickled onions.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
13. Seed & Salt 2240 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123 (The Marina)

Insofar as Seed & Salt is concerned, there’s an entire world bursting with flavor, even when you eliminate all wheat and animal-based products (not to mention GMOs, refined sugar, and trans fats). With an entirely gluten-free and vegan menu, this minimalist Marina counter-service spot has a steady stream of regulars who rave about standouts like the beet burger, the coconut ceviche, and the kale Caesar.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
14. Shangri-La Vegan 4001 Linden St., Oakland, CA 94608 (Oakland)

Shangri-La isn't your average vegan and organic restaurant. They also follow the macrobiotic diet, a food plan championed by Gwyneth Paltrow but has actually existed for hundreds of years. This restaurant is cozy and serves up food that you won't feel guilty about eating.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
15. Golden Era Vegan 395 Golden Gate Ave, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Civic Center)

Golden Era has been a go-to locale for vegan food in the Civic Center area since 1999. The space has a naturalistic feel to it (think wood-paneled environs, with a forest photograph covering an entire accent wall in the back; tasteful floral arrangements and tropical fauna placed throughout), with the open kitchen serving sizzling clay-pot stews, raw cabbage mushu rolls, and other animal-free fare that keeps a loyal stream of regulars coming back for more.

Clickbait