Vegetarians. We all know one. Or, since we live in San Francisco, we know 30 of them. Maybe you’re even a vegetarian yourself. Not eating meat is the hottest thing since eating grass-fed meat, and it’s only a matter of time before grass-fed grass takes off.
What follows isn’t a list of the best vegetarian restaurants in SF - in fact, only one of these places serves all vegetables. These are just some of our favorite restaurants in the city where vegetarians can have excellent meals, and their friends/significant others/Uber Pool-mates/in-laws, vegetarian or not, can enjoy themselves as well.
This place comes first, because it’s the only all-vegetarian spot on our list. The people here are committed. Does the menu make you feel like you’re at The Cheesecake Factory, only without the bread basket and Chinese chicken salad? Maybe. It’s a hodgepodge of pasta, curry, pizza, and spring rolls, and it tends to be at its best when it’s not trying to do a vegan/vegetarian version of something that normally has meat. Skip the pizza, get the brochettes and potato cakes, and feel good about not eating mammals. The atmosphere is slightly upscale, so this is a good place to take the parents.
The charred sweet potato tacos at Cala are unbelievably good, with the homemade tortillas and blackened potatoes working as a simple and delicious combo. (The bone marrow salsa that comes on the side is arguably the best part, so let’s see how firmly you adhere to your life choices.) Besides the sweet potato tacos, the black bean sopes are strong, as is the atmosphere - you’ll feel kind of like you wandered into an outdoor wedding in Mexico City.
Fiorella, in the Richmond, does some of our favorite SF pizza, and the vegetable-heavy pies are way better than the meaty ones. The simple margherita is light and delicious, the funghi pie is drowning in mushrooms (in a good way), and the Magic Zone, a white pizza with spinach, is addictive - get a side of tomato sauce to go with it. Try this place for brunch, too - we like the polenta cake, egg sandwich, and frittata.
The vegetables at Bellota, the Spanish food mecca in the Airbnb building, are outrageously good. Portions are big, sauces are applied very liberally, and the wood-roasting of so many ingredients takes them to the next level (the brussels sprouts in particular are incredible). If just eating plates of vegetables doesn’t do it for you and/or your vegetarian compatriots, the paella with squash and mushrooms is phenomenal, too. Did we mention they also have a lot of delicious cheeses? Yes, it’s vegetarian heaven.
The meats might look like the stars of the show here, but the cauliflower gives them a serious run for their money. It’s roasted, topped with herbs, and served with a beet sauce - making for a close-to-perfect plate. You can get it on a sandwich as well, but we like the plated version better. If you’re not into cauliflower, then your options here are slightly limited, but if you are, it’s a no-brainer.
The vegetable-heavy Mediterranean menu here is very good. Focus on getting as many dips as you can handle - everything’s made to be shared - plus the fattoush salad and the carrots. This Mission spot isn’t as well-known as you might expect, considering its cool design and delicious food, so hit it when you need an easy reservation for date night, girls’ night, or dinner with a group.
It’s always a good sign when a place has an entire section of its menu dedicated to vegetables and tofu. Burma Love is one of our go-tos in this category - it’s easy to order a massive meal here and not even notice there’s no meat on the table. Start with the tea leaf salad, and then the world is your oyster (or at least, oyster-shaped piece of tempeh).
We’re not vegetarians, but if we were, cheese would be one of our top three food groups. A 16 does phenomenal burrata, pizzas, and some damn good vegetable sides - especially the roasted cauliflower and carrot-beet salad. For date night, it’s hard to beat a funghi pizza and a bottle of wine. If you’re Type A, make a reservation 30 days in advance. If you’re not, roll up to the bar, grab a glass of wine, and wait for some seats to open up.
Stonepots with crispy rice are simple and delicious, and we are big fans. This Mission spot does said pots (with or without steak), as well as some incredible mushroom appetizers - specifically dumplings and a delicious terrine - that will make you forget about hamburgers forever. Probably.
We really like this tapas spot on Divis, and although the meat and seafood dishes are where it truly shines, you can easily make a meal out of the vegetable and cheese plates. The octopus will keep any non-vegetarian companions happy while you hoard the pan con tomate all to yourself.
Del Popolo is a very good place to eat carbs, namely in the form of wood-fired pizzas with some of our favorite crust in the city. Besides the pies, the non-meat plates - from the ricotta to the roasted romanesco - are excellent and actually make a very good meal on their own. This place works for date night, group dinners, or catching up with friends - and the lower Nob Hill/Union Square-ish location means it’s convenient (without being touristy).
Speaking of carbs, we would not judge and would gladly partake in - nay, heartily welcome - a meal entirely composed of Tartine bread. This all-day Mission cafe/wonderland has amazing vegetarian options for breakfast, lunch, brunch, and dinner. During the day, the egg sandwich, squash soup, salads, and grilled cheese are epic, and at dinner the smorrebreads and vegetable plates are hearty and better than any of the meat entrees.
For upscale Indian food, August 1 Five is a good move. Definitely start with a bread basket (involving naans topped with cheese and potato). Then, get the crunchy palak chaat (fried spinach), or the paneer kebab. The bar area is an ideal spot for post-work drinks, or even a quick dinner alone with one of the creative, tasty, meat-free cocktails.
Made-to-order tofu isn’t something you come across every day, and when you do, you should get involved, whether you’re vegetarian or not. Eiji, a tiny Japanese spot on the edge of the Castro, does excellent tofu and non-seafood plates, plus sushi thats keep us (ferocious sushi people) happy. The walnut-eggplant dish is great, the nigiri (particularly the tamago) is awesome, and you can make the tofu the main event. Get the mochi-covered strawberries for dessert, and you’re good to go.