The 15 Best Places To Eat Vegetarian And Vegan Food In SF guide image


The 15 Best Places To Eat Vegetarian And Vegan Food In SF

Eating your vegetables has never been so fun.

Living in San Francisco has a lot of perks, from the proximity to the vast redwoods and basically every other form of nature you can imagine, to the seemingly endless options for vegans and vegetarians. While you may have hopped on the vegan train by way of the beloved Greens in the Marina, you might look to switch up your go-to spots for delicious vegetable-heavy dishes.

The 15 spots on this guide serve everything from vegetarian Nepalese momos to cashew cheese-topped vegan enchiladas. And regardless if you avoid meat and dairy at all costs, or are just trying to add a few more plant-based meals into your week, each of these places will keep you coming back for more.

The Spots

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2001 Fillmore St, San Francisco
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Although you may not be able to get to Greece right now, this Mediterranean restaurant in the Fillmore always makes us feel like we’re sunning in Santorini while noshing on feta tomato puffs, whipped hummus, and wood-fired pita. The menu, which is available for both indoor and outdoor dining, changes weekly, with both a four-course brunch and a plant-based dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. There’s always a vegetarian option available, including savory options like the baked eggplant and burrata and sweeter things like the Turkish coffee fudge brownie.

It can be hard to find good paella without meat or seafood - but Bellota has the option for half-and-half orders, so you can dig into the Verano (with white corn, romano and wax bean, snap pea, radish, and pickled red onion) right alongside your less vegetable-focused friends. Try some pintxos and tapas as well, including the manchego, pear, and apple salad and a delightful tortilla Española with potato, onion, spinach, piquillo puré, and lemon aioli.

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This Mission spot serves up meaty, vegetarian, and vegan options, all while under the gaze of a painting of a big red yak. Start with the momos, filled with a combination of mixed vegetables with chives and homemade masala, before digging into the bindi tarkhari, which includes fresh okra sauteed with onion, chopped tomatoes, ginger-garlic paste, and spices. Keep in mind: you can request all house specialties and curries as vegetarian or vegan, so this is a great spot to try as many dishes as possible.

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SF Guide

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Dim sum is as much a part of living in SF as walking up and down hills and debating if you should move to Oakland, and many Chinatown restaurants offer up some vegetarian dishes. Yet, if you want to ensure you get the full dim sum experience as a vegan, check out Enjoy Vegetarian. With over 100 dishes, this place aims to provide a full breadth of options for the meat-free crowd, including everything from soy chicken and tofu lettuce wraps to curry pumpkin tofu. You’ll likely need more than just one trip to try everything here, but we recommend starting with the Golden Basket (including four pieces each of deep-fried vegetable tempura, veggie nuggets, crispy soy chicken, and wontons) and the sweet and sour soy chicken with bell peppers and pineapple.

Great for an after-work hang, this Nob Hill spot has everything we want after six hours of Zooms - or any other time we just really need pizza. Sitting near the wood-fired oven will have you debating which of their vegetarian pies to try as they come out hot and blistered, but our favorites include the roasted maitake mushroom with spinach, garlic, and cacio e pepe, and the Bianca (mozzarella, ricotta, basil, and garlic). If you and your coworkers are particularly hungry, share some appetizers too, specifically the roasted summer squash with tomatillo, ricotta salata, and pepita dukkah.

Now with two locations, Burma Love has been serving some of the city’s best Burmese food for nearly 30 years. Whether you’re looking for a delightful lunch or a last-minute dinner sans reservation, this place has you covered with an extensive menu including everything from vegetarian samosa soup to Shan noodles - rice noodles cooked in a Burmese tomato sauce with pickled mustard greens, cilantro, peanuts, and sauteed tofu. Many dishes can be modified for vegan diners too, so don’t hesitate to ask.

At first glance, “vegan sushi” makes about as much sense as acoustic metal or solo karaoke - but this Mission spot eases those fears with an extensive menu of dishes that are actually delicious. In order to get the most out of the Shizen vegan experience, you may need to make a few trips to try more of the menu, but that’s OK since many of the dishes are under $15 - including pan-fried vegetable and tofu gyoza, and nigiri with bean curd, green mango, and okra. Just make sure to leave room for the Foxy Scarlet roll, which comes with sweet potato puree, panko-crusted bean curd, avocado, bell pepper, and black truffle hummus.

This Tenderloin Thai spot serves it all, both during the lunch rush and even after you get back from the bar. On top of that, the entire expansive menu is filled to the brim with vegetarian options. We recommend ordering the pad kee mow noodles - pan-fried noodles with chili, garlic, onions, bell pepper, bamboo shoot, tomatoes, and basil - all washed down with a soy Thai iced tea. For vegan diners, remember to specify any accommodations you need, and enjoy the wide array of vegan meat alternatives too.

Tartine Manufactory has limited its hours compared to the before times, but this place still provides all the coffee, bread, and pastries we could ever want. In their combination ice cream shop/bakery/cafe/coffee bar/actual bar in the Mission, they send out everything from avocado toast and yogurt bowls to a bunch of dips perfect for slathering on their freshly baked bread. But if you’re looking for a morning pick-me-up, there’s nothing better than their loaded breakfast sandwich, with a fried egg, sharp cheddar, and arugula on a soft brioche bun.

SF has no shortage of vegan “junk food” spots specializing in things like pizza, mac and cheese, and burgers, but Nourish is one place that aims to serve food that not only tastes good, but is also good for you. All their ingredient plans are listed online, with mentions of dates in their baked goods and oil-free salad dressings to get you excited from behind your standing desk. To hype you up for the rest of your workday, order the Warrior Bowl with spinach, carrots, cabbage, zucchini, sprouted beans, and avocado as the base for a quinoa-and-black-bean Nourish burger patty, with red pepper almond dressing. Or go for the “Tuna” sandwich: a mixture of sunflower seeds, celery, almonds, onions, tahini, kelp flakes, and mustard, with cashew mayo, lettuce, tomato, and sprouts.

Aside from typical Northern Indian staples like chicken tikka masala and saag paneer, this Haight spot offers up a ton of plant-focused dishes, with 24 vegetarian options alongside the meat-focused ones. Start with the three pakoras - mixed vegetable, eggplant, and spinach - which are always a crowd-pleaser, regardless of your dietary habits. From there, pick either the baigan bharta (eggplant roasted in a clay oven with green peas and spices, in an onion and tomato gravy) or the paneer korma with homemade cottage cheese cooked in a creamy sauce, with almonds, nuts, and raisins. And soak up all the last bits on your plate with some naan or paratha.

photo credit: Remy Galvan-Hale

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Gracias Madre

One of my favorite memories of visiting a childhood friend in SF was at this Mission spot. Neither of us was vegan at the time, but the rich wood furniture and warm terracotta color palette, as we dug into potato-and-zucchini enchiladas and jackfruit carnitas tacos, made us all the more interested in the plant-based lifestyle. And while the restaurant has experienced a bit of controversy over the years, it’s still a stellar choice for everything from brunch to Happy Hour, which makes it an easy place to stop by seven days a week. An added tip: order coconut bacon as a topping for the coliflor frito - flash-fried cauliflower mixed with spicy cashew cheese.

With its prime location near the Palace of Fine Arts and the Presidio, Wildseed often has wait times upwards of 90 minutes - but don’t let that deter you from some of the best vegetarian and plant-based meals in the city. Each of their seven menus has options that are familiar, but with a vegan/vegetarian twist. If you’re aiming for a midday meal, check out their beet poke - including macadamia, baby cucumbers, ponzu, and served with seaweed garlic crackers - and their version of rigatoni bolognese with mushrooms, ground Impossible, chard, and parmesan. For late-night sweets, order their Meyer lemon agave cheesecake, served with whipped coconut cream and coconut shavings.

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Cha-Ya Vegetarian Japanese Restaurant

The next time you spend the day in the sunshine at Dolores Park - enjoying a beer or two, playing with some doggos, or throwing around a frisbee with friends - stop by Cha-Ya to refuel for the rest of the afternoon or evening. The small vegetarian and vegan Japanese spot transitioned from cramped indoor dining to churning out takeout and delivery during the pandemic, but it’s now back offering dine-in on a first-come, first-served basis. Once seated with your friends, friends of friends, and strangers-who-are-now-friends, get the signature Cha-Ya roll, which includes avocado, yam, asparagus, and carrot, along with the vege-tofu curry.

This restaurant’s goal is to “satisfy your craving for elevated plant food,” which may sound a bit pretentious - and it is - but the food at this Hayes Valley Italian spot is actually superb. Since restrictions have eased in the city over the last few months, BAIA has opened up outdoor and indoor dining, which is all the better for splitting a variety of appetizers - including the classic garlic knots and the Impossible meat-based meatballs, served over soft polenta. Pair a few savory dishes with the sweetness of a Golden Ticket, made with añejo rum, pineapple rum, turmeric, and passionfruit.

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Suggested Reading

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The Healthy Lunch Guide

Where to have a healthy lunch in San Francisco, organized by neighborhood.

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There are a lot of bad lunch options in the Financial District. Go for one of these good ones instead.

The Union Square Lunch Guide guide image

All the best spots to eat around Union Square.

The Mission Lunch Guide guide image

All our favorite spots for lunch in the Mission, whether it’s a burrito day or not.

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