By Cora Mitchell
Attention all carnivores, omnivores, and everything in between! For most of your culinary life, you’ve peered at restaurant menus featuring a variety of meats, fish, and poultry. Oh, and the occasional lonely single vegetarian offering. Well, times are changing, and vegetables are moving up in the culinary world.
San Francisco has always been the epicenter for culinary trend-setting, and it has proved itself now more than ever with this new veggie trend—serving up some of the best veg-centric cuisines in the nation. NO MEAT?! I know it feels crazy, but I assure you, this new trend will not disappoint.
Chefs across the city are giving vegetables the royal treatment, and it is catching on like wildfire. The fare is innovative, ingenious, delectable, and typically of farm-to-table origin. You have to taste it to believe it and I encourage you to do so. With everything from hole-in-the wall diners, to fine dining restaurants, we've got the complete guide to the best vegan and vegetarian fare in San Francisco.
If you’re looking for a quick bite...
Sun-Thur: 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat: 11am-10pm
1466 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117
It is not every day that you find a casual burger joint with an aesthetic space, a variety of options, and a 100% plant-based menu. To anyone who has spent time in the Bay Area, it may come as no surprise that the first 100% plant-based burger joint popped up on Haight Street in 2010. With the goal of creating a dining experience that supports optimal health of both planet and people alike, VeganBurg flips out some of the most succulent veggie burgers in the city. I assure you these are not your typical pale and lifeless veggie burgers. These patties from heaven come with options for
creamy avocado, bold beetroot, or pig-inspired truffles. And don’t think for a minute that just because they are veggie burgers you are denied the fries. On the contrary, I encourage you to order up a serving, which are seasoned with seaweed flakes or piled high with a variety of toppings.
2. Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
Tuesday 10am-2pm, Thursday 10am-2pm, Saturday 8am-2pm
One Ferry Building, #50, San Francisco, CA 94111
Placing a veggie lover in a farmer’s market is like placing a child in a candy shop. Dizzying, too many choices, animated, and simply stimulating. The Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Plaza is the place to be if you need ingredients or inspiration to cook to your heart’s and stomach’s content. It also is just a great place to go and dream of the possibilities or marvel at the selections: Fresh, fragrant local produce (yes, fresh fruit and vegetables actually have a fragrance), fruit in shapes and colors like you've never seen, and even a store dedicated just to exotic varieties of mushrooms. Whether you are on a mission to shop for a dinner party, or just want to graze and sample, this is your happy place. When the wandering miles begin to add up, caffeinate and re-energize with a cup of coffee from Blue Bottle (see my blog on 5 Coffee Shops You Cannot Miss for more info). I recommend seeking one of the many benches overlooking the waterfront where you can gaze at the Bay Bridge. And when the samples wear off, go take a seat at one of the local food stands (most offer a vegan dish). It’s a great way to start a weekend —and the weekend after that, and the weekend after that….
If you’re feeling more health-conscious...
3. Nourish Cafe
Monday – Friday: 7am – 3pm, Saturday & Sunday: 8am – 3pm
189 6th Avenue ,San Francisco, CA 94118
Monday – Thursday: 7am – 8pm, Friday: 7am – 3pm, Saturday & Sunday: 8am – 3pm
1030 Hyde Street (near California), San Francisco, CA 94109
If you are in awe of massive ceramic bowls filled with bountiful and colorful food, this is the place you seek. Nourish Cafe, was sent from the vegan gods and is living proof that quality and taste do not have to be compromised for the food to be healthy, hearty, and delicious. In fact, it feels sinful. With two locations in the city, Nourish Cafe is perfect for an inspiring breakfast, lunch, or mid-day delicacy. Every one of their offerings is a treat for the mind, body, and soul. My insider tip on this one: the toast sampler with a choice of four veggie-centered toppings are not to miss!
4. Judahlicious Juice
3906 Judah St, San Francisco, CA 94122
Although a little out of the way, this organic cafe with beach town vibes, keeps it real. Located in the outer Sunset area, this small and beautifully designed vegan food shack remains a local favorite that touts raw food and vegan cuisine. Although it is mostly known for its AWESOME açaí bowls (really, you have to see to believe it), the menu pops with options for soup, wraps, salads, and burritos. My personal favorite here is the” Half Nekked Burrito”—it beats any burrito you’ve ever had, featuring house-made organic corn tortilla stuffed with black beans, rice, grilled veggies, and sliced avocado- and topped with fresh vegetables, house goji dressing, sprouts, and vegan walnut parmesan. With ingredients like that so artfully combined, you know the people running this place are no amateurs.
If you want to impress your veg-lover date...
5. Gracias Madre
2211 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Although this restaurant may differ from those around it, it does have one thing in common with the other Mission District Mexican restaurants: its refreshing authenticity. Organic, vegetarian Mexican food is often perceived as oxymoronic, but here the chefs of Gracias Madre show the alchemy is possible. Here they serve up locally sourced, farm fresh, and organic food that is filled with flavor, nutrients, and pure “amor.” This place is no secret anymore because the word is out. I recommend making a reservation, but they also welcome walk-ins if you are not the planning type. Once you are there, grab yourself a margarita- or two, and go ahead and fool yourself that the organic food will cancel out the effects. It won’t,but it sure does make a perfect combination. With limitless options for the vegans and vegetarians of the world and rich and authentic flavors, Gracias Madre has even the most serial meat lovers coming back for more.
370 14th St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Avocado sushi is a go-to for many veg-heads. Depending on how it is served up it can be bland or, in the case of the roll found at Shizen, sublime. If you like sushi rolls and bow to the altar of that creamy green fruit as well as a myriad of other veggies, you will love this Mission District Japanese restaurant. Shizen has the vibe and all the trappings of a traditional sushi house—-- minus the fish and crustaceans. The result is some of the most creative and unique sushi rolls you have ever seen, tasted, touched, or smelled. The chefs here treat raw vegetables with the same reverence and love as traditional sushi chefs treat their raw fish. Rolled in perfectly combined sushi rice, the result is Samurai bliss. The combined options of the sushi bar, intricate rolls, nigiri, and animal-free ramen could make you think you have died and gone to sushi heaven. And the best part is—you don’t even have to pretend you like fish eggs.