San Diego’s culinary scene isn’t all fish tacos and burgers. Ask your local vegan friends for restaurant recommendations in San Diego and they will have far too many places to list. Here is a starter kit of popular plant-based eateries, serving everything from wholesome salads to inventive indulgences around town.
Where: 1503 30th St, San Diego, CA 92102
Neighborhood: South Park
Uniquely hip environs, a standout cocktail menu, and beyond-solid eats make Kindred one of the most talked-about establishments in San Diego—even among carnivorous foodies (and cat lovers; you’ll see why). This South Park fave isn’t particularly pricey. But be careful, you could spend all your days, nights, and paychecks eating barbecued jackfruit sandwiches and tipping craft cocktails in the indoor-outdoor space. No, your server isn’t recommending that vintage sci-fi novel—your check’s in there.
Where: 2611 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104
Neighborhood: North Park
North Park’s all-vegan market and casual restaurant—a farmers’ market staple turned brick-and-mortar—is a place to indulge. The menu is packed with plant-based bacon, breakfast sausage, French dip sandwiches, pulled “porque,” fish tacos, “karne” asada, and anything else a ravenous omnivore might crave. Their burritos may be too large to be considered carry-on baggage, so plan on eating half before flying home.
Where: 2949 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
Neighborhood: Hillcrest/Bankers Hill
Come for the neighborhood-y Balboa Park-adjacent vibes and stay for the plant-based rips on comfort foods like biscuits and gravy, pizza, pasta, and polenta. The chef is a former musician who has already earned plaudits for his vegan mac-and-cheese, just one of the things he picked up working at notable plant-powered L.A.-area eateries.
1905 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104
9928 Mira Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92131
Neighborhood: North Park; Mira Mesa
With two strip mall locations (one in North Park and one in Mira Mesa), this easily overlooked gem blends pan-Asian standards like pho, bun hue, and chow mein with assorted bites of deliciously random origins – specifically, quesadillas, spicy soy sea nuggets, veggie burgers, barbecue sandwiches, and hot dogs. Can’t make it to one of their San Diego locations? Try finding them in Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Tokyo, or Hong Kong.
Where: 2201 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
Neighborhood: University Heights
The wide-ranging menu at this cafe veers from Philly cheese sandwiches to banh mi pulled pork to quinoa angel hair pasta and Thai yellow curry. Mango and sticky rice? Yeah. Mushroom pate? Also yeah. Buffalo cauliflower? You bet. Step into the rustic, suburban digs on Adams Avenue and cobble together a unique plant-based meal.
2204 Sunset Cliffs Blvd, San Diego, CA 92107
411 Santa Fe Dr, Encinitas, CA 92024
Neighborhood: Ocean Beach; Encinitas
From the drive-up ordering stations to the homemade ketchup, GMO-free ingredients, and kombucha floats, this place turns the familiar fast food experience on its unsustainable head. Handmade burger patties, homemade sauces, and organic sodas are served in biodegradable and compostable packaging. The breakfast menu—the vice of many who may otherwise avoid fast food—features plant-based chicken and waffles, organic orange juice, and fair trade iced coffee. Nothing to feel guilty about there.
3369 Rosecrans St, San Diego, CA 92110
5604 Balboa Ave Suite 107, San Diego, CA 92111
127 N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024
Neighborhood: Point Loma; Clairemont; Encinitas
With three San Diego-area locations you’re never far from wholesome plates and bowls like heaping barbecue chicken salad, Thai meatball bowls, bulgogi kimchi tacos, and kid-friendly staples including mac-and-cheese and crispy chicken strips. Look for rotating special menu items based on what’s currently in season.
3914 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104;
5501 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92117
Neighborhood: North Park; Kearny Mesa
The extensive list of pan-Asian dishes spans tofu, potstickers, and endless salty variations of vegetables, noodles, rice, and soup. Apart from vegan meats and meat-free sauces, the restaurant—with locations in North Park and Kearny Mesa—pleasantly adheres to fare you’d find in more traditional Asian restaurants. Go after 5:00 PM any day of the week for one of San Diego’s most extensive selections of vegan sushi.
Where: 4661 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92116
Neighborhood: University Heights
If Thai food is your jam, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better vegetarian option in San Diego. Located in the bustling heart of University Heights, Plumeria offers fish sauce-free versions of classic Thai dishes with rice, noodles, and a large selection of plant-based proteins. Try the fresh spring rolls or mock chicken skewers for an appetizer that pops.