zen habits : breathe

Vegan Guide to San Francisco

By Leo Babauta

San Francisco is my favorite city in the world, and living here has helped me become fully vegan (Eva too, as of last year!).

I thought I’d share a (non-comprehensive) list of places to try for fellow vegans visiting the city. It’s the result of my exploration of many places, good and great, which has been admittedly a lot of fun.

You won’t get to all of these, so I’ve marked my favorites. (Update: Here’s a map of these spots, created by reader Ivana.)

All-Vegan Spots

Restaurants with only vegan food:

  1. Millenium: An absolute favorite, and a must-try for any vegan new to San Francisco. It’s gourmet vegan food, imaginative combinations of flavors and textures. A bit dressier than most of the places on this list, it’s a date-night type joint. In addition to an amazing food menu, they have excellent wines and cocktails. [fave]
  2. Gracias Madre: My other favorite vegan place in the city (along with Millenium), it’s Eva’s top spot. It’s organic vegan Mexican, but different than any other Mexican food you’ve probably tried. Healthy, delicious, unique, everything is sustainably farmed (often on their own farm). Save some room for the dessert — I recommend the Mexican chocolate cake & toasted coconut ice cream (unless it’s the holiday season, in which case they’ll likely have the pumpkin spice cake — get that!). [fave]
  3. Herbivore: With three locations (Valencia, Divisadero, and Berkeley), this is a go-to spot for vegan families (there’s something on the menu for everyone), vegan brunch, and a quick and tasty bite. There are some good healthy options here (salads, green juice), and some tasty but less-healthy options (try the grilled seitan deluxe schwarma), and everything in between.
  4. Cha-Ya Japanese: If you’re craving some vegan Japanese, look no further. It’s inexpensive, cooked in the Zen tradition, and pretty tasty.
  5. Pepple’s Donuts: These guys are actually located in Oakland, but they have a stand at the Ferry Building (which is great for foodies and has a great farmer’s market on Tues, Thurs and Sat). Delicious with lots of great flavors. Also available in a bunch of grocery stores around the city.
  6. Loving Hut: With locations near Powell Station (in the Westfield food court), Chinatown and Sunset neighborhood, this is pretty yummy vegan fast food. You might know them already as they’re all over the world, and if you’ve been to a couple of them, you’ll know that they won’t knock your socks off, but they’re a great choice for a quick vegan lunch as you’re out sightseeing.

All-Vegetarian Spots

These restaurants serve no meat and are great places for vegans:

  1. Greens: Come here for dinner at sunset and enjoy the view of the water. Gourmet vegetarian — one of the first in the country, and owned by San Francisco Zen Center. Lots of vegan options, tell them you’re vegan and they’ll treat you right. So yummy. [fave]
  2. Rainbow Grocery: [fave]
  3. Source: An amazing variety of vegetarian food (almost all is vegan) — it’s like a new-Age diner, with Philly Cheese Moos (moos are their beef replacement, clucks are duck replacement, bow-wows are vegan hot dogs, etc.) and pizza and even vegan Twinkies. Go here ready to oink out.
  4. Thai Idea Vegetarian: Who doesn’t love Thai food? Now you can love it and not be worried about animal products. Pretty much everything on the menu is vegan, and it’s delicious. Nuff said.
  5. Udupi Palace: We went here and ordered way too much food, because it’s all so good. It’s South Indian food, all vegetarian (dairy in some dishes, so ask if you want vegan-only), spicy and yummy. Get the dosas.
  6. Ananda Fuara: This is a funky, cult-like place, but it’s downtown where there aren’t many vegan places, and actually the food is pretty decent. I really like the chocolate cake.
  7. Vegetarian Chinese: There are three places with vegetarian Chinese food if you’re in the mood for some General Tso veg chicken or crispy spring rolls — Golden Era Vegetarian Restaurant, Enjoy Vegetarian Restaurant (with three locations), Lucky Creation Vegetarian Restaurant. My kids love this stuff.
  8. Donna’s Tamales: Vegetarian and vegan tomales, found at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market and various grocery stores (see their site for more info).

Vegan-Friendly

You’ll find a ton of places in San Francisco that are vegan friendly (almost every place but steakhouses), but here are some that I like:

East Bay Vegan Spots

Some great places in Berkeley and Oakland (not a complete list):

  1. Cinnaholic: Insane vegan cinnamon rolls with great toppings! Must-try if you have a sweet tooth and are near Berkeley. My kids adore this place. [fave]
  2. Encuentro Cafe & Wine Bar: Great vegetarian/vegan food, and wine — need I say more? Great for a date night near the Jack London Square area of Oakland. [fave]
  3. Cafe Gratitude: I was sad when the SF location of Gratitude closed, but you can still hit them up in Berkeley. Hippy feel, half raw and half cooked vegan menu. Try the Gratitude Bowl, among others. [fave]
  4. Flacos: Tiny little vegan taco shop in Berkeley, my mouth waters thinking about their food.
  5. Timeless Coffee: Hip coffee shop in Oakland, all their coffee & great pastries are vegan!

A Vegan Sightseeing Tour of SF

OK, let’s put my faves together with my favorite spots in San Francisco into a 2-day highlights tour. Warning: It’s not necessarily the healthiest of tours, but you’ll burn it off exploring the city! Map out this stuff before you come to SF.

Day 1

Day 2

If You Have More Time

Other good ideas: Encuentro in Oakland, Rainbow Grocery if you want to buy some food to cook yourself, the Golden Gate Bridge and trails along the coast in Presidio, Land’s End trails, a house-made veggie burger and sweet potato fries at Roam Artisan Burger, Flacos or Cafe Gratitude in Berkeley.



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