Perhaps unsurprisingly, California has always been a hub for organic, healthy, and plant-based foods. Once the heart of the countercultural hippie movement in the 1960s that preached peace and love to all living beings, San Francisco has many legacy restaurants still serving vegan eats. Furthermore, there are increasing numbers of eager up-and-coming businesses looking to make an impact.
The environment in the legendary Golden Gate City is the perfect incubator for vegan businesses; the proximity of Stanford, UC Berkeley, and other research facilities spurs the invention of alternative proteins — California dominates this sector — while the many diverse people and respective cultures passing through and settling in the city over time have also enormously contributed to its epicurean landscape.
Many of the vegan restaurants on our list today are inspired by global cuisines, including Latin American, Japanese, Italian, and West and Central African-influenced soul food, to name but a few. Consider that a teaser of the bold flavors awaiting you at these vegan restaurants! The chefs responsible for these restaurants are redefining vegan cuisine through community activism, leading the charge in innovating new cooking methods, and, most importantly, making delicious food. We're talking food sure to impress anyone — vegans or omnivores. So if you're a local, we're sure you'll find a new haunt to make your local vegan go-to, and if you're a tourist, we've got all the best recommendations to add to your itinerary. Let's dive deep into everything you need to know.
Warm and moody, BAIA in the historic Hayes Valley — only a few blocks or a 15-minute walk from the famous Painted Ladies — should be at the top of your list for a romantic, entirely plant-based dining destination. The vibe is upscale and intimate, with a large light structure of glimmering, falling stars in the center of the restaurant traversing two floors of seating. Below, a fully vegan bar serves wines and beers, plus a few non-alcoholic options.
Having opened in 2020 as a collaboration among celebrity chef and serial vegan restaurateur Matthew Kenney; Tracy Vogt, owner of Charlie's Acres, a local farm animal rescue; and her husband, Kyle Vogt, BAIA is new to the scene. Despite this, the modern, distinctly Californian take on Italian classics has taken the city by storm.
The menu is seasonal and locally sourced, so it changes frequently — but keep an eye out for Baia's most beloved dishes, like the spicy sausage and peppers pizza, featuring fiery Fresno chilis and smoky meat-free sausage on a charred Italian-style base, or the saucy pasta bowls. Portion sizes aren't large, but there's no sense of missing the meat here; the cheese is house-made and would convince the most ardent dairy lover, while the "meat" is impossibly good. Thanks to the restaurant's vicinity to the San Francisco Opera and Ballet, you'll see patrons dressed to impress in suits and cocktail dresses, and come evening, we recommend booking in advance.
300 Grove St, San Francisco, CA 94102
If you've only got time to try one vegan restaurant in San Francisco, it might have to be Wildseed. The place is owned and operated by Adriano Paganini, a man you should know — raised in Milan, this chef cooked for Queen Elizabeth, opera royalty Luciano Pavarotti, and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher before starting a restaurant group that opened multiple restaurants around San Francisco. Wildseed is his most renowned venture.
Situated on Union Street, not far from either Lombard Street or the Presidio (which has magnificent views of the Golden Gate Bridge), Wildseed has an airy, relaxed, and minimalistic atmosphere that perfectly complements its mission statement: a restaurant where you can dine and feel good about your choice to eat sustainably, locally, and without cruelty.
There are a few different food options here, so plan ahead. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends, a brunch menu includes coconut masala bowls and curries, the mushroom-and-spinach patty Wildseed Burger, carrot lox tartine, and inspired salads. Lunch from Monday to Friday runs from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a menu that harks back to Paganini's Italian roots with some Middle Eastern flair. The same menu is available for dinner, Sunday to Thursday from 5 to 9:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 10:30 p.m. There's also a reduced menu takeaway option — although Wildseed is our pick for one of San Francisco's best outdoor dining restaurants, so if you have time, we highly advise eating there.
2000 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123
Amidst a city adorned with vibrant facades, Beach'n, a modest restaurant just a two-minute stroll from Ocean Beach in Outer Sunset, effortlessly stands out. The casual seating outside its turquoise shopfront won't provide an award-winning view, but it does feel nice on a breezy day.
Although Beach'n shares the same proprietors as Judahlicious a few blocks away, their menus have distinct angles, with Beach'n leaning heavily toward comfort food. Here, you'll find all the familiar favorites from the country's cuisine, with one noteworthy difference — it's entirely vegan. Expect mac 'n cheese with a house-made oozy, gooey dairy-free buffalo sauce, French toast sticks covered in powdered sugar, and hearty breakfast burritos with a peppery arugula salad.
If we had to recommend just one dish, it would have to be the iconic hashcakes: huge cylinders of fluffy potatoes with the crunchiest exterior you could imagine, with three topping options. Choose from a slathering of cashew-based sauce topped with herbs; umami-packed caramelized onions and mushrooms with vegan parmesan; or a Tex-Mex style guacamole and tomato topped with smoky, creamy ancho crema.
4300 Judah St, San Francisco, CA 94122
Whether you've recently committed to eating nourishing and wholesome food or you've been on your journey for a while, we've got a fabulous suggestion for you. Get yourselves down to Judahlicious on Outer Sunset.
A cornerstone of the San Francisco vegan community, this establishment is dedicated to offering organic, vegetable-packed juices, vibrant smoothies bursting with flavor, and, notably, a variety of raw vegan plates. Feast on collard leaf tacos made smothered in a sunflower seed pâté and topped with creamy avocado, or try an umami-rich tamari marinated portabella mushroom crowned with freshly chopped vegetables and drizzled in a silky cashew crème. If raw foods aren't your jam, there's plenty to choose from, including vegan waffles, hearty chili, satisfying salads, and nutritious açaí bowls.
The vibe at Judahlicious is unabashedly casual, with a small outside seating area plus cozy and compact wooden tables inside. It's an ideal place to hang out with friends or family for lunch — Judahlicious opens from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
3906 Judah St, San Francisco, CA 94122
Some eateries are only known as places we go to enjoy a good meal. Other restaurants are destinations, the places of experience. There's no doubt that Peña Pachamama falls into the latter category; every Friday and Saturday, co-owner Eddy, a composer and musician with two Grammy nominations, accompanies live performances of Latin and Flamenco fusion dance. In fact, Peña Pachamama, which was previously a speakeasy and Italian restaurant that hosted the likes of JFK and Marilyn Monroe, amongst other legends, opened 25 years ago when co-owners Quentin and Eddy Navia wanted a performance venue. The idea of serving food alongside the music was born from a desire for community — hence the name "Peña," which means "gathering" in one of Bolivia's indigenous languages. The other half means "Mother Earth."
Although the restaurant wasn't always vegan, it's now serving some of the best plant-based eats in the Bay area. Its kale chips, famous within the state, have won awards. But it's the family's recipe for homemade Bolivian empanadas you need to get your hands on — they're a revelation. Over half of the menu is raw, and most of the dishes are gluten-free, but regardless of your dietary preferences, we recommend a sampling. The restaurant received much-deserved legacy status in 2023 and is a vital stop for tourists and locals alike.
If you plan on dropping by, Peña Pachamama is a little off the beaten path and has limited hours, only opening for dinner at 4:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
1630 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94133
Loving Hut Vegan Restaurant
San Francisco is famous for its Chinese food. However, to experience some of the best vegan food in the city, you'll have to step outside the famous Chinatown district and instead head to casual Inner Sunset, where Loving Hut occupies a small, unassuming building on the buzzing main thoroughfare, Irving Street.
Loving Hut has a fascinating inception. Founded by a spiritual leader known as "Supreme Master Ching Ha," the restaurant is part of a chain that reputably operates in 35 countries worldwide with over 200 locations.
Looking at its menu (which varies by location), it's no wonder the brand has succeeded. There's all your favorites; crispy wontons, sticky drumsticks, scallion pancakes, pineapple fried rice, and even banana fritters — all 100% vegan. The restaurant offers dine-in, pickup, and delivery and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. to satisfy all your cravings.
524 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122
Known for its influence on American sushi, California has earned a reputation as a sushi hotspot, famously giving rise to the "California roll." There are too many Japanese restaurants in the city to count — but very few vegan ones, and even fewer as lauded as Shizen.
Created by the same team that started the environmentally conscious Tataki Sushi and Sake Bar, Shizen takes things one step further with an entirely plant-based menu. Of course, they've got the classic California roll, but the menu is full of other gems; focus on the sushi rolls and ramen for the best experience. Green mango nigiri with citrus and avocado purée stands out as particularly innovative, while the intensely garlicky miso ramen with bean curd chashu and tempura mushrooms earned Shizen a place on our list of best ramen restaurants in America.
Moreover, Shizen casts an impressive atmosphere in a dining room that melds modern Japanese architectural features with the classy, high-end feeling of exclusive restaurants. If you want to enjoy sushi without guilt, head there between 5 and 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 4 to 9:30 p.m. Friday to Saturday, or 4:30 to 9 p.m. on Sunday.
370 14th St, San Francisco, CA 94103
The Vegan Hood Chefs
This Black-owned business isn't a typical restaurant. It's not a restaurant at all. The Vegan Hood Chefs is a Bay Area-based food truck and catering company dedicated to promoting and educating underserved communities of color about healthy living through plant-based food, as well as combating food insecurity and social inequality. In 2017, San Francisco natives Ronnishia Johnson and Rheema Calloway initiated the project, and since then, they have gained recognition from press outlets nationwide.
If you catch their food truck (keep an eye on social media for its location and any residencies), be sure to grab a selection of veganized soul-food favorites, like the oozing, cheesy, loaded cajun mac bowl topped with smoky BBQ jackfruit and fresh slaw; crispy vegan chicken bites; and artisan pizzas. If you're not a fan of soul food (if so, who are you?), try their notoriously delicious loaded poke nachos with wonton chips and hearts of palm crab.
The Vegan Hood Chefs also run free community cooking demos, so when you eat at the joint, you support their efforts to rebuild local communities and reclaim veganism as a movement for everyone.
Food truck located in multiple locations across the Bay Area
Creativity abounds at Om Sabor, a Latin American-inspired concept serving 100% plant-based dishes. Vibrant hibiscus flower tacos with avocado mousse stand out from the crowd, as does a citrusy ceviche (or "coco-viche") made from young coconut, trumpet mushrooms, and mango marinated in a zesty Peruvian leche de tigre. The desserts — which regularly change — are also not to be missed, so save some room.
Om Sabor is the brainchild of partners Dhanistha Rivera and Luis Alfredo Flores, who blend their traditional Mexican cuisines with the world flavors popular in San Francisco, adding a vegan twist. However, despite being located in Hayes Valley — a trendy spot filled with hip restaurants — Om Sabor is somewhat of a hidden gem. You'll find it inside Phonobar, a cocktail lounge and live music venue with moody lighting and an energetic ambiance. Although there's indoor and outdoor seating, places are on a first-come, first-serve basis, with no reservations. To bypass the hustle, Om Sabor also offers takeout.
370 Grove St, San Francisco, CA 94134
Nourish Café is practically a San Francisco institution at this point. Since opening its first site in 2015 in Richmond (outdoor seating only), Nourish Café has introduced a second establishment in Nob Hill and gradually built up a reputation as the best place to find vegan whole foods rich in grains, legumes, nuts, fruits, and vegetables.
The light, airy, and minimal decor is ideal for a quick lunch or brunch with friends, and the food won't disappoint either. Expect to find nourishing bowls loaded with grains, greens, and healthy seed dressings; colorful and fruity smoothies; sandwiches that are so good you almost can't believe they're healthy with minimal oil; and our ultimate recommendation, a wide selection of toasts that made its way onto our list of top spots for elegant toasts across San Francisco. If you can't choose, get the toast sampler, which is both mouthwatering and aesthetically pleasing.
(415) 571-8780 for Richmond, (415) 580-7463 for Nob Hill
Multiple locations in San Francisco
Golden Era Vegan
Imagine wonton soup, full of depth and complexity, with juicy, freshly steamed vegetable wontons. Succulent soy protein simmered in a spicy kung pao sauce with crunchy peanuts. Vermicelli noodles with fresh lettuce, crunchy bean sprouts, refreshing mint, meaty soy strips, and crispy eggless rolls. How tempting does that sound?
We all crave Asian food. For some of us, it's packed with nostalgia and a reminder of home, while others merely enjoy the intense umami and subtle spicing that's a cuisine specialty. For plant-based individuals who aren't keen on home cooking, satisfying those cravings can be a challenge, as many Asian takeout options lack vegan-friendly choices. That's far from the case at Golden Era Vegan, a restaurant that — if you can believe it — has been in business since 1999. Its menu offers beloved classics like the ones listed above, in addition to a selection of Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Indian plates.
The spacious, airy dining room can be found just a few minutes walk from the Asian Art Museum and the San Francisco Public Library. Operating daily from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., it not only welcomes dine-in customers but also provides the convenience of takeout delivery.
395 Golden Gate Ave, San Francisco, CA 94102
If you've got a soft spot for one of San Francisco's best-known vegan restaurants, Wildseed, you should try Rad Radish. The large eatery has the vibe of a hip coffeehouse — complete with wicker chairs, hanging plants, bookshelves, and colorful, geometric artworks — and is the latest venture from Back of the House, the same team that launched Wildseed.
Rad Radish exudes an undeniably groovy vibe. With a modern menu for grab-and-go casual fast food or a leisurely sit down with friends, the lunchroom shows that vegan food doesn't have to be Michelin-style to impress. The menu, packed with crowd-pleasing favorites, includes classics like a surprisingly tender and crunchy chicken burger complete with green apple slaw, flat and crispy Roman-style potato pizza flavored with rosemary and topped with all kinds of oozing vegan cheese, kale caesar salad, and its famous beet-focused poke bowl. There's even a breakfast menu (Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.) and a kids menu with basics like mac and cheese (vegan, of course).
Located near San Francisco City Hall on Hayes Street, there's no need to reserve a table at Rad Radish — simply walk in or schedule food for pick-up. The restaurant also offers a catering service for large groups and parties, which is well worth checking out.
301 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102
While "shojin ryori" might not be a common phrase in the West, it has been a part of Japanese culture for centuries. The expression means cooking as devotion to seeking divine enlightenment and is a spiritual practice followed by Buddhist monks. The diet omits all meat and fish and limits the consumption of pungent vegetables like garlic and onions. This philosophy is the backbone of San Francisco's family-owned Japanese restaurant, Cha-Ya.
It was founded in the 1990s by the father of Cha-Ya's current owner, Mie Katsumata. Anticipating the future success of vegan food, Cha-Ya was ahead of the curve in making that decision. But nothing about the food here is trendy; the founder, Atsushi Katsumata, was classically trained and taught his children the same age-old techniques, instilling the plates with a distinctly traditional flavor.
As a rule, it's best to order a selection of dishes for the table. All the food here is light and nourishing — from the crispy tempura vegetables to a kinoko noodle soup packed with meaty mushrooms, a choice of noodles, salty seaweed, and house-made broth, or sushi rolls filled with atsuage tofu, greens, and sharp yamagobo. You're bound to find something new to love, but don't make plans for Monday or Tuesday, since the restaurant is closed.
762 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110
While compiling this list of San Francisco's top vegan restaurants, I first relied on my personal (and much enjoyed) dining explorations of the city. As a lifelong vegetarian and certified food enthusiast, my visits largely centered around vegan dining spots. During my culinary explorations, I covered extensive ground, resulting in valuable firsthand experience of many restaurants cited above. However, although my experiences play a significant role in creating this list, I've also tapped into insights from reputable local news sources and aggregated online reviews. This approach ensured a comprehensive coverage that spans various districts, price ranges, and global cuisines, delivering a well-rounded guide to the vibrant scene of San Francisco's vegan restaurants.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.