San Francisco is known for many iconic foods—Mission District burritos, Fisherman’s Wharf sourdough bread, and Ghirardelli Square chocolate—and yes, even Haight Ashbury’s counterculture cuisine (the original hippie food).
Recently, vegan food has expanded from raw and whole food that’s good for you to delicious and diverse food that just happens to be vegan. And though I’m a proud carnivore, I would never turn away an opportunity to eat and write about a mouth-watering burger or a hearty breakfast burrito that omits animal protein for a comparable flavor and eating experience.
Our list of the nine best vegan restaurants in San Francisco demonstrates that the city and its visitors demand both healthy and inventive (and sometimes indulgent) vegan dishes. It’s time to add vegan burgers and vegan sushi to this iconic San Francisco food list.
Wildseed positions itself as a modern and stylish restaurant that serves delicious plant-based food. That means trendy cocktails, stylish interiors, and dishes that highlight on-trend global flavors and recipes like cashew ricotta-filled ravioli, harissa-flavored baba ghanoush, and coconut bacon-topped Spanish-themed salads.
A second location in Palo Alto recently opened and we predict that Wildseed and its concept will be spreading to other cities like, well, wildseed.
The all-American deli has been transformed into a vegan oasis with deli salads, hoagies, grilled cheese, filet of fish sandwiches, doughnuts, and brownies that appeal to both vegans and non-vegans. Two Vegan Picnic locations— one in Polk Gulch and one in the Marina—mean that picnic-goers have access to delicious and portable vegan food to pack away for a day outdoors at Crissy Field or Golden Gate Park.
Nourish Cafe prides itself on serving plant-based whole and functional foods. Their first location in the Inner Richmond district was an instant hit as it rode the smoothie and food-in-bowl craze when it first landed almost 10 years ago. They were one of the first restaurants in San Francisco to serve “tuna” in a salad and on their sandwiches.
Their second location in Nob Hill is equally popular with the brunch and lunch crowd. Both have an extensive menu with specialty coffee drinks, bowls that dub as meals, and pizza and burgers. Outdoor seating is popular, especially on a sunny day.
Prolific restaurateur Matthew Kenney has created a special occasion vegan dining experience with BAIA. The menu is heavily influenced by Italian comfort food classics like sauce Bolognese, oven-baked lasagna, polenta, and parmigiana.
The elegant two-story space in Hayes Valley used to be a go-to for the pre-theater crowd, but with reservations booking one month out (or more), it’s become one of the most coveted spots to dine in the city, especially for vegans looking to celebrate a special occasion. So plan ahead if you want to visit BAIA and say you ate at one of the best vegan restaurants in San Francisco.
Seasonal ceviche, al pastor sliders, and a rotating list of tacos don’t usually appear on vegan menus—until now. Om Sabor was born from the idea that tasty regional Mexican cuisine can be made without animal protein.
This pop-up and food truck enterprise recently secured restaurant space inside a Hayes Valley cocktail lounge, Phonobar. Their seasonal menus make dining here exciting and unexpected, but some things like their Winter Kale Salad are perennial and never leave the menu.
Shizen Vegan Sushi
When dining at Shizen Vegan Sushi, one doesn’t have to question whether their sushi habit is exploiting the ocean and its inhabitants. Diners at this modern Mission District restaurant experience a level of dining that is on par with the city’s most popular sushi restaurants. It’s visually stunning, from the decor to the team’s interpretation of sushi and izakaya dishes.
Unpretentious, large portions, and comforting dishes from different Asian cuisines are some of the ways diners describe Indochine Vegan in the Mission District. It’s the type of place vegans rely on for a quick bowl of ramen, a plate of sizzling teriyaki tofu, or a medley of small plates like spring rolls and sushi.
If you live anywhere near this restaurant, you’ve likely ordered from it regardless of your dietary preferences. Smoothies and decadent desserts round out the large menu.
With more than a dozen iterations of a classic burger using a proprietary GMO-free soybean recipe, VeganBurg leaves plenty of room for repeat visits. It’s a streamlined experience with little else on the menu besides burgers (deluxe and ultimate) and sides like fries, Chik’n tenders, and Sizzlin’ broccoli.
Oh, and about those fries. Besides a standard order, you can also order them loaded with seaweed and mushrooms, jalapeño aioli, and Impossible Bits carne asada.
Hanging out at Ocean Beach with the wild surf and fog would make anyone hungry for a warm mug of coffee and a plate of French toast. Luckily, surfers and surf watchers have Beach’N SF for their breakfast and brunch fix.
Try traditional breakfast dishes like French toast, biscuits and gravy, and hefty breakfast burritos that are served alongside pour-overs and specialty coffee and tea drinks. If the sun’s out, you might be tempted to have a beer or hard kombucha on tap to go with one of their hash cakes.
Sophia Markoulakis is a San Francisco-based writer with a culinary degree and a passion for scoping out the best Greek and Mediterranean restaurants in the city. She writes for the Bay Area’s most efficient transit system, BART, and guides riders on where to find the best places to eat and drink. A longtime contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle, she now covers lifestyle topics for regional print and digital publications like California Homes Magazine, Punch Magazine, and The Six Fifty blog. More of her work can be found at SophiaMWrites.